The Curious Case of Benjemima Button

Daisy: You’re so young.

Benjamin Button: Only on the outside.

Hi. I'm 10.

Hi. I’m 10.

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He tells me it’s my birthday. I’m 26 today, the husband says. I pop some aspirin, rub a cranky ankle, and all I can think to add is “Hmm. Allegedly“.

   It is my birthday, yes. It is my birthday for exactly the reason I love birthdays. Because they are the fairest and most democratic of all holidays. Because we all get one. The Jewish kids pining for a Christmas tree, the lady feeling left out on Father’s Day, Mars getting all pitiful on Earth Day like “What about me?”: Birthdays obliterate barriers. Regardless of time or date or species, everybody got here somehow. So we celebrate the showing up, the arrival, the start of something or someone good.

   You see, I dispute the number, the years. I was born because, as we’ve established, everyone is. Also there are a host of notarized certificates and my mom‘s poor lady parts to prove I was there. But as I pre-plan my midday nap and which soft foods I’d best like to gum later today I fear this will not be the year I get my age just right. I am Benjemima Button.

    For as long as I can remember I’ve been old. At 9 I sat lanky-legged on the floor of my grandmother’s fancy living room. I listened with much interest and understanding to the various woes of the women: Which kid is acting out now? Who knew divorce was so expensive? Are we out of wine? No part of me felt the difference of years among us. With all the confidence of a short, white Maya Angelou I’d tell this aunt or that cousin just what my wise little mind thought. My unfortunate Mickey Mouse sweatshirt or squeaky voice may have spoken to my smallness, but their big ears seemed to listen.

    By high school I had a keen interest in turtleneck sweaters. I fake-sipped beer because I feared the old indigestion would flare up again. My body for all its blessed elasticity and tan glow said 15. My soul said “Tell that friend you can’t come the party this weekend. Act like you’re grounded. Find fuzzy socks and watch ‘Designing Women’.” While I tried to go through the cheerleading, nervous dating, young & free teen transitions my heart was elsewhere. I sneakily devoured hours of Oprah. I thought short hair was less bouncy but more aerodynamic and practical.

    Today I enjoy quiet sounds, early bed times, watching birds doing bird-like things, and joint-health supplements. I cordially decline most invitations from fellow twenty-somethings, but in my head I get hostile, ranting and raving about those “damn kids” with their “hoodlum boom-boom music”. I feel silly when people ask my age as if I’ve just told them that I am a proud, black man when they can see that clearly I am not. I observe most people of my generation with the trippy sensation that we are the same yet one million miles apart.

   It isn’t bad to be young. There are adventures and flexibility and the brief honor of wearing ridiculous things while still being age-appropriate.There are trendy hotspots and lots of enthusiastic sex and  It isn’t bad to be perpetually older than yourself either. I’m ridiculously well-rested and well-versed in all things Water Aerobics related. Plus, I was accidentally and fortunately spared from the bad bits of youth (the gossip, the trying desperately to fit in, the glitter).  What I’ve wanted for every birthday is just to wake up with a number that fits.

   My hope has been that I will reach an equilibrium of sorts. All this time will tick down only to reveal a pleasant surprise: things are just now winding up. Clues to the closing of the gap are starting, some subtle and others loud and boisterous like a, dare I say it, 26-year-old. I went to a party. I refrained from telling those young punks to take their grimey feet off the couch, did not ask one person where they were when Kennedy was shot, and real-gulped a  real beer. Before I knew it I was awake and it was past 9:03 in the evening. I’m recently infatuated with The Twitter, and I’m half-proud to admit I kind of loved Justin Bieber’s song about the girl and the Dubstep and the whatchamacallit. See? I just said Dubstep. Benjemima be hipper by the minute.

Now. Now I'm ready to party.via TheHairPin

Now. Now I’m ready to party.
via TheHairPin

   Maybe at 27 I’ll say “Hmm. Yes. That one’s just right”. Maybe not. Maybe at 90, when my peers are asking the staff nurse to sponge a little lower, I’ll be squeezing on that sequin tube top, ready to bar dance and get all kinds of “crunk” and”cray”. Geriatric keg stands and the saddest, sloppiest wet t-shirt contest you ever did see because, quite simply, some DJ told me and the other 18-year-olds to “drop it low”. Maybe that nasty, cobwebby image was completely unnecessary because  age doesn’t matter so much as the most basic principle of birthdays: You weren’t. This one day came along. Then you were. I’ll toast my Metamucil to that.

Do you feel your age?

Are you an old soul or young at heart?

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“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

- Benjamin Button

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89 thoughts on “The Curious Case of Benjemima Button

  1. Old soul right here. I’m dangerously close to 40 and recall a younger me thinking that was old and that my life would be all tidy and wrapped in a whole lot of wisdom. Nay, nay. Decidedly not tidy and my dog is wiser than I. Here’s to a happy day for you, lady! Gobble down the birthday cake!

  2. Happy Birthday,our Benjamima. I can’t answer your question because on any given day I feel about ten different ages, which brings me to the conclusion that age is just a figment of our imagination.

