Thoughts on Thirty-fivenessHello, friends, and thanks for the Happy Birthday wishes! My birthday was indeed fairly festive, especially the shopping part. I bought myself five new evening gowns (an aqua-blue sheath with silvery shimmers that makes me think of a water-sprite, a red princess-satin sheath the color of sins and Christmas ribbons, a really interesting sheath of gold-spattered white net over a gold fused-sequin slip with gold beading around the bustline, an abbreviated ballgown of graphite taffeta with a very 50s split and draped circle-skirt that has to be seen to be believed, and a green velvet long-sleeved gown of fabulous and versatile simplicity) from the Jessica McClintock outlet; two turtleneck sweaters (one red, one heather-brown), a red fleece scarf, a pair of tan flannel pants, and three pairs of socks from the Gap; a sequined long-sleeve black t-shirt with a baroque diamond necklace silk-screened at the neck from All-American Boy (I saw it in the window and had to have it at any price... fortunately it was on sale and fairly affordable for high-rent boutique apparel); and four books (an Oscar Wilde compendium so I would have something to read at a salon to which I was invited later in the day, Edward Gorey's deliciously and Edwardianly absurd The Unstrung Harp, Patrick Dennis' Little Me with its hysterical photographs and high-camp tongue-in-cheek text, and David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day from which I did in fact read at the salon).
Then I went to my first "salon," a gathering of a group of friends who sit around and recite from favorite literature and read out segments of plays together. I knew most everyone there, so it was quite a comfortable environment for reading aloud. I had planned, however, to read one of my favorite pieces from The Collected Works of Saki (HH Munro), a scathingly queeny monologue called "Reginald on Christmas Presents" (which contains the immortal sentence: "And then there's always the aunt in the country who thinks 'a tie is always useful' and subsequently sends you a spotted horror that can only be worn in secret or the Tottenham Court Road.") But of course, in the usual Manners manner, I couldn't find my cherished hardbound copy of The Collected Works of Saki (HH Munro), neither in my room nor in any of the bookstores I visited yesterday in quest of that tome or anything like it. Saki is, in my opinion, the most undeservedly obscure short-storyist of the early 20th Century.
Instead I read the title story from Sedaris' genius work of humor, in which he details his first experiences trying to learn French while living in France. I was unprepared to read aloud, having not read that book since two summers ago when it came out, and had quite forgotten that much of that story relies on textual tricks for it's humor, words that the narrator couldn't undertand represented by a series of random letters that weren't pronounceable. But I muddled through and quite enjoyed it. I also joined in at the point where we were reading from Claire Booth Luce's The Women, reading the part of Mrs. Moorehead with (if I do say so myself) admirable aplomb. Everyone read something, and it was terribly fun... though much of the texts presented were rather more avant-garde than I would enjoy plowing through on my own, I did pick up a couple of titles that I'd like to look into someday (most memorably Geek Love and Chicken Poop for the Soul).
Since it was also (founding salon member) John's birthday, a cake was presented and the usual song sung. Most people at the gathering had known in advance that it was John's birthday, but few had known it was mine, so my birthday was treated as something of a fascinating surprise, as if I had contrived to have my birthday on this day as some sort of an artistic statement. I felt a little uncomfortable with the attention... I always feel a little awkward when people congratulate me or make much of something with which I had little to do. I mean, being born was not my idea. It simply happened to me, when my mother went off the pill in order to trap my father into marrying her. And while I can take some of the credit for having survived to the unremarkable age of 35, I don't see that as much of an accomplishment... and not nearly as much an accomplishment as buying five stunning evening gowns for less that two hundred dollars.
The night was still fairly young when I got in the car to head back across the Bay... my plan was to try and get hold of Jhames, who is visiting our fair shores and had asked me (or rather my voice-mail, I hadn't heard the phone ring when I was shopping in the Gap, the music was so loud... loud enough to drown out that Little Voice that tells you that you don't really need another Guamanian-sweatshop-produced turtleneck) to join him in having dinner in Oakland with Ernie and a few other bloggers. It struck me as typical of my life that Jhames, who I long to meet, would be in my home town the one day I was out in San Francisco and had plans! But I figured that, if they were having dinner at the Ethiopian restaurant on Shattuck and Alcatraz, that they might afterward repair to the nearby White Horse for dancing and local-perusing... so I was headed thither to see if I was right.
