I think of 37 as an age of quiet sophistication, a time when you know a fair bit about wine, and about the seasonality of the really good cheeses, a time when you can afford to buy the most flattering glasses for your face. Hahaha turns out I was thinking of sometime in the murky future (50s, maybe,) because this is what it’s like to be 37:
- not going to the eye doctor or the frame shop because my two darling offspring simply can’t be trusted with row upon row of shiny glass display cases + 100s of eyeglasses + four sticky hands
- finding out that I am one year older than the nice new au pair’s mother. Older. Than her mother.
- running 10 km fairly comfortably, then waking up the next morning surprised that I’m still chubby
- being good at things that don’t really matter: choosing the ripest cherimoya, piping meringues, spelling ‘meringues’
- getting better at things that do: making the baby laugh, helping the toddler learn to channel her considerable energies for the power of good over evil, looking up the correct cumbia steps so that our mid-morning dance parties are culturally rich rather than simply annoyingly loud (sorry, downstairs neighbor! Hope you like cumbia as much as Frida does! Oh, wait, not possible.)
I fear that I have lost some of the innocence of my 20s. Back then, I could shrug off a fellow human’s behavior no matter how aberrant, easily assuming that they were likely trying to do the right thing. These days, though, I find suspicion an appropriate response to any number of occasions: maybe my constant summons to the customs office to haggle over 0.58 cents in customs fees means that I’m on some sort of watch list? Don’t they know that using 30 minutes of a custom’s agents time to collect anything less than 5 Euro is a money-losing proposition? As a way to both make me repeatedly prove my identity, get my face on a surveillance camera, AND annoy the hell out of me, though, it works tremendously well. Why do the cider-drinking college students give money to the young blonde guitarist covering Rufus Wainright with his guitar case half-open as an afterthought rather than the Turkish mother busting her ass playing accordian on the corner day in and day out? Do they just love that Hallelujah song, or are they racist/xenophobic?
I can usually work my way around to a sensible reaction; I usually remember to do the work of calibrating my expectations according the the likeliest outcome (really, Betsy, are you expecting a German customs official to casually wave you toward the door while laughing at the idea that anyone would bother to collect less than a Euro’s worth of customs fees? It’s a customs office, not a commune.) (And honestly that accordian music is not only horribly repetitive but poorly played; ridiculous given that the Turkish woman has 9 hours a day to practice. Wait, maybe she’s not really an accordian player. Maybe she’s a spy! Who is she spying for, I wonder, and does her employer know that the college kids are on to her?)
I’m trying, but I keep feeling like I’m being tested. Who wouldn’t be suspicious to find over a kilo of fennel in the weekly CSA vegetable box? Why so much? Where did they get it? What does it mean to have 20 servings of a spring vegetable sent to you in the beginning of winter? And what the hell will I do with all of it? (Besides carefully separating each bulb to look for hidden messages, obviously.)
Remember, though, parenting two tiny kids doesn’t leave all that much time for paranoia. Instead of code ciphering, I’ll close out my 37th year peering at a blurry computer through glasses badly in need of an update, trying to find a recipe that uses six fennel bulbs at once.