On turning thirty

Excerpts from the recent journals of Sycorax Pine:

Thursday, October 7, 2010
30 years ago today, I was supposed to be born, but wasn't.  Instead I was born a week later, on my father's birthday.  He had been born on his parents' anniversary.  As a family, we know to make an entrance.

Wednesday, October 13
Long day at work, came home from salsa class to a table full of fresh lobsters, bought and prepared by my family.  Bliss.  Thanks for your sacrifice, wee lobster friends.

Thursday, October 14, 2010
My 30th birthday.  Spent most of the day in the office, working on a grant proposal and hypothesizing a book project.  Then out to lovely dinner with houseful of visiting family (D, parents, and mother-in-all-but-law) and home to messages from friends.  Exhaustion. Vast improvement over the last two birthdays, when I cried with frustration and loneliness in the face of unscalable Mt. Grademores, nearly burned down the house by leaving the toaster set to "Always On" overnight, and looked out the window to find the city had towed my car.  I sense a new maturity.  But my knees hurt, and they didn't yesterday.

Friday, October 15, 2010
I can't go to see Midnight with Roy tonight, so I console myself by taking us off to see my university's National Hockey Champions play the season opener at local rival Dalhousie.  Immediate college sport culture shock: the night opened with Dal congratulating SMU (my school) on its dominance last year, "Because when one of us wins, we ALL win." My group exchanges glances. "Can you imagine," I say, "If at the beginning of the Carolina-Duke game, the Tar Heels congratulated Dook on their championship win? Anathema." I shudder.  Still, you've got to admire Canadian collectivist politeness at work.  Although the game did end in a giant, fists-flying brawl... after SMU won 5-0. (Go Huskies!)

Sunday, October 17, 2010
Everyone went home at the crack of dawn today and now the house feels both free and barren.  Must get some sonic mouse deterrents.  Little buggers took immediate advantage of unpopulous house to frolic in front of me.  Smart-asses.

Monday, October 18, 2010
Up late last night in empty house and empty bed, churning my way through the pile of Lisa Kleypas romances that landed on my doorstep earlier in the week.  They all begin well, if somewhat identically: strong, confidant woman meets professional man intrigued by her self-sufficiency.  But all end rather unnervingly with a flurry of "No no! Please! Not here! Not now! Someone will find us! Oh, please stop"s that are actually "Yes, yes! I can't resist you! Overcome me!"s.  And there is frequently a trajectory of independent self-reliance disintegrating into sobbing codependence on the part of the heroine.  I don't care for it.  Even when I often admire other things Kleypas is up to, particularly with her use of image and metaphor, I can't help feeling this is queasy gender politics masquerading as feminism.

I began on the night of my 30th birthday with Suddenly You, which begins on the night of its heroine's 30th birthday.  Convinced of her wizened, unapproachable spinsterhood and alarmed by her impending descent into decrepitude, she decides to celebrate by hiring a gigolo and losing her virginity.  Because that's what you do if you are a single Victorian woman of a literary bent and a certain age.  Don't you remember anything from Jane Eyre?  The male prostitute incident was somewhere between the scene in which Rochester cross-dresses as a female gypsy fortune-teller and the one in which Jane flirts with becoming a repressed missionary.

But back to Suddenly You, a book in which this actually does happen.  The man who shows up at her door at the agreed time is surprisingly untawdry.  Still, she is getting cold feet, and begs him to leave.  For the first of many times, he dismisses her request out of hand:

"Oh, no. Not if I'm your birthday present.  I'm going to keep you company.  You're not going to stay alone on such an important evening.  Let me guess - today began your thirtieth year of life."*
"How did you know my age?"
"Because women react strangely to the thirtieth.  I once knew a woman who draped all the mirrors in black cloth on that birthday, for all the world as if a death had occurred."
"She was mourning her lost youth," Amanda said shortly, and downed a large swallow of wine until it sent a flush of heat through her chest.  "She was reacting to the fact that she had become middle-aged."
"You're not middle-aged.  You're ripe.  Like a hothouse peach."
"Nonsense," she muttered.... (15)

Hmmm.  I'm doing some muttering myself.

*That's right - this day actually ENDED her thirtieth year of life, and started her thirty-first.  But who am I to quibble?  Just an old crone, er, hothouse peach.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Wendy says:

    Happy Birthday (a bit belatedly!)...I remember having mixed feelings about my 30th, and loving my 40th. This year when I turned 50 I just sort of shrugged *laughs*

  2. Thanks, Wendy! I mostly feel good about it, but I eventually became bogged down in the abundance of cultural forces that seemed to be telling me it was a depressing birthday....

    50's a great birthday, though! My father turned 50 the day I turned 13 - how's that for a day of milestones?

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