It's that time of year again...
I've got older.
Yes, technically I get older at the same rate all the year round but psychologically aging is restricted to annual updates every autumn, complete with candles and bad singing.
Actually, this time, I haven't got older. I've officially got old:
The library wanted me to fill in a questionnaire about their new checkout system. It's highly impressive. There's a barcode scanner for your library card and everything. Using a touchscreen display, you tell it whether you want to return books, borrow them or renew them. Then you just put the books on a little shelf and it knows which ones they are. By magic. One by one, the titles come up on the screen as tiny Librarian Pixies frantically do their job. The thing even prints out a receipt.
Of course, with all the button pressing and scanning, it's not really any quicker than the old system of a human librarian stamping the books. More often than not, one book in the stack won't register, requiring a careful analysis of the receipt to work out which it is. Sometimes the system thinks a book is already out when you try to borrow it or already in when you try to return it. This means searching out a librarian anyway.
When the machine gets it right, though, it's very, very cool.
Still, the first question on the feedback form scared me. It wanted to know my age and had a selection of age ranges to choose from. I realised that by the next time I intended to return to the library, I would no longer be grouped together with 25-year-olds - I would be consigned to the same dark tick-box as those who were only a day short of 45. (You know, the kind of people who might be in awe of an automatic book detector and describe it as 'cool'.)
I made sure to make a special trip to hand in the form before my birthday. Being 35 apparently puts me in an entirely different age bracket and I'm not sure I'm ready for that.
Happily, there is some leeway in where the division lies and not everyone puts it in the same place. I got sent a brochure yesterday from an organisation that runs Christian courses and retreats and they had a few specially developed for 18 to 35-year-olds. I was so flattered to be lumped in with school-leavers, I nearly signed up, despite most of the options involving travelling a long distance to sit in silence for AN ENTIRE MONTH.
Then I remembered the weekend on spirituality and creative arts I went to a few years ago which put me on the organisation's mailing list in the first place. It was an interesting course but I was surprised when I turned up and found the hall packed full of middle-aged women. They were all very welcoming and pleasant but got mildly confused whenever I mentioned my kids. Turned out that the course had a heavy Catholic slant and they'd assumed I was a trainee priest.
They were plain-clothes nuns.
All of them.
Much as thirty days of peace and contemplation surrounded by young women sounds tempting, I'm not sure I'm ready for that either.
So here I stand, teetering on the precipice of middle-age, wondering whether to jump before I'm pushed. The funny thing is, though, I actually feel significantly younger than I did a couple of years ago. I'm getting unbroken sleep. I can bounce along the pavement unencumbered by buggies, toddlers and changing bags. I don't feel the need to live on chocolate bars and biscuits. I'm not coming down with a cold or stomach bug every other week. Best of all, people have finally stopped being surprised by how young I am. This doesn't necessarily sound like a good thing but what it really means is that I'm no longer looking old for my age. Result!
If this youthful trend continues, there might be life after children yet.
Wouldn't that be great?
Yours in a woman's world,