When I was little, I took comfort in the thought that even child stars were older than me. People like Michelle Kwan and Macauley Culkin.
As though, given a couple more years, I too could become an Olympic champion or become male, blond and dysfunctional after starring in a blockbuster Hollywood movie.
When I started high school, the reigning national Spelling Bee champion was in my class. I rationalized the fact that such people were now my peers with the bizarre way that she compulsively tapped her feet and thrust up her arms during freshman English class.
I thought that I’d still managed to hang on, to some extent, to this method of self-justification.
But today, reading a profile of Greta Gerwig–the female lead in Greenberg, who I fell for in the movie Nights and Weekends–and seeing that she, like me, is twenty-six–I hardly flinched. Which made me wonder: when did I surpass the age when it was surprising for me to be older than a critical mass of really successful people? Really successful people who aren’t even considered young to be successful?
In other words: when did I get to be older than I feel?
It’s not that I ever had any particularly grand ambitions about being a famous actress, or even–past the age of eight–an Olympic figure skater. I just wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I still want to be a writer when I grow up.
I’m getting there. It’s a struggle, but, slowly, I’m getting to the point where I can call myself “a writer” without feeling completely fraudulent. As for calling myself a grown up, though, I’ve still got a ways to go.
I recently read that twenty-five is the age at which you begin to feel younger than you are. (It was in one of those magazines I sereptitiously read at the gym, which limits us to the reliable source material of either Oprah or Glamour. Possibly, if we’re lucky, it was Vogue.)
Which would suggest that most of us spend the majority of our lives being delusional. And, that I have entered this stage of self-delusion earlier than I ever expected.
So: will I ever feel like a grown up? I hang on to the vague hope that some eventual grand life experience might trigger the transition: some conventional rite of passage like owning a home or getting married. Or, if I’m really lucky, having my name on a book.
If nothing else, I’d like to think that by the time I have kids I no longer feel like one myself. But at this point, I’m not even sure of that.
The article, wherever it was, just said people generally go through life feeling younger than they are. It didn’t say how much younger.