the scary age begins


I turned thirty-five this week. Tuesday the 19th, to be exact. It was a pretty low-key birthday: a couple of friends took me out for lunch and then we went to see the Chihuly show. My boss only called me once to ask me where I was. “I’m at my birthday lunch,” I said curtly. I wasn’t happy about my birthday, and I wasn’t happy about being hunted down on my birthday, either.

When asked what I wanted to do that evening, I said I just wanted to get in my pajamas and watch television. So we did just that–after picking up a half baked Zachary’s stuffed spinach and mushroom pizza.

While I was zoning out on the couch that evening, the smell of warm pizza crust in the air and the taste of tomatoes still lingering in my mouth, my mom called me and said, “You don’t sound too happy.” Nope. I wasn’t happy to turn thirty-five. Despite common perception, I do not have a fear of aging. I have a fear of thirty-five. The year when doctors say fertility decreases in a woman (yes, I know it’s not EXACTLY thirty-five, but they have chosen the age thirty-five). I can imagine my body now–going OFF.A.CLIFF. She giggled, but in a way that didn’t offend me.

Men come up to me and say, “It’s a great age!” I nod and smile and say, “Thank you for wishing me happy birthday.” But a part of me stares blankly at them, wondering what would happen if men experienced a fertility cliff at the age of thirty-five. What if they had a significant decrease in sperm count/production at the age of thirty-five? (Same thing goes for menopause, I’m sure–what if they actually become infertile at one point in their lives).

My husband replied, “The world would be a significantly different place if that were to occur.”

(BTW, the best remark I got was from a man who when I said I wasn’t happy about turning thirty-five, responded, “I had a friend who hit menopause at 28. She ran out of eggs! So you never know!” UGGGGGGGGH. I *think* he meant to say that age is arbitrary. I THINNNK).

It’s hard for me to describe what I’m feeling to the general public when it comes to thirty-five/The Cliff. Ten years I’ve tried having a kid–and now it’s going to be…MORE difficult. I don’t want to hear about the miracle cases where women have succeeded in having kids. Because the reality is that they are the minority of outcomes. There is a large number of women who suffer silently, or at the very least, do not share their stories–the ones who did try but never did have their own biological children.

So the door has closed a bit further. It is not all the way shut, of course, but it has closed just enough to discourage me.

And so I also struggle with writing my novel–because in a way, my novel is my child. And it sure has a gestational period that lasts much longer than nine months (oh, if only a novel’s gestational period WERE nine months!). I’m trying to realize my dreams. Maybe I’m not trying enough, though. I often wonder about that.

I am exhausted this week–there was a trip to L.A. and back, and then a trip to the mountains–most of it executed while following a U-Haul truck full of my mother-in-law’s things. I saw a couple of friends in L.A.–the best part about the trip, really. But mostly, it was an exhausting journey. Punctuated by the arrival of thirty-five, one of my “scary ages.” (Oh yes, there are MORE to come).

I came home and have tried to write–but my brain is mush. I’ve recovered from my stroke–but the one thing that remains is that once I get tired, my brain turns OFF. I mean all the way off–my memory deteriorates. The only solution to all of this is rest and sleep.

That’s kind of why I’m writing a blog post now: I got up and tried to write my novel, but I was just too damn tired. So whatever, I figured I’d blog, at least get all this off my chest.

Oh and speaking of writing–I still have that sublet at the “Writing Place.” I got up early each morning last week and got myself over to San Francisco to write. I’d write (or stare at the wall) for three hours each morning before heading into work. Some mornings I’d take the BART in and just revel in the walk. Some mornings I’d drive. It was entirely pleasant. And I discovered that writers like to take summer vacations and also do not wake up early in the morning. Because the place was deserted until about 10am when a couple of people would trickle in.

I didn’t get a ton of writing done, but I got words on the page.