  3. Loved the post, if you notice the description of my blog says “I’m Leo, I’m old enough (body looks younger, but my soul is like 400 or so)” and that’s how I literally feel.
    It’s funny, dating a few years ago was a problem, of course I liked to party, but never been a party animal, for me the ideal plan is a bottle a wine, nice dinner and a movie at home. Then I met this guy, we would go out and it was clear that neither of us was having fun, then I asked “you like going out, you look liek you are not enjoying yourself, you look miserable” he said: “I hate going out, but I go cuz I think you like it”
    That was such a relieve, we never went out again, sometimes we would dress up and then stay home drinking wine lol
    Old souls.
    Nice story as usual Tori.

    • Haha. 400 sounds about right. Such a huge part of me is SO relieved that I never have to date again and that I have a little kid. Instant excuses to just stay home :)

  4. I have always felt old too! But now, in my 40′s, the early bed times and fuzzy socks are starting to fit. This is a great post – great message and gorgeous writing as always. Happy Birthday!

    If I had know you a few decades ago, we totally could have watched Designing Women together!

  5. I think for most of my life I felt my age, until around the age of 25 and then suddenly I think I aged about 10 years. Now I’m 30, and maybe I’m an older 30 than some of my other 30-something friends, but I think mostly we’re an old 30 bunch :-)

    Happy birthday!

    • We moved to a new town shortly after Thomas was born and I made some mom friends. They didn’t find out how young I was until we’d been socializing for a while, but you could tell how much it creeped them out. I suspect it’s the same effect if I’d just casually mentioned I was really a dude… or a serial killer :)

  6. I thought 25 was surely the pinnacle somehow, and that it would all be downhill from there. Yet now that I’m 45, I feel more alive, and through that I feel younger, than I ever have! So there’s hope for you yet. Happy 26!

  7. Happy, Happy Birthday! May this day usher in the best year of your life to date. I hope it’s lovely.

    I was hurtling toward divorce at 26, wondering how I ended up there. On some level, I still feel 26, because I still don’t make any money. I still struggle with what I want to be when I grow up. I still have major confidence issues. But I have a splendiferous husband now, and I know I made a grown-up choice when I married him.

    • Oh, I still don’t know what I want to be, and I think cake consitutes a solid breakfast and also I think most of those Jackass movies are hilarious. But then there are the slow motion, bird watching, tea sipping days that I think “Living in an assisted living community sounds amazing”.

    • Some days I am a junior high boy, all laughing at stupid YouTube videos and wondering if I could pull off a nose ring. Then other days I think nothing would make me happier than some tea and a cute kitten calendar. I figure I’m somewhere in the middle, between 12 and 103 :)

  8. I guess none of us really feel our age. I am 25 and I feel more like 19 or 20. I don’t know how it feels to be old or mature yet.
    Happy Birthday, Tori :)

  9. I like the idea that everyone gets a birthday, but don’t forget that everyone can also have a Festivus! (For the rest of us…) Seinfeld, anyone?? :)

  10. Watching Designing Women in lieu of…well anything, is so funny to me. Not because of your age, but because it’s Designing Women. I have an old soul, but I’m also not sure how a 29 y/o should act. Love the post though! Andrea @ be-quoted.com visiting from SITS.

  11. Wow!! First and foremost; Happy birthday to you!! I am blown away by your post because I have been an old soul since I can remember. I’ve always believed that some of my life experiences made it so but lately, I’ve began suspecting that that is just as I’ve been wired. Often, I look around and analyze the life of people my age and I feel a huge gap between where they are and where I am. Somehow, it feels as though I am where they will begin to be in about another 30 years and it frightens me to wonder what I will actually be doing when my body is as old as my mind feels!! >.< The ending of your post has given me a glimpse into some of what that could be like and I am giggling uncontrollably as I try to avoid imagining myself doing those things, and type something coherent here at the same time!! ;)

    Have a wonderful day!!

  12. At 41 I am just now feeling like my age fits. It feels good to finally have the world look at me like I’m the grown up I always thought I was. And all those ‘silly’ ideas I was told I would outgrow? Not so much. Only now people take them seriously!

  13. happy birthday! i feel like you gave me a birthday present by writing this! i’ve felt about 70 since i was 10. and i love going to bed early and being the worst one in the water aerobics class!

