How Many Years in Human Years
I wonder if relationships age the same way that I do, or you do. Say I am twenty-four years old. And you are twenty-six years old. And we are six months old. A baby. Not newborn, but still limp limbed. Still toothless. Still incontinent and crying all the time. Dear little bubbles blooming at the mouth. When will it learn to walk, to talk, to eat solids, tie its shoelaces? Dot its I’s and cross its T’s and toot its horn and mind its manners and pat its back and say its name. Will it make us proud make us angry make us laugh make us hope to god we’re the right sort of people to bring it up in this crazy world we live in? Would we give it the shirt off our backs the cream of the crop the sheep in the meadow the cow in the corn the air we breathe the time of day?
When it grows up (if it grows up) will it ask us, Who do you think you are? Why am I here? How did I get here? Can I have a few bucks?
Will it ask, Which of you do I look like more? Do I look like you? Do I look like you? Do I look like either one of you?
I wonder what it would look like in its adolescence, let’s say. Crotchety hormonal blossomings into the adult it will (maybe) become. Will its body start to change, like your body changed, and my body changed? Will we be unable to track the difference day by day, but realize, one day, that it looks altogether new? We might say, But you’ll always be my baby.
We might say, All of a sudden, everything was the same.
It will start learning things about ecology, igneous rocks, the Wars of the Roses, and pop culture. We will remind it to have eight glasses of water, eight hours of sleep, one apple, and a kiss on each cheek, the way the French do it. We will think the French might know some things we weren’t brought up with as Americans. Will it say, Would you please back off? Will we say, I want to, but I can’t. Or, I want to, but I shouldn’t. Or, I don’t want to.
We won’t compare it to those of our friends, or the ones of famous people. We will try to imbue it with a healthy sense of its own self-worth, give it some independence. We will stop taking it out, dressing it up, slipping notes in its lunchbox, tucking in its shirt, fetching crust from the corners of its eyes with a flat fingernail, keepsaking its shorn curls. We’ll let it explore its own sexuality, get familiar with its own body, its arms and legs, its backbone, shoulder blades, hips, underarms, body hair, mouth. We’ll say, Don’t be embarrassed. It’s natural. It’s who you are and we love you. When it makes mistakes, it will be ok. It’s the only way to learn, we’ll tell it. We’ll set it loose, let it get into scrapes and tight spaces and nooks and crannies and rocks and hard places and sticky messes. We don’t want to be overbearing. But after it slinks out, bare and bloodsucked, if it lets us, we’ll hold it close and kiss it and say, You really scared me. You really could have gotten hurt. I’m glad you’re ok.
And later, when it gets old, will we look at its crow’s feet and sunspots and varicose veins and be able to say, You know something, you aged well. We might even say, And how!
Maybe it will have done it without cosmetic enhancements, plastic surgery, or artificial preservatives.
But I wonder if relationships age according to the same years as human years. Or is it more like dog years, or cat years—as in one human year equals seven dog years. I’ve read that elephant years mean pretty much the same thing as human years. If we are six months old, how old is that in human years?
And if six months old is exactly six months old—nursing milk from a breast, little fists in the air, making gurgle sounds—it doesn’t have to say a word.