This week, not so much writing–between all that traveling and my exhaustion. I decided to experiment this morning and try to write from home in the morning instead of going in to the office. I’m writing now–in the office upstairs, the room I’d originally set aside to write. So I’m hopeful that this will be possible, go forward (after all, the sublet isn’t for all eternity–it ends at the end of the month). But I can’t write if anyone else is home. And miraculously, my dogs are quiet right now–usually they’re howling at me to come downstairs if they know I’m home.

And it’s hard to write with howling critters.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed–I really need time and space. I feel like things are just creeping up on me and I can’t take enough of a stand to carve out my own time and space. What does this say about how much I value my life?

Anyway. Boring post. Just a lot of rambling. That’s the junk that’s in my head, crowding my thoughts.

It’s a beautiful day outside–the fog is burning off, revealing azure skies. The tomatoes are ripening in my garden. I’m sure the day will turn. I just need a lot more sleep. And then I can write some more, try to make that goal of finishing a complete draft of my novel by the end of the year.

p.s. some not awful news…I got a rejection letter from the Cimarron Review. It was handwritten (and on an entire 8.5 x 11 piece of paper!) and said, “Dear ———- Our Senior Fiction Editor admired your work; sorry it didn’t work out this time. Please do try us again.” So on that front, the door didn’t open all the way, but it did open a crack.



Filed under Life, The Novel, Writing

11 responses to “the scary age begins

  1. I’m so glad that (hopefully) we were part of your great weekend in L.A.!!

  2. chaesq

    Happy birthday and I hope this coming year is a RESTFUL one for you.

  3. Happy Birthday! Wishing you all the best for this year, on all fronts.

  4. Amyable

    I think all of us have our “scary age” and they are different from person to person. I got married at 36 and was “living it up” through my early 30’s so it was at 39 that I decompressed and got very depressed. But, that lasted only a couple of weeks and I’ve been enjoying life again ever since. I think not wanting to have kids probably helped since I didn’t worry about the biological clock. I have many girlfriends who would be perfectly happy (I think) if it wasn’t for that looming biological clock!

  5. oh

    whew, you have a lot going on.
    So, enjoy. Enjoy your work, your man, your dogs, your quiet times and noisy times.
    The clock ticks but seconds, minutes, hours, and years are our human imposition on a random universe.

    You’re doing fine. If you couldn’t write, you wouldn’t even come up with this blog, which is so readable that altho’ I have no idea who you are, it’s always a good to drop in here.

    Just. keep. going. And loving it. You have readers already, see?
    (And what’s the deal with the Cimarron Review guy who admired your work – admire away, pal, and publish the piece!)

  6. Eve

    I’ve already wished you a belated happy birthday, so I’m not going to do that again.

    Instead, I’m going to comment on what you wrote about having children. After reading this, I see that your “cliff” is not only about having a child, it’s about your diminishing chances of having a child. And I imagine it’s also about asking yourself whether you’re going to have or adopt one or not.

    This is very tough, so tough that I now almost want to withdraw my “happy birthday” and offer something else instead. I hesitate to be so forward, but I’m a forward sort of person so I’ll go ahead anyway. I hope I don’t offend you. I really don’t have much advice, because you’re a thinking and compassionate human being and I expect you’ll arrive at the answer that feels and is right for you.

    What I wanted to say instead is that wanting to have a child and not being able to have one when you want one is one of the greatest pains and losses in life. There are few that compare. So of course turning 35 will dredge that up and bring it into sharp relief. I’m sorry for your pain, truly. It’s real and what you’re writing about is a big loss.

    And then, there is adoption. I could get on a soap box and write about all the children in the world who really need parents; but if I do that, it would seem to suggest that adoption is the solution to your big potential loss of your dream biological child. I never see adoption as a solution, and from reading my blog (and being well read otherwise), I’m sure you know why. I won’t belabor that.

