I woke up this morning and realised I’d turned 22. There were no trumpets, no Tom Waits serenading me as I awoke, no new legal avenues of vice available to me, just an overwhelming sense of meh. This sensation was caused by the fact that 22 is my first genuine nothing birthday. Every previous birthday has been better than this one. Not in terms of enjoyment, merely the fact that in the past each successive year has brought something new to my life.
Everything up to 13 was freaking brilliant cos I was young and birthdays were amazing moments where I became a whole year older and closer to being a real person. 14 and 15 were curious because I was a teenager going through the biggest physical and mental changes of my life, and they were the first parties where alcohol was tentatively introduced. 16 I could buy cigarettes. 17 I could drive. 18 I could vote, drink and become an adult. 19 and 20 marked an important transition period from teenager to adult. 21 was the daddy; I became a man, had not one but two fuck-off parties and got loadsa presents.
22 marks the end of all that. There is nothing good about turning 22. It’s an entirely insignificant age and just the first of many. The next significant birthday is 30, which according to gender stereotypes is the most depressing moment of any woman’s life. So that’s a bullet missed at least. Then it’s 40, where I guess the real mid-life crisis sets in. Joy. Then 50, which is an achievement but bloody ages away, and after that you have to go through the whole lot again until reaching 100 which is a mixed bag cos you get a nice card from the monarch but are probably too batshit crazy to realise that you’ve finally made it to an interesting age again. All the other birthdays in between serve only to remind you that you’re getting older, you’ve achieved less than you meant to and that for one day a year you are no longer special.
What is it to be 22 anyway? The only relevant thing I can think of about the number is that it’s a famous bingo call. Not famous enough for me to be able to remember it though… two dead ducks? I forget. And it’s a palindrome too, but that’s not exactly sexy. No one sexy is 22.
I’ve certainly missed the prodigy boat. Prodigious talents make themselves known by 21 at the latest. Whenever you hear about someone young breaking out into the world of success they’re always 21 or younger. After that you have to wait til 33 at the earliest before you can breakthrough again. I’m getting to an age where I see musicians who have released seminal albums, sportstars who have achieved immense physical feats and millionaire entrepreneurs, all of which are younger than me. For no logical reason I’m filled with a vitriolic bile towards these smug bastards. Is it jealousy or fear? I think it might be fear. Fear that time is slipping away from me. I’m oooooooold.
Of course I realise that anyone over the age of 22 who is reading this will probably be entertaining thoughts of finding me and beating me savagely round the side of the head with a sledgehammer. I think 22 is depressing and old? Ha! It’s positively pre-pubescent mate. You just wait til your belly starts sliding away beyond your control, your limbs stiffen up and your hair goes grey!
Alright, fair enough. That stage is a lot more depressing than the point in my life I’m currently residing in. I don’t really feel old, I just no longer feel young. I can no longer use that excuse to myself of, ‘I’m young! I’ve got years left to mature and worry about the real world!’ I can’t do that anymore. It’s scary. It ain’t right I tells ya. Between now and 30 I can see myself in a state of limbo. Age-confused. Yearning for immaturity lost.
I think a lot of the reason for my minor early 20s crisis may be the presents I received from my family. Everything I got was clothes. Everything. Clothes all the way. I’m not complaining. I like clothes but rarely buy them and my siblings have better fashion tastes than I do anyway, so getting a big pile of clothes was great. But it’s also a pretty clear indication that you have reached an insignificant age. There are no more obvious birthday presents, or even presents at all. From now on it’s clothes, DVDs and CDs all the way. But that’s all I spend money on anyway, so net gain!
Perhaps it’s a good thing, a sign of my need to mature and move on. Birthdays are no longer just about me, jelly and ice cream. They are instead a chance to pause, to think, to get together with friends and get wasted. Yes, that’s it. Boldly should I step forward, out of the cave and into the light. Time to shake off that mentality I’ve had towards birthdays since I first popped into this world 22 years ago and demanded a party hat and a cigar.
Or I could just lie and claim to be 21 for the rest of my life. People do that. I’ve seen it in films.