You’ll feel old when your body starts to reject you. Your heart is burning, your knees are creaking, and the thought of having to someday tie a child’s shoelaces is foreboding. Losing five pounds isn’t as simple as switching to salads for a week or “taking walks” anymore. No, now you have to jog, you have to take up yoga because you and your body are estranged lovers, constantly at war. “You used to feed me carbs. WTF is this kale mess? Honey, no.” You try to get revenge, show your body who’s boss, so you go on a bender. But your body’s all, “Yeah? Have fun with the four-day hangover I’m about to give you. I hear your couch is really jumping off on Friday nights.”
And your body’s right – your couch is jumping off on Friday nights. If anyone knows, it’s you – you’ve been there every Friday for the past month, fighting off Thursday night’s party. You’ll feel old when you don’t care about staying in on the weekend, when you cancel on your friends and they don’t care, either. You used to need a real excuse to sit out on a Friday, “I’m sick,” or “I’m going away this weekend,” but now all you have to say is, “I’m old as hell and I can’t go out two nights in a row without vomiting,” and no one will argue with that. I mean, how can you?
You’ll feel old when you stop sweating the small stuff – you didn’t choose to quit being petty, you just don’t have the time anymore. “What are you apologizing for, again? Was I supposed to be upset about that? How about next Monday at 3:40 p.m.? I’ll pencil in some irrational anger then. Can you provide a brief summary of what you did wrong? I’ve only got fifteen minutes to overreact and then I need to get on with my day.”
You’ll probably feel old the third time you find yourself crushing on an undergrad. The first time, it’s an honest mistake. The second time, you’re noticing a pattern. But the third time is when you realize that you’re on a one-way train to Cougartown. They look old enough to date, and legally speaking they’re fair game, but the days of shacking up on an extra-long twin and charming your way into 21+ establishments are far behind you. You wish they weren’t.
You’ll begin to feel old when you swap coffee for tea, concerts for books. When your childhood home is sold. When everything you own is crammed into a rental. You’ll feel old when your youngest sibling can join you at a bar, when you look forward to spending the day with relatives. When you spend the holidays with friends instead of family, it’ll feel liberating but it’ll also feel like the death of something important, something you never knew you’d miss.
You’ll feel old when you start to receive wedding invitations. No plus one for you, single lady. Maybe some other time. Your refrigerator will be covered in doilies and lace, announcements made in blue and white. It’s a boy and save the date and Merry Christmas. Beneath all of the pomp and circumstance is a photo of you smiling on your 21st birthday, buried and yellowed evidence that time is unstoppable.