Birthday cake

How old are you?

Birthday cake
Your age is not measured by number of birthdays

When I was a little girl my mother used to tell me that she wanted to freeze me at “this” age. “This” being whatever age I was during our conversation. This form of appreciation ended around 14 where presumably she wanted me to just keep growing up from there. I used to laugh at her, but now I am doing some age freezing of my own. Unlike my mother it is not my kids that I want to freeze but myself. “Want to” is the wrong word. I really like getting older. Yet as the calendar moves forward my mental age chooses to stay the same. December 2006.

Talking with a friend about her father’s recovery from surgery and my mother’s partner’s recovery from a similar procedure we brushed against the perception of perceived age versus actual age.

Most of us don’t feel our age.

My mother is 66, her partner 87. Until his recent health scare they lived their lives as contemporaries. Statistics and doctors may not see them that way, but during evening walks, travel planning, and political debates they felt aligned.

I know I am getting older as I relate more to the parents on the crappy TV that I watch rather than their teenage offspring. That and I am happier meeting friends for tea than for vodka. When I break this trend and head for a night out with the ladies I enjoy the night out and then the following two days in bed.

Despite my early bedtime and growing fascination with the energy of youth I was surprised today when I did research on my hand tremor and realized that 40 was a common age of onset for Essential Tremor. It makes me curious about sensitivity to odors, coupled with worsening BO. Someone is having a laugh at this aging thing.

Tremors, odors, early bedtimes with middle of the night wake ups may scream of 40 something…but my inner clock says that I am, and forever will be, 31.

After talking about the heart surgeries I asked my friend what age she was frozen at.  She seemed to know what I meant. She too felt 31/32. I theorized that we had to be that age because we needed to explain ourselves into motherhood, which has become a big part of our identities. So we stopped our mental aging as soon as we could, physical selves and physics itself be damned.

The circumstances of life don’t agree with me. We have left the decade of weddings and babies and are into the decade of divorces and health concerns.

Go ahead, add to or attack this timeline as you wish, remember my hermeneutic as white and privileged and American. I’ll accept edits happily.

0-5- Physical arrival on the planet
5-10 Mental arrival on the plant. Plus candy.
10-15 Realizing you are different, wanting to be the same
15-20 Realizing you are the same, wanting to be different
20-25 Re-defining friends as family, building traditions
25-30 Marraiges and claiming community
30-35 Babies, sleeplessness and work/life balance
35-40 Building traditions 2, probably with actual family
40-45 Relocation, divorce, career change (sports cars?)
45-50 Empty nest the blue period
50-55 Empty nest the adventure years
55-60 Taking on the mantle of patriarch or matriarch
60-65 Insomnia
65-70 Retirement. Is it possible?
70-75 Money matters and travel.
75-80 Seventy five is the new 55.
80-85 Deciding whether to share the secrets of life.
85-90 All of this is just gravy.
90-95 I hope somebody is studying you
95-100 Its likely that you are simply too stubborn to die.
100 + Record books.

Is there anyone out there that relates to their age right now? A complete mental and physical match.

Published by

Anna Palmer

Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble,, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at

14 thoughts on “How old are you?”

  1. I’m 39. I feel about 29-30, I think. I didn’t graduate from college until I was 30 and grad school until 37, and didn’t get married until 39, so I feel behind my peers in terms accomplishments in comparison to age.

  2. these are really accurate! I’m in the adventure years, but my daughter in law is about to pop out our first grandbaby – so I’ll be moving into the matriarch mode soon 🙂

  3. This is all so true (especially the part about two day hangovers!) The older I get, the faster it seems to go – yet I still feel young, as if I was 20-something (minus the energy).

  4. For along time I was 27 and then I jumped to 38 and stayed there for several years. Now, I’m willing to go as far as 43, but that’s as much as I’m willing to give. My birth certificate just spontaneously combusted upon my writing of that last sentence!

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