  14. Happy birthday!!! Whoo Hoo!!
    I was always old. My parents said I was 14 going on 40, which I think is just about right.
    In my “wild” 20′s I was in medical school and residency. I was the oldest 24 year old in the world. –Lisa

    • The oldest 24 year old in the world. That is the PERFECT way to say it. I have the feeling most days that I’m playing a big prank on everyone when I say I’m only 26. I just found a silvery hair, though, so the jig is almost up :)

  15. You’re 26? That’s all? OMG, you’re still wet behind the ears my dear!! I was having my first kid at 26. My second came at 30. You make it sound like you’re ready for AARP. I wish I was 26 again. You don’t want to be Benjamin Button (Oh how I cried at the end of that movie!). That would be horrid! I’m 51. I don’t look or even act like I’m 51. I don’t know how to act like 51. What do 51 year olds act like? Is there a standard procedure I’m suppose to follow? I have Emminem and Linkin Park on my iPod. I just fell in love with a Swedish duo who sings “I just crashed my car into a bridge and I don’t care!” I like Dubstep. I also like classical music as well as “zen” music on my Pandora playlist. I own a convertible and drive it around like I’m no one’s business. Given the limited environment I have I do the best with what I have. I gave up having birthdays. No one cares after 48. I think people feel they have to wish me a happy birthday just to make themselves feel good. I don’t think any less of them if they didn’t. I wish they wouldn’t.
    You are SO young! Be goofy with your little boy! You’re a good mommy! He will keep you in your 20′s. Happy Birthday!

    • I feel the same “What does a 26-year-old act like? How do you do that?” way. It just doesn’t click. I definitely have days when I am more like a 12-year-old boy, laughing at every immature joke that comes my way, but then there are the Golden Girls days that I could pass for a 103-year-old. It’s a toss up, really!

  16. And here I was, thinking that there was no way someone else felt the same way I did about age. So glad you wrote about this. I’m pretty sure I was born at about age 60 and have been steadily getting younger since. In 4th grade, I vowed that I would only listen to classical music and never wear those showy, colorful clothes from Limited Too. When I was 19 or 20, I took this random mental age test and I ended up being about 37. By my calculations, I should finally feel my age when I’m 30. Not too bad! Happy Birthday, Tori. Glad you’re back to entertain us with your posts. :)

    • You get it. I vividly remember trips to Limited Too and the hot pink, glitter, leopard print was all too much. At 8 I was shaking my head like “Ugh. So juvenile”. I was nominated for a Best Dressed award in Junior High as a joke because I wore my mom’s ankle length, button-up-the-front skirt every day for 6 months. Those suckers didn’t appreciate chic modesty :)

    • Tracie, my sister just said the same thing to me. She turned 30 last year and said it was the first time she didn’t feel “off” saying her age. Keeping fingers crossed that 30 does the same for me!

  17. Definitely old soul–via an introverted personality, which is strange because I’m very outgoing when I actually GO. Anyway, I totally get everything you’re saying.

    • Haha. That IS the strange part. When I convince myself to wear some makeup and stay out past 7 o’clock I normally have a lot of fun. It’s the actual act of not going to bed early that’s the tough part!

  18. I too am a fellow young body,old soul.My body will be 24 in a little over a month but my soul is about 50,maybe 60. I don’t listen to hip hop or conform to the things 23-year-olds are ‘supposed’ to be doing,but instead love scrapbooking,Motown music,reading,writing and all types of crafts. I don’t use ‘slang’ and even correct my mother’s grammar. No tight clothing or overly flashy jewelery. I’m a simple girl!I’m Jennice visiting from #SITSsharefest

    • So happy you stopped by, Jennice! We have a LOT in common. I got Slang Flashcards not too long ago and let me tell you it was an education. I can’t get away with using any of the words and I’m a little scared that they even exist!

  19. Fun post. I am young at heart! Always have been. My body is starting to reject that notion, but I will just have to put my hands over my ears and shout, “I can’t hear you…I can’t hear you…I can’t hear you!” when it tells me I am now really 51. :)

    Happy Birthday!
    Gaye

    • Hahaha. I love the image of you telling your body to hush. I keep looking down at my belly pooch and telling it to act like a 6-pack. No luck yet, but I hear persistence is key :)

    • As far as entertainment and what I find hilarious, I am right on par with a 12-year-old boy. Physically and how-many-partying-late-nights-I-can-withstand-wise I am about 103. I figure my real age is somewhere in the middle :)

  20. Happy belated birthday! As a kid, I always felt older on the inside than my friends seemed to feel. Actually, I still feel older than my years most of the time. Not physically – okay, sometimes physically – but emotionally too. I suppose that makes me an old soul.

  21. 26 is way too young to be thinking about age. I never feel mine and I am older. I still go out, party, hit concerts, and have a blast with life. There is a big difference in being old and being older. It is just a number after all. Happy Birthday!

    • Living it up, mister! Your life sounds fun! I really only think about age around my birthday and really only in regards to how my little number seems so much smaller than I think it should be. At the end of the day I have the maturity of a 12-year-old boy and the cranky attitude towards pop culture of a 103-year-old. The number can’t be all that important!

  22. Happy belated birthday, Tori! I am an old soul as well, though maybe not *quite* as old as yours. :) I’ve always been the ‘mom’ in my family, even to my parents. Kindred spirits, perhaps? I hope you had a great day and that 26 is a fabulous year for you. (I find myself clucking my tongue and saying “26? That’s so young!”. Must be my old soul thinking that…)

  23. I always feel like I act older than most my age…probably do to the fact that I’m an introvert. But my boyfriend has a tendency to bring out my bouncier side. Of course, when I’m around his brothers, I feel like Wendy with the Lost Boys!

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