Monday, July 14, 2008

this is what happens when people in their 30s drink

Tonight I’m going to Largo and I’m flashing back to the first time I went there, on my third date with this guy Mike I dated for about four dates when I was 23.

He was 31 and really nice and introduced me to a lot of good small music venues, but the problem was he was a full-fledged grown-up. He talked about things like buying a house, which at the time was a giant turn-off to me. I mean, my favorite musical was called Rent. He might as well have said, “What I’d really like to do next is pick my nose while shooting helpless animals with my hunting rifle.”

Lately I’ve found myself beginning a lot of sentences with, “The older I get…” or “Now that I’m in my 30s…” Just last night, AK, Alanna and I—all of us between the ages of 31 and 32—had a whole discussion on the things being in one’s 30s might involve, including:

  • marriage
  • children
  • wearing nicer clothes even though we still can’t afford them
  • the fact that we are in our prime—no longer are we aspiring whatevers, or whatevers with a lot of potential. We just are what we are, and this is our chance to be really good at it, or not, which is so crazy-scary to me.

Why am I so obsessed with my age? I’ve been aging for 31 years now, and if anything, my rate of change has slowed down. It would have made more sense if I’d spent my freshman year in college marveling at how different I was from when I was a 17-year-old high school kid.

But maybe part of getting older is being able to witness yourself change, and being dull enough to narrate the experience. Because when I was a freshman in college, I was too busy fighting with my roommate and crying over the sadder songs in Les Mis.

Or is it that I’m having some kind of late return-of-Saturn thing or an early midlife-crisis thing? Except it doesn’t feel like a crisis. It feels kind of…fine.

Friday night I accompanied AK to an alumni meeting of an urban outreach program she worked with in college. We gathered in a ramshackle, un-air-conditioned church in Lincoln Heights and listened to current students talk about their experiences working with and advocating for the poor. I was immediately nostalgic for the intensity of youth and for the ability to look cute while sweating in a T-shirt and jeans, but I wasn’t envious. And I’m almost always envious, so that says a lot.

Instead I just took the night as a reminder that, even as a seasoned grown-up, I can and should let me surroundings affect me. I’m old enough and lucky enough to know what I want to focus on, but it’s also good to let my vision go blurry once in a while and just stare up at the beams of the church ceiling and wait for whatever’s next.

On Friday, what was next was margaritas with Suzie and Sean, which was, of course, followed by a conversation about being in our 30s.


Peter Varvel said...

Oh, to BE 31 again! I always reverse the process, too, and try to imagine how much my older self might appreciate how "young" my current self is (42).
I laugh with my BFF (who is married, with two kids) how seriously grown up she felt when she first bought a refrigerator at age 29.
'On My Own' and 'A Little Fall of Rain' still make me almost-cry.

Jesi said...

i'm 35 and still have yet to grow up. i am so far from owning a home, getting married (still single, don't even have a b/f), from having kids, not sure what you mean by nicer clothes (does that mean i have to dress like a preppy?), and i am still aspiring to be someone/thing.

i have a feeling i will be having a nervous breakdown once i turn 39.

Cheryl said...

PV: The Michael Ball cast in particular. He has such an amazing, emotive voice.

J: I don't think growing up necessitates any of those things, just that maybe they cross your mind more; also, lots of immature people do have houses and kids and spouses, so it's not like those things are trophies of grown-up-ness (even though some people try to pass them off as such).

As for the clothes: No, not preppy, just better made. I still try to dress like the wannabe art-punk I've always been, but now I like my jackets to have linings. Call me a sell-out, but it's true.

Don Cummings said...

I have to say, I was obsessed with my age during my thirties (and my twenties)--but once you hit forty, it's so absurd, you just don't even care any longer. You know the second half of life is all about decay mixed with wisdom.
You are so young. You will achieve great things. Other stuff--well, you'll face disappointment. But who cares?
I never wanted to be more than about twenty-three. So silly.

Cheryl said...

My dream age was nine for the first nine years of my life, so I've been over the hill for a long time. Bring on the decay/wisdom smoothie!

Veronica said...

you make me happy.

oh, and ucla's 14-hour mandatory orientation, does NOT make me happy. even though you were present for a moment when i saw the garden (boca) burgers they sell at ucla's many food stands. although, that helped.

Cheryl said...

Fourteen-hour college orientations are one thing you can look forward to leaving behind in your 30s.

But oh, how I remember overdosing on veggie burgers during my first quarter at UCLA. It seems good now, but 12 orientation-week barbecues later....

Veronica said...

jaja, i'll keep that in mind.

Ms. Q said...

I would have to disagree about marriage and home ownership - and by extension children - those things don't necessarily make you more mature, but they change you in ways that are so tied up with grown-up-ness that you can't help but feel years older.