My version of 40

Today I planned on simply sleeping through my 40th birthday. Anyway, I thought, what’s the big deal? It’s been four decades, yes, but so what?

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My most favorite birthday picture ever… my brother Tong-Tong’s birthday… yup, am the one drooling next to him holding a hotdog-on-a-stick

Honestly, my birthdays have never been a huge deal to me… except that Mommy always prepared for them. Like I said in my previous entries (in FaerieQueeneBuknoy), even when I was a kid, I enjoyed being a birthday party guest more than being the celebrant. Then of course when I worked as a party assistant at McDonald’s, being a puppeteer and character… I enjoyed entertaining children too. But I would always see the big mess afterwards… the spilled drinks, dirty floor, wasted food and children who needed a good scrubbing.

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My cousins Alma, Dulce, Din-din and myself

But what have I learned about growing older after all these years?

A few simple things, really.

For women, I have learned that since most societies do associate female aging with a depreciation in physical value, I realized through practice that it is always best to address all women I do not know – whether it’s a saleslady at a Duty Free shop, Woolworth’s, Paris Gallery, Shoemart  or Robinson’s Galleria (both are big mall chains in the Philippines), or a vendor in our local wet market in Arayat, Pampanga or in Baguio City, it didn’t matter if I considered her young or old, pretty in the traditional sense or not, English speaking or not, conceived her to be well-educated or not – I learned to always address each one as “miss” and usually got better, friendly service.

And… don’t ask a woman her age. Stop being an ass and tell her she looks younger by five years. Okay, not all women are like that, still, if you can make anyone’s day let them feel young without being insincere. Better yet, just keep your mouth shut if you’ve nothing pleasant to say 🙂

It seems superficial, but true. I realized that each person, including men, grows old in a relative manner. Physically we are all aging by the nanosecond, but not everyone is growing up. Around our kids we may be the parent, but back home with our kin and our peers, we’re just us. The “me” they saw growing up… to a certain point.

For most women, society’s judgment of us and our own self-appreciating or self-deprecating perspective have made us more aware of how much we are aging, unpleasantly so most times. I am not saying that men have an easier time growing old; it’s just that the physical side of it catches up with us women a lot earlier.

If men lose hair, they can easily opt for a bald, shaven look and not be any less attractive. Let’s count how many women have made that an option after they realize at 35 that they have lost about 10% of their hair through the years… without it having grown back, thanks to hormonal problems and stress.

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Multiply, Reddit, etc., haven’t made it any easier, not even LinkedIn which is supposed to be a professional networking site. We post pictures of ourselves taken five or six years back thinking, ah… I look cute here or my smile looks really nice there.

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With my baby brother Anthony

Sometimes, by some magical force (usually great lighting, some makeup and maybe plenty of sleep), we look great even in recent pictures. Whatever the photo we choose to post as our profile picture, it has to be a cute or, at the very least, an attractive photo. If it’s funny, it will be really funny, out of this world or wacky so we don’t have to care about how we look. If we post something new and people “like” it, we feel an inner sense of joy whether we admit it or not. But there are also those who post what they like, whether or not it proves popular. After all, it’s your wall, your space.

Still, the “social exhibitionist” in us wants recognition or some form of gratification along the way. That’s why it’s sometimes scary when people pointedly remind you that you are older than them, or that, simply, you are growing old. It’s akin to being told you’ve grown fat, or how come you have so many wrinkles?

Yes, there are nasty people who get a kick out of reminding others that they are getting older, fatter, bonier or uglier so they feel a little better about themselves. But there are also those who just say what’s on their minds without much thought. Let them be. It’s not important… or at least, not THAT important. At your age, you should know that by now 🙂

Age my foot! The zaniest examples of staying youthful to the extreme would be our very own Madam Auring (if you don’t know her, Google her), Cher and Madonna. Most of those who have money resort to Botox and later on, plastic surgery to maintain a youthful, though forced, appearance. And of course, having a much younger boyfriend… the way some men have girlfriends or wives younger than their own daughters 🙂 No judgment. Just love 🙂 It can be deliberate you see, or it can simply be.

I know, in our 30s, 40s, 50s and even the early 60s, exercise helps a lot in keeping a trim physique and even a younger appearance, especially if we avoid smoking, drinking and too many late nights. But is that all there is to it?

Our priorities may or may not change through the years.

Some people in their fifties still think and act like adolescents, while some younger people act more responsibly.

Our achievements may be worthwhile or they may also be disappointing (at which point I would simply refer to them as “life events”) – it all depends on who is looking. Am pretty sure some have gotten to a point in their lives where they want to just give up on their dreams. A fortunate few would have arrived at the peak of their lives, never imagining things could get so great. Others are just glad to get by; some are hoping to get by. Some hope to go abroad or travel. Others, like me, just want to go home.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 20, 30, 40 or 50; or if you’re single, married, divorced, straight or gay. I think you’re still lucky… am still lucky to be concerned about where I am and what I have or haven’t achieved. It means I need to go on, perhaps keep on dreaming and not say “stop” like in some versions of Faust, and surrender to damnation… or in this case, death – not physical death, but the dissolution of dreams.

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My son Zachary with his lolo, our dad

By this time, you may have realized what I am trying to say: age doesn’t make us, it doesn’t define us. We simply do. We simply are.

Ah 40, what a day – just another day to mark the end and the beginning of another year of my life.

I may not celebrate it like others do, but overall, it is just as I want it to be… a day when am still hopeful that things will get better, be better. Yup… the eternal optimist in me believes the best is yet to come.

Plus, I feel pretty lucky to be blessed with family and friends who know me, really know me, and love me no matter what.

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With Mommy and baby brother Anthony

I sometimes wonder what my parents thought when our mom gave birth to a noisy cry baby like me. They must have been full of hopes and dreams.

I’d like to maintain that sentiment throughout my life… and I hope you would, too.

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Zach with baby sister Guene

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My son Zach and daughter Guene

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