There is a timeless phrase that insists one, “Never ask a lady her age.”
I’ve always hated it. This phrase – under the guise of social politeness – means that, regardless of how I may feel about myself at any given moment, as a woman, my worth is dependent on how old I am. As I grow older, my value depreciates, and therefore, age is something that I should be very afraid of.
Turning Girls is a series of web shorts on Anime Bancho (all of which can be watched for free here) that follows a group of four women all on the cusp of turning 30 years-old, or as the series opening lines put it, “Face another bitter battle against the turning point of their lives.” Each five-minute episode focuses on one, or more, of our heroines facing an unpleasant aspect of growing older. A woman can no longer attend their goth rock concerts, have as much fun at Comiket, or become a popular idol once they’re on the fringe of turning 30, after all.
Episode six opens not with the usual line, but a beeping heart monitor in a hospital. Chiwa, Kai, and Kaeru are crying over a deathly-pale Nana. The worst has happened. Nana has turned. Her life, as she knows it, is now over. As her friends happily celebrate her birthday – they have to take pride in the fact that they’re not first, and can milk this for all it’s worth – Nana receives news that her boyfriend is dumping her, and that she lost her job. An attempt to drink her sorrows away ends in a trip to the hospital with alcohol poisoning. The episode comes to a close with an opportunity for a new job presenting itself, only to be yanked away when her would-be employer finds out that Nana is 30, and therefore an old crone.
Turning Girls is hilarious, concentrated, and painfully relateable, specifically in the reactions of Nana’s “friends.” All four of the women are consistently awful to each other – because obviously women are always in competition with one another – and the series plays this up beautifully. After Chiwa, Kai, and Kaeru are done gleefully dishing to each other just how much they hated Nana, their faces fall and they wish to relieve some of her pain. They know that they’re next and regardless of the world that pits them against her, they can certainly relate to Nana’s situation.
When I turn 30, in about a month or so, I hope to not lose everything that’s dear to me on that one, momentous day. However, even if I do, deep down, I know that it’s not the end of the world for me. Turning 30 will be just another birthday with social implications that I should take with a grain of salt (the much-hyped 16th birthday was another unremarkable day). The problem is that knowing isn’t half the battle. It’s not even an eighth of the battle. In spite of the fact that I’m aware that there’s nothing to fear in being 30, it still completely terrifies me. So here’s to you, Nana. Soon I will truly know your pain.