    But I will say that it seems that you have a weighty, life-changing decision to make: to raise a child or not? That’s the issue here. I can’t say enough how being a mother has enriched and deepened me. But mothering isn’t for everyone. It takes a high degree of self-knowledge and compassion to choose to remain childless when any educated fool can go out and adopt a child, if they can’t conceive one. You’re no fool, so you’re seeing that you have to decide. My heart and spirit go out to you and I’ll pray for you. I really will. I’ll pray that God will be with you and mercifully give you whatever wisdom and courage you need.

    Finally, I want to say how being a parent is such a profound choice. Aware people do not enter into it lightly or like fools. You’re quite right and admirable to be so serious in thinking about these things. I admire you even more to see you hint at this, frankly. This is the very quality that would make a wonderful mother for some child, one you birth, or one you adopt. I hope you’ll take that to heart.

    That old saying says, “Not to decide is to decide.” That means something in this situation, too. When you’re my age, which is over 50, what do you want to regret? What do you want to have risked? What do you want your life to be like?

    By 35, we are fully grown up. You’re right to see that this is the time for you. Many people continue to live like developmental twenty-somethings well into their 30s and 40s. I’m glad that you’re not doing that, but being conscious. I really do wish the best for you and if I can help in some way (even by giving information) I will. I know a lot of stuff. But in the end of course, the Decider is you.

    I love you, Jade. Courage looks good on you.

  7. Eric, Chaesq, Charlotte: thank you. your birthday wishes kept me from poking toothpicks into my eyes on my birthday. 😉

    Amyable: I need to find a way to smash the biological clock. It really does tick very loudly–and it transforms me into someone I barely recognize at times.

    oh: thank you for the encouragement!!!

    Eve: your words are so supportive–I know you must be a terrific mother to all your blessed kids. Yes, my thoughts on motherhood are complicated–what are my chances? How is my grief going to be assuaged? And how hard ought I try for motherhood? What kind of mother would I be? And then there is adoption–I ponder it all the time, but then I’m not sure if I am up for that challenge, either. And then still, would it assuage my grief over the loss of a biological child? Adoption is not a direct substitute. I want, most of all, to be a good mother, and to be good to myself (I think those two go hand-in-hand most of the time). (And how will it affect my writing? I will most likely have less time…but at the same time, probably greater depth).

    And yes, I do wonder all the time what my moment on my deathbed might be. I ask myself ALL the time (esp since last year), “How will I die?” As in, not only what will I die from…but HOW will I die. Will I die fulfilled? Will I die with regrets? What will my head be filled with as I pass into the great beyond? Okay, too many deep thoughts. 🙂 But you know what I mean.

    Thank you for stopping by, everyone.

  8. I’ve been wanting to respond to this for a while. For some reason my words have felt hollow, so I keep erasing the comments I start.

    First off, I am not a fan of my birthday and facing a new age. I can be really negative about it, so it’s best if I don’t make it worse by blathering on about it. But I do hope you had a happy day.

    But more than that, I guess all this time I didn’t realize how you’ve been trying for a kid for ten years. This freezes me up, and I want to be a better friend to you, to help if I can if I had advice. But as someone who doesn’t want to have children for many reasons (and suspects she couldn’t, even if she did — and further suspects maybe she doesn’t want them because she think she couldn’t have them?? complicated), I don’t know how my voice would add any kind of wisdom. I do always tend to think positive for other people — especially ones who I admire the way I do you, so just know that.

    All I can do is hope to be a good friend to you this year, your 35th year, from far away.

    p.s. Good deal on the Cimarron Review! Send another story in, stat. I think I told you how that happened to me with one mag, and the next story I sent in was “the one.” I was just peeking at the Cimarron Review at St. Mark’s Books yesterday… looks like a great journal.

  9. Hey nova: you always say the right thing, woman. I think i will emerge from this for the better–there is just a lot of stuff to sort out, stuff that got put on the backburner while I was sick last year. So stuff is amplified.

    And thanks to your encouragement, I am sending another story in, stat!

  10. Congrats on the compliments from the Cimarron Review! And you have something to look forward to next year – a friend told me when I turned 36 that it’s the year that a woman is her best (whatever that means).

  11. P.S. I love that picture!

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