I'm turning 30 in a little under two months. I'm looking forward to it. My main concern at the moment is whether my party will kick enough ass and involve enough champagne. (Or other, cheaper, bubbling options. I'm not hating on cava, spumonti, or prosecco here.)
When I was a child, I felt old. Or rather, I never felt the way I imagined a child was supposed to feel, and I often didn't act that way, either. I was quieter and more cautious, wary of revealing too much and never trusting too soon. I always felt large and clumsy and deep-voiced. (I consciously changed my voice in my adolescence to sound more light and feminine, which has now become an ingrained habit that I'm slowly and painfully trying to unlearn. It's a process, rediscovering your own voice twenty years on.) People described me as serious and mature, always.
In many ways I feel younger now than then. I am much less burdened with the weight of shame and fear. I think so many fewer things are impossible or off-limits, and so slowly I'm learning, for the first time, the spontaneity and enthusiasm that one is supposed to lament losing at my age.
In other ways, of course, I feel ordinarily chronological. My insights feel more saturated with context and history than the quick, sharp observations of people ten years younger than me. And I don't have quite the manic Gumby-flexible energy I did as a teenager, though I'm physically stronger now than I was then, by a long shot.
I wonder in what ways being queer shapes our experiences of chronology and life stages, beyond the obvious questions of access to marriage & reproduction milestones. My thoughts on these lines are shaped by Jack Halberstam's 'In a Queer Time and Place'. Halberstam argues there for a kind of prolonged adolescence as being characteristic of queer subcultures, which reject the reproductive calendar of their straight counterparts.
Sitting in the library the other day, I was staring out the window, as you do in libraries after a while. And I was watching a middle-aged man have a conversation with a police officer. It looked like they were probably friends. The man was wearing a polo shirt and khakis; he was solid, beer-bellied, and ruddy, and I imagined him as the respository, in a way, of all that was respectable, normal, and, in the words of my youth, as it should be. I wondered about the burden that must be, carrying all that legitimacy around, maybe watching out worriedly for transgressions, maybe just carefully ensuring that the rounds of barbeques and high school graduations and conservations with your pal the cop went on in perpetuity, preserved for the next pillars of society.
And that got me wondering if that burden and those immense privileges that accrue to carrying it are, in the end, what really growing up and being mature are about in our world. Maybe that is why queers seem like eternal adolescents: by the very nature of our lives, we are never going to ascend to that level of legitimacy.
A colleague recently remarked to me that rock and roll is dead, which he then amended to the observation that rock and roll dies for everyone at a different moment, because it is the music of youth and rebellion. But maybe, I thought, youth and rebellion are ultimately the same thing. And the reward that we get, the queer and the marginal and the deviant, is that for us, rock and roll lives, like Frodo, for ever.