If you’re like me, you woke up on December 26th thinking, “Finally! National Candy Cane Day!”* Or you might have noted its secondary reason for significance: The day after Christmas happens to be Jared Leto’s birthday.
Depending upon the number of candles you’ll blow out this year, you might recognize Jared Leto as a founder of the alt rock band 30 Seconds to Mars, or all pudgy for the role of John Lennon’s murderer Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27, or drugged out and sexed up in Requiem for a Dream, or as Jordan Catalano, the object of Claire Dane’s angsty teenaged desire in the short-lived but much-loved 90’s TV drama My So Called Life. Point is, dude’s got legs and December 26th was his 40th birthday. You read that right: Jared Leto is 40.
My brain took several paths to comprehending this information:
1) What the crapping crap? This is what 40 is supposed to look like? How come I didn’t get to look so good when I was 40? And where do I send my tersely-worded letter of complaint?
2) Jared Leto’s being 40 makes him totally doable. True, the age difference is greater than the seven years my dear husband is older than me, but less than the 16 years Demi Moore had on Ashton Kutcher.
And finally, 3) Holy sh*t! Jared Leto is middle-aged!
It’s true, you know, by the arithmetic. If the average life expectancy for an American male is 77.9 years, then Jared actually reached his statistical middle age last year. I passed that benchmark ten years ago, though it just didn’t seem right to think of myself as a middle-aged woman until well afterward. Still, as any of my math teachers would claim, numbers don’t lie. That doesn’t stop numbers from bending the truth, however.
Age-related numbers are tricky. Not only do they denote, but they connote. It’s a big deal when a kid moves from a single digit to double digits, and every adolescent will tell you there’s a world of difference between 12 and 13. We know well the rights and privileges which accompany the 16th, 18th, and 21st birthdays; just as well-known are the restrictions, caveats, and addendums attached to certain ages.
“Do I still have to sit at the kids’ table?”
“Act your age!”
“Aren’t you a little old to be wearing that?”
Don’t we all, on occasion, find it difficult to reconcile our chronological age with our perceived one? The numbers themselves seem finite –we grasp each for exactly 365 days–but how we feel fluctuates dramatically during that time. For some people, just one aspect of their personality seems to dance to the beat of its own drummer: clothing choices, musical tastes, political leanings, or recreational activities might seem out-of-sync with others of their peer group. But those restrictions are artificial, anyway; who decided it was appropriate to continue reading the newest books, watching the newest movies, and following the changes in our favorite sports teams through the years, but inappropriate to continue listening to the newest music or maintaining an interest in popular culture?
On his 40th birthday, I looked closely at Jared Leto’s photographs for any signs of laugh lines. You see, I’ve become very aware of those tiny creases radiating from the outer corners of my own eyes. Perhaps it’s because these brown eyes are the only physical characteristic I actually like,** and therefore about them I still maintain a bit of vanity. Perhaps it’s because, as the “baby” of my family I’ve always perceived myself as relatively young, and such obvious hallmarks of age chip away at my illusion.
I do know I’d like to find the person who nicknamed the little wrinkles laugh lines and kiss her square on the mouth. Doesn’t laugh lines sound so much gentler than crow’s feet? And the term is totally accurate! An expansive, scientific study consisting of me staring into my bathroom mirror revealed that the creases are really only present when I smile or laugh. And I am both a smiler and a laugher. So in their own way, my laugh lines prove to the world that I have approached life with a sense of humor, that I have laughed through good times and bad, that I have a ready smile.
Of course, that knowledge didn’t stop me from pissing away $32 on a 1/2 ounce jar of eye cream that was supposed to magically make my laugh lines disappear, and instead only made me feel like big rube standing before a snake oil salesman. As P.T. Barnum might have said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
I might not be embracing my laugh lines, but I am learning to live with them. After all, what choice do I have? Besides, I earned them.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome the fine Jared Leto into the ranks of the middle-aged–mathematically speaking, that is. By the time Jared sees laugh lines staring back in his bathroom mirror, my own eyes will be so bad I won’t be able to find the bathroom.
*Not making it up.
**Those who know me will say I’m also fond of my feet, which I love to dress up in cute little shoes.