Over the course of the weekend many of her friends, myself included, gave Laurel way too much grief about turning 30 later this year. Conversations turned to ages and moved into body images and swirled through conventions and being a fan and communication.
It occurred to me this morning that a lot of what we were talking about in those conversations was self identification. Who are we; especially to ourselves? So I got to thinking about what I think of myself and how that is and isn't like objective realities.
In my minds eye, for example, I'm clean shaven. I am also, however, unconcerned with physical appearances and find shaving a bother. So I have a beard that varies in length with the Minnesota seasons and how much hassle it causes me. It's too long now as it blows around the side of my vision while I'm driving with the window open. I also notice that it's time to trim my moustache when I find it beginning to hold a bit too much foam from my beer.
In my head, I also don't wear glasses. Part of that, I suppose, is having worn them since I was five years old. I've grown so used to them that I don't feel my glasses are an accessory or tool. They aren't quite a part of me, but I don't consciously think of them anymore. For example, I saw my chiropractor this morning and upon leaving his office I became aware that I had my glasses on. I remembered taking them off, lest they mash into my face while face down on his table, but I couldn't recall putting them back on. Nearly 30 years of putting on glasses first thing in the morning appears to have been burned into my cerebellum, no longer requiring prodding from the upper functions of the brain.
Conversation this weekend turned to body image and our society's obsession with it at one point. (Fat people are given all sorts of grief, but then Callista Flockhart gets told to have a sandwich. Society's obsession knows no bounds.) I find myself largely unaffected by this. I'll admit to finding people widely accepted as beautiful to be attractive. In some respects, I think that is based on biology and genetics. All species try to survive and our method of survival includes forming bonds with others; whether one is following a genetic imperative to procreate or a similar inclination for building a social group for mutual benefit.
I'll come off sounding like I think I'm superior or strange and therefore to be fascinated by, but for some reason I don't get much of it. There are days where I've stood in front of the mirror, grabbed the pot belly around my middle and said to myself, "Damn, I eat good." I can recall only one time in my life where I've ever thought about my weight: for a couple of weeks in college, I went out for the crew team as a coxswain. I'd always thought rowing looked fun but am not particularly athletic so didn't hold any dreams of becoming a rower myself. I was, however, quite skinny and since coxswains have weight requirements, it seemed like it might be a good fit. A few weeks of early-morning aerobics, however, cured me of that passing fancy.
Internally, I feel my body does fit my image of me, unlike my glasses, for example. I don't have thoughts of beefing up or slimming down. I'm comfortable in my body and don't feel any need for changing it. I can't recall ever having that feeling. Maybe distant desires from childhood to be taller, but that's it.
On the subject of age, which we tormented Laurel about all weekend, I've also come to a point where I feel like I "fit." For a long time, I felt like I was older than my chronological age. Many people have remarked that they thought I was older than I am. I'll be 35 next year and I think I feel about that old. Every now and then I get to thinking I like some of what I'm seeing in the things that 20-year-olds I know like, music for example, and that makes me wonder if I feel like I'm in my 20s again. The conclusion I've come to is that I feel like what I felt like when I was in my 20s. When I was that old, I felt like I was about 35.
As I look at my house, mortgage, 401k, etc., I look forward to what it will be like when I'm 50, 65, 80. As I age and my body changes, how will my perception change? When I'm 40 will I have the inner self perception of myself as a 35-year-old? When I'm 65? When I'm 90? Or, having "caught up," with my self perception, will I go on feeling like whatever age I am?
One thing has definitely changed since I was in my 20s. I now feel like I might be those chronological ages some day. It'll be fun to see things changing over the decades; I look forward to living in the future.