It was not to be, however. Just as I was rounding the corner to get on the freeway, Grandmother called my cell-phone and asked me to come home as soon as possible. She had caught her slipper-sock on a loose nail in the hall carpet and had spilled ass-over-teakettle into the bathroom, banging not only her knees and her elbows on the tile floor but also banging her head on the bathtub and cutting her brow with her glasses. She was calling from a supine position on her bedroom floor, whither she had painfully slithered and rolled (her knees hurt too much to even crawl, and it was impossible for her to get up) to reach the phone. My uncle was on his way, too, but I would be needed anyway and was well advised to make haste homeward.
When I arrived, my Uncle J was already there and had already gotten Grandmother into an upright position and was helping her put on warmer clothes for a trip to the emergency room while she clutched a bag of frozen peas to her bloodied browbone (Grandmother takes Plavix, a very strong blood-thinner, to prevent strokes and so was bleeding like a stuck pig). Her injuries were not obviously serious, but she was well-shaken... and when you bump your head on a bathtub with two hundred or so pounds of force behind you, you always go see a doctor. And so off we trundled to Kaiser Emergency, where we spent much of the rest of the night.
First we had to check in, which took almost an hour, then we had to go wait in a secondary waiting room (why I can't imagine, though we were grateful for the quiet and privacy), where we sat for another hour and a half before being ushered through the warren of cluttered white rooms to the Minor Injury Clinic. Once there (stationed next to the urine-smelling bathroom... I was not impressed with the cleanliness of the place), we waited for another hour or so before the rather sexy doctor (a young man of Indian extraction with one of those impossible-to-remember multisyllabic names and hot black eyes with silky black hair and warm nut-brown skin) came along and gave Grandmother some neurological tests and ordered a CT scan and a tetanus shot. Uncle J went home about then, confident that his mother was going to be OK and needing to get some sleep before having to work the next day. Then the orderly (a dead ringer for Taye Diggs) came and gave the shot, irrigated the wound, and talked a lot without actually saying anything. The Doctor came back and applied a glue bandage to Grandmother's cut and then disappeared again. Then Grandmother was hauled off to the CT scan, but they didn't let me come so I just sat in the cubicle and read some more David Sedaris. Then she was brought back and we waited another hour for the results. Then a new doctor or nurse (who can tell them apart?), a southern-type woman with far too much cheer and ebullience to be allowed around sick people, came along and discharged us since there was no evidence of concussion on the scan.
And so we got home at about 3:30 a.m., tired to the bone. But I wasn't too tired to try on my new dresses! They all fit perfectly, which one can never be too sure about in the stores (I never try things on in the stores, since I don't like to travel around in boy-garb with the necessary female foundation garments that one needs to make sure the dresses fit correctly — and I especially never try-on in women's-clothing-only stores that don't have men's dressing rooms, as women tend to get a little shirty when there's a man of any description, no matter how obviously gay, in their dressing room. Probably afraid I'd criticize their taste). And so into bed, where I stayed asleep for about ten hours. I just got up about half an hour ago and am currently enjoying my second cup of coffee of the "morning."
And as I sit, I try and think about what it means to be 35. It's such a grown-up-sounding number. I'm not so sure I can live up to it.
Still, I do feel a little more grown-up than once I did. This Christmas, and the year that preceded it, has given me more of a feeling of responsibility in my life. I don't feel, now, like a superannuated child mooching off his Grandmother so that he can frivolously spend all of his pennies on jewels and gowns. I feel, instead, like a grown man who has made a conscious decision to make a certain number of sacrifices and take advantage of a certain number of luxuries in order to take care of his Grandmother. I feel like a man in charge of his own destiny, rather than a boy who has been blown hither and thither by fickle Fate. I feel the weight of my own decisions, I feel the power of my own momentum through life. I feel that I make a difference in the world, and that the difference I make is more good than otherwise.
If that's what it feels like to be grown-up, then perhaps it isn't as bad as I'd thought it would be.
I was planning to start lying about my age this year. Rather than be 35, I was planning to become "thirtyish" and to stay there as long as I could get away with it. Of course, I have been planning to lie about my age ever since I turned 25, but I never seem to do it. Lying is always such a chore. But this time, I think I might actually like being the age that I am. Thirty-five. It has a sort of a ring of authority to it. Thirty-five. Hmmm. Thirty-five. Rolls off the tongue. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five.
Well, on to the next portion of my day. See if I can get hold of Jhames and make some plans. Write some more Holiday cards. Eat something. Maybe do something organizational with my room, which looks rather like Alladin's Cave (if Alladin had collected sweaters and books rather than gold and jewels). And drink some more coffee!