While the lovely Jen Daily Refill celebrates her 20-something birthday, it so happens (as I mentioned last week, and don't you worry, my Amazon wish list is still up) that today is my birthday too. I'm sure between tonight and Friday's bash, she'll be celebrating plenty for the both of us. I tend to find myself becoming more reflective on each birthday, especially as I get further and further into the 30s, with this being my last year still able to call them "early."
Jen is just one of several cool people who share my birthday, actually. Bill Murray, Stephen King, Chuck Jones, Ethan Coen and Leonard Cohen were all born on September 21. Less cool (to me) but also sharing my birthday are Larry Hagman, Faith Hill, Cheryl Hines, Ricki Lake, Rob Morrow and Moonunit Zappa. I figure I have a damn good shot at being famous for something stupid one day because Darva Conger was also born on 9/21. Happy birthday to us all!
Of course, the most important shared birthday is the one which is actually a shared birthdate. Someone born on not just September 21, but September 21, 1971. Discovering a birthdate-buddy is so damn exciting. You might remember mine as little Ricky's friend Alfonso; or even as Will's cousin Carlton; or on Broadway in The Tap Dance Kid and later as the kid dancer in one of Michael Jackson's Pepsi commercials. That's right folks, on the same day that little Aaron was yawning hello to the world from San Francisco, smack-dab in those halcyon days of Vietnam and the pre-Watergate Nixon Administration, Alfonso Ribeiro was kicking his way into existence as well. Pretty special, huh? Who knew that by the time we both turned 33, we probably have the same number of fans?
I've thought a lot about birthdays and "the perfect age." I came to the well-considered, researched and scientific conclusion some time ago that 27 is the perfect age. (My girlfriend just showed me an email I sent her at the beginning of our relationship -- when she was just 26 and I was 29 -- in which I said, "I determined recently that 26 is THE perfect age." But today I stand by 27.) That doesn't mean that 27 was this fantastic year I want to relive. My 27 was relatively average; not too much happened that was all that exciting. But if I could choose one age to be forever and ever, I think it would be 27.
See, at 27, you're old enough to know better. I know everybody who's 22, 23, 24 thinks they know everything and believe they're older and more mature than they are, but it's not until about 26 or 27 that this even starts being true. Actually, the older one gets, the more one realizes the less one knows. I'm not trying to be condescending to those younger than me, but I've discovered that most people find they go through many of their biggest changes between about 22 and 27. In fact, an ex-girlfriend who was 22-23 when we dated (and I was 27-28), recently turned 28 and wrote to me in an email, "Weren't you my age when we met? If yes, I have to say I totally understand the age difference. I have a good friend who is 23, and she is soooo 23. First job, living the NY life.... Meanwhile, I might as well wear dentures!"
There are also no more "exciting" age milestones, at least not like there used to be. People may not get upset or depressed about turning 30 or 40 or 50, but they rarely get excited about doing so. (Unless you're my father who thought turning 60 was just the most fabulous thing ever.) Obviously, having a birthday and living another year in this world is better than the alternative, and celebrating is always fun, but as you get older, milestones arrive and are created more by choice and big events than simply by age. I remember being excited by 10 because it was double digits. I couldn't wait for 13 because it was my Bar Mitzvah. 16 is usually exciting because you can drive (and I emphasize "you," because I was made to wait an extra year). 18 allows you to vote and get into more places, like movies, music clubs and, of course, in the non-alcoholic world of San Francisco porn, nudie shows. 21 opens all the doors and lets you drink when you get in. In California, 25 was important because car insurance rates would go down, and I became legal to rent a car anywhere. But what comes after that? Anniversaries, children's birthdays, professional successes -- they're not related to age.
Even more importantly, at 27 other people start taking you more seriously. Chances are, by 27, most people have lived away from home and/or been out of school for more than a few years. Or, if you're still in school, you're probably on your way to some professional degree. (Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, and I was one.) Maybe you've already achieved some big career successes, or at least you're on your way. Maybe you've already been married a few years and have a kid and have bought your first house or apartment. Whatever your situation, people simply don't look at you like a kid anymore. And if you have been able to surge to some level of professional success, everyone will likely say, Wow, look at how much he/she has accomplished, and he/she is just 27.
At the same time, you've got the best of both worlds because you're still given the leeway of being just 27. Our society still allows you to be young and hip and not required of fulfilling all the standards of being an adult. If you haven't found career success or a lasting relationship, or if you continue to just search for what's right for you in this world, that's OK. It's not too late. You're just 27.
27 is also the cusp between the mid- and late-20s. At 27, you're peaking. You're at the very top of the downward slope to 30. Why would anyone want to be 29, about to turn 30, when one could be 27? It's basically the late-20s, but just barely, and still far enough away from 30 to not get upset by it.
27 also just feels different. My entire life, I've had essentially perfect eyesight. In fact, the last time I went to the eye doctor was when I was 27 or 28, and I still had absolutely perfect vision. You know what I've noticed since turning 30? 31? 32? I still see very well, but not as well. When I groggily come to in the morning and stare across the room at the cable box in order to see the time, these now-33 year-old eyes take several seconds to focus and figure out what those blurry shiny colors are.
I had one friend who kept celebrating her 24th birthday. I've known plenty who seem to want to stay 29. On this September 21, though, I'll be content just to celebrate turning 27 ... again ... for the sixth time. And with that, call it a day.