Age is just a number (or is it?)

Joyce Pemberton Columnist

I turn 60 this summer.

There. I’ve said it.

I’ll admit, I’m a bit freaked out about it this particular birthday, although I’m not really sure I can put my finger on why. After all, I’m in a really great place in my life. I live in the most beautiful place in the world, I have a wonderful, fulfilling job working with veterans, I have friends who know me and yet still love me. I’m more active than ever, and after years of waiting, I’m in a relationship that is fun and just unpredictable enough to keep me on my toes.

Right now, I’m the closest I’ve ever been to contentment.

All that said, I’m not sure why I have angst about turning 60, other than it just sounds so old. After all, few things that come to mind last for 60 years. Certainly not any appliance I can think of. Maybe a car, but only the ones seen in vintage car shows. In fact, now that I think of it, the only thing I own that’s older than me is my grandmother’s banjo. Which, because of its age, hangs on the wall because it’s so old. Hmmm.

Age is such a funny thing.

When we were children, we put so much stock in our age that we counted it by halves. When we were asked how old we were, we weren’t just 7, we were 7 1/2!

By our teen years we dropped counting by halves and moved toward “almost.” “How old are you young lady?” “I’m almost 16!”

Of course all that nonsense goes away by the time you hit your 40s. No one wants to admit their age, and it’s rude to inquire.

From the minute we are born, our age becomes an important thing by which progress is measured. We must walk by the time we turn 1. Our first word should be muttered by 2, be out of diapers by 3. And so on.

So that stress you’re feeling about unmet expectations? It’s not your fault. It started before you were able to feed yourself. (Which, by the way, should happen by the time you are 3.)

Not all birthdays are epic, but for some reason, some are more important than others. Here are just a few that stand out to me:

First – Best birthday ever. You get to play in the cake, drink milk and take a nap.

16th – Two words: Date and drive. This is the birthday that parents dread.

18th – Good news: You can join the military and carry a gun. But you can’t buy beer. We trust you with the gun, but you aren’t quite ready for the beer.

21st – The biggie. Now you can have beer without sneaking.

25th – More good news: Your car insurance company suddenly decides you are not as accident-prone as a 24-year-old, so they lower your insurance considerably.

40th – Men, listen very carefully. Your lovely lady is in the beginning stages of menopause and she is questioning who she is, where her life is going, and why she is with you. Do not let this birthday slip by.

90th – You’ve come full circle. You get to play in the cake, drink milk and take a nap.

I have no earthly idea what to do about turning 60. It’s not quite epic enough to go crazy, but still warrants something.

Maybe I’ll hike up to Lookout Mountain. Or float down the French Broad in my kayak. Maybe I’ll just walk around Lake Tomahawk and end up at the Trailhead sipping on a glass of wine.

Whatever I do, I’ll wear my age proudly. In the meantime, I’ve got some time to think about it. After all, I’m only 59 1/2.