It's Hassan Hassan's birthday, but don't you dare remind him.
This post should be all about how I just turned 28, how it’s totally the end of my life, blah, blah, blah, and end with how I’m embracing being older and wiser and loving my “journey.” I’m not. I feel old, I’m manically Googling microdermabrasion and I’m certain my body will just give up at any given point. Also, I’m asking everyone ‘HOW OLD DO I LOOK? BE HONEST!’ So, it’s safe to say I’ve given up on looking for the perks of aging and moving forward.
But in the weekend leading up to the start of my late 20s/the end of my life, I spent a lot of time reflecting. By reflecting I mean looking in the mirror and yelling ‘I’m too old for all of this!’ while throwing old Converse sneakers at my actual reflection. Now that my life’s ambition of joining the 27 Club (I KNOW I’M NOT FAMOUS, SHUT UP!) is officially over, I had to look for inspiration for new life goals/ambitions/things to do. This always starts with a major cleansing ritual. My life would be stripped of the less mature things in my proximity, my closet would cleaned out and laxatives would taken to ensure the swift emptying of my bowels (because the only thing worse than being old, is being old and bloated). This took an hour and a half. Everything was clean, age appropriate or thrown out. What was I to do?
I couldn’t look at a laptop – I’d already been on every website I could think of, saved all the pictures I wanted for the day, stalked everyone on Facebook, got annoyed by everyone on Twitter and the internet had been sucked dry. My dog was ignoring me to chew on a pair of Chucks left over from 1998 and I was stumped. Should I go for a walk? Should I listen to music? Should I wear all black and mope/walk/bump into people like this? Should I buy something? What? I can’t even begin to contemplate one of the malls, they might as well be in China. Also, I just spent the better part of the morning arguing with everyone about going to CityStars. My arguments were valid and not made up, and I definitely wasn’t in the mood for 80 million Egyptians buying things before Ramadan (for a deeper approach into what I missed, read this). If Heliopolis is China, then 6th of October is practically Siberia and each mall has a grand total of one store I would consider buying anything from. Zamalek. Again. As fucking usual.
Now in Cairo’s defense, I have been here for, like, ever (12 years) and you really can’t expect the same city to sprout fun and exciting things constantly. But it’s all exactly the same. Exactly the same people were staring at me (they have been seeing me for the better part of ten years and I have accepted that the novelty will never wear off. My mother says I should be thankful I don’t look common. That comforts me). Diwan had the same books and the same sunglasses were on display in the 50 stores in Zamalek (I do not understand the Egyptian need/obsession with sunglasses – don’t get me wrong I appreciate it greatly –but there are literally 6 sunglasses stores on my block. While we might run out of bread, we will never have a shortage of designer sunglasses, it seems). So I went home, ate a tub of frosting and watched ads on the Style Network.
This tedious routine combined with a paralysing fear of getting old is never a good combination. So I was bracing myself for the same old thing and a birthday where the main goal was for it to end. But then my actual birthday came and it wasn’t so bad. Maybe it was because everyone was treating me like a mental patient, so I had no choice but to stop acting like one. In the midst of hating everything and regretting not joining the 27 Club (this will be the biggest regret of my life, I feel it), something strange happened. A whole bunch of people that really cared jumped out of the woodwork and showed up at my house with wine, cheese and ashtrays. Also they did what I wanted, because I told them what I wanted, which I’ve discovered is a major perk of being old. Is that not super mature? Is that not the epitome of growing up? It felt like it and it didn’t feel bad.
Four bottles of wine and constant references to Sofia Vergara being 40, George Clooney aging like a fine wine and the promise that my hair will be entirely grey sooner rather than later (this is a good thing, trust me) revealed that while aging is hard to do, it has it perks. Growing up in Cairo allows you to forgive that constant contradiction; the infinite chaos teamed with the maddening monotony of both the city and your psyche. It allows you to reconcile your not-so-bright future, wallow in a horrible present (speaking of which, I’m waiting for a whole bunch of gifts) and appreciate nostalgia. A few – but fabulous – friends that make sure you have enough alcohol to forget everything come highly recommended.
This totally turned into what it wasn’t supposed to be: a long winded tirade of finding peace with aging. But fuck that, it’s as contradictory as Cairo. I’m not so much embracing age as I am just getting the fuck over it. That doesn’t mean I didn’t squeeze my eyes really fucking hard and draw in the deepest fucking breath to make sure that each and every candle went out when I made my birthday wish. I’m old, not stupid and, when you’re in Egypt, you wish with grave intensity that by next year you’ll be the fuck out of here.
Also, cake really fucking helps.
For more of Hassan Hassan’s writing and art check out hassanhassan.tumblr.com