young

30s: regretting 20s, looking forward to 40s

I write, think and talk a lot about age. Everyday. It became an obsession when I turned 30 and people expected me to be an adult when I couldn’t feel any actual difference from my younger self. According to my father who is well settled in his 80s it stays like that for the rest of your life: you keep feeling 21 and can’t really process the fact that teenagers get up to give you their seat when you use public transports.

What I find really confusing is that there is no “old age” anymore. I am 34 and I can remember my mother when she was my age. She dressed, behaved and spoke as a grown up. She even had a grown up’s haircut (that mid-lenght, parted on the side thing moms had in the 70s). Now everybody dresses the same between 15 and 85 and you spot grandmothers trying on the same Zara jeans as their granddaughters. So when do we get old? Or when do we stop being young?

I have already written of my (apparently inaccurately remembered) 20s: the Golden Age when you started adult life and risked being obsessed with the quest for real love. My 30s are turning out to be what everybody said: a chaotic number of years where you are supposed to be wise and organized and responsible and to take care of everybody and everything but yourself. I am constantly running, and most of the times I am running late. I still remember the  shock when, freshly married, my husband made me a list of things to do. Errands. Dry cleaner, shoe-repair guy, car repair and so on. The kind of stuff I always outsourced to my mother. Well, I am becoming her. And that is scary.

In these past months I am seeing very often women in their 40s. They seem to have an appeasing effect on my anxiousness. They survived through 30s, some divorces, young children and everyday frustrations. They are better dressed, younger looking than 30-years-old who still have to cope with night waking and dark circles around their eyes and in most cases they resumed interesting jobs. They even know who they are. They are to me the light at the end of the tunnel.

What a strange era, the 30s.

Journals are better than Prozac

“I’d sell both kidneys just to be 20 again”. This is what i said last night to my nephew who’s 20, gorgeous, youthful, handsome-and-doesn’t-know-it and totally lost. A year is a century for him, today is forever, old people become so at 29 and he wants to change the world. Frankly, I’d do anything to feel like that again.
And then, since I am staying at my parents place in my old room and it harbours the most complete collections of my opera omnia, here I am, sleepless, avidly reading my journals of a decade ago.
Someone said that what keeps humans going is the progressive loss of memories regarding difficult times. When I think now of my 20s I remember them as a garden of Eden, where everything was easy and smooth, I was independent and skinny and cute and funny and daring and YOUNG. Well, according to my written memoirs I was actually a wreck.

Here’s what I wrote on March, 23rd 2002:

“It is so complicated to be 23 and try to act as a grownup. I am too old to act without considering consequences, too young to have a sense of perspective and set priorities. It is so confusing”.

I filled entire journals with this sort of considerations. With all the loving tenderness the old me inspires now, I have a good reason to smile: it got better, eventually. And it will get even better later.

Keeping a journal is better than Prozac.

The California Diaries – Through the Silicon Valley

Image

almond flour pancake, lemon ricotta pancake, coffee and a side of fruit

My last day in San Francisco started at Plow, the city’s best spot for breakfast and brunch (according to local press and to our landlady) in Potrero Hill, a few blocks from our room. It’s cool, it’s cozy, it’s trendy, it’s…ORGANIC. Yet the menu isn’t for dieters or sensible stomachs…Image

I went for one almond-flour pancake (lacking taste without the maple syrup), one lemon ricotta pancake (good, really good) and one side of fresh fruit. The kitchen is on the other side of the counter so you see everything. And my European organic eyes were wide open when the cook flipped the gluten-free almond-flour pancake next to the bacon slices, removing the excess grease coming from the pork every now and then with a small spatula. Pancakes cooking on animal fat? Really? And then, of course, each pancake had a small nut of butter melting on top of it once presented at the table. I think that in Europe, in any fancy “organic” breakfast spot as popular as this one you could go to jail for that. But when in Rome…so I ate the whole thing not without repressing some anxiety regarding what all that trans-fat would do to my almost middle-aged body. The other customers were all ordering without the slightest sign of concern chinese breakfast and other eggs/pork/bacon/fried potatoes combinations and none looked terminally ill to be honest.

The sweetest part was a little girl of around 6, eating at the counter with her dad a poached egg and wearing amazing red cowboy boots under her very preppy grey coat. I took a picture because she looked adorable (and very fashion conscious).

Image

Red boots for breakfast

Short before lunchtime we left the city to start our journey toward Los Angeles. First stop, the Silicon Valley. Husband was over excited by simply looking at street signs: Palo Alto, Sand Hill Road, Cupertino…it’s his personal Disneyland. He dropped me in the middle of nowhere to get to a meeting on time and I walked, and walked, surrounded by serious-looking office buildings and blossoming cherry trees (cheer up, Europeans, spring still exists). Some baseball (or was that football? I only know soccer so don’t be mad) fields later I spotted a Starbucks and basically ran there, my raft in this hi-tech sea.

Image

Cherry blossoms and hi-tech offices

Then, suddenly, I was enlightened. Sitting in the corner of a Stanford Starbucks, I got it: flipping pancakes on bacon fat doesn’t matter here because none is thirty yet. Not even 25, I guess. For the past 4 days I had an hard time trying to spot anyone my age or older. They’re all super young, look super bright (I could feel an “underachiever and stupid” growing on my forehead just by listening at their conversations) and dress like Mark Zuckerberg. So I wondered: did he set a dirty-looking tee/bermudas/thong trend and all those young students and techies are just imitating him out of desperate hope to become as successful or he’s just the by-product of Silicon Valley nursing?

I still had one, simple question. What do you do to old people? Do you shoot them on their 30th birthday? Do you send them away on a special plane once they enter the reproductive phase of their life and start having concerns about clogged arteries, sagging skin and urban safety?

And a few miles later I got my answer. We stopped on the highway around Portola Valley and had something to eat before hitting the road again. We sat on the terrace and watched. Dozens of cars followed ours. Old people at the wheel. Old like white-hair/white poodle/fanny pack old. Here they are. Hidden somewhere on the hills, in low houses covered in green, sitting on a shabby-chic bench in the front garden. Big SUV filled with baseball-capped kids and hockey mums came in at the same time. I guess it was the friday afternoon errands time. I felt relieved (that they don’t shoot you after 30 in the Silicon Valley) and terrified (that they confine you in suburbs) at the same time. Wisteria Lane, it’s not exactly my thing.

A couple of hours of fog later we arrived in Big Sur and went for a Carmel Wheat beer. A beautiful 20 years old waitress warned us:

“Do you know that Carmel and Big Sur are among the 1001 places to see before you die?”.

Fine. We did it. Death may come today. 

Image

Naples? No. The original say goes: “See Carmel, have a beer and die”. Cheers.