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Piquen' your interest

Dirty 30

"So how’s it feel to be 30?" they ask.

Friends, still smugly in their roaring 20s, and with years to go before their own big day, can be cruel. It’s not nice to be patted on the arm and called an ‘old man’. Jokes about impotence, incontinence, intolerance and biannual colon exams aren’t much fun either.

I expected more sympathy from my older friends, people who are already in their 30s, but they have been worse than the 20-year-olds. They know from their own experience that it’s not just another birthday, a meaningless milestone in our long and varied lives. It’s not the end of the world, they say, but it’s the end of something.

Thirty is where the buck stops. Thirty is when you run out of excuses.

In these modern times it’s perfectly acceptable to be young and irresponsible through your 20s, switching jobs, changing partners, moving towns, and partying until the break of dawn. You can live at home if you want, sleep until the afternoon, and eat sugar cereal in your bathrobe while watching cartoons. You can buy comic books without pretending they’re for a fictional nephew.

Older people humour the under 30, indulging our youthful inclinations while gently prodding us towards careers, homes, relationships and all of life’s little responsibilities. They know that you’re still finding yourself in your 20s, figuring out how you want to spent the next 40 years. There was never any rush. Until now.

Thirty is when you knuckle down, stop daydreaming and start living your life. If you don’t know who you are or what you want to do, then tough shit – 30 is old enough to know that life’s not fair.

At one minute to midnight, I was just another young adult with youthful tendencies, a late bloomer. One minute later, and suddenly I was immature, an arrested adolescent, a Peter Pan in search of a Neverland.

Admittedly, I put most of this pressure on myself because a long time ago I got it into my head that I would accomplish certain things before my 30 th birthday. In my teens I think I honestly expected to be married with children, living in a house, driving a car, paying a mortgage, and spending my free time walking the dog or napping in the hammock.

Obviously that dream was revised somewhat while in my mid-20s, and in every year leading up to the big 3-0, but even I was shocked to realize that none of my expectations have panned out. I don’t have a car. I don’t have a dog. I don’t even have a hammock.

Most recently, I resolved to at be debt-free by the time I turned 30, and yet I still celebrated my big day with a negative net worth. Thanks to the miracle of health insurance, I’m actually worth more dead than alive for one lucky beneficiary.

People tell me not to worry about it, that there’s still lots of time to accomplish a few goals here and there, but at 30 you can feel the clock ticking. There’s a certain amount of pressure to do something, anything, to prove that I’m young.

Not that there isn’t something to be said for going against the grain a little. I live in a mountain town full of other arrested adolescents who wouldn’t trade their lives for anything. Everyone here looks and acts young, and it’s perfectly normal to live irresponsibly and for the moment until the day you die.

Of course, most people here look and act young because they are young. The most recent census in 2001 pegged the average Whistlerite at a robust 30.2 years of age. In just over two months I’ll be pushing that average a little bit higher, but for now I’m safely in the middle.

As old as I suddenly felt on my birthday, someone else took my birthday even harder than I did – my mother. Her baby boy, the youngest of her two sons, turned 30 last week. She still likes to tell the story about me dumping a bowl of spaghetti on my head, and the one about me running down the street naked to a friend’s turtle pool. Those things happened 25 years ago. I still manage to get spaghetti all over myself and have gotten naked on a dare, but it’s just not as cute anymore. Sorry mom – maybe you’ll be a grandma soon.

So what does it feel like to be 30?

I feel smart. While I’ve always had opinions, I finally have experience and knowledge to back them up.

The problem is that I’m also becoming more forgetful, but I don’t know whether I can chalk that up to age or the way I spent my youth.

I feel stiff. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I make a lot of noise sitting down and standing up these days. If my shoe is untied, I’ll look for anything to prop it up – kneeling and crouching is a last resort.

I feel fit. I’ve become more active over the years as my metabolism has slowed down, trying to stave off a hereditary beer belly. I think I’ll be able to run a marathon one day, providing that I keep my shoes tied.

I feel out of touch. Somewhere along the line, I stopped caring about my appearance, my clothes, my hair, and popular culture in general. I plan to care even less in the future.

I feel like I still have some growing up to do. It’s hard not to feel like a teen when you wake up on your 30 th birthday with a nice big pimple and your voice breaks on the phone.

I feel 30. And it’s just something I’m going to have to get used to.