As I hurtle ever closer to 31, I’m starting to get a little… panicky. Unlike others, who on their milestone birthdays may have dry-heaved a bit into a paper bag before collapsing on the sofa with a cold damp washcloth over their faces, I had no problem whatsoever turning 30. Age 31, however, sounds dreadfully, heart-stoppingly critical. That’s, like, what? Practically as old as the pyramids, right? Do they even teach you kids about the pyramids anymore these days? Or do your ancient world history textbooks begin the day Steve Jobs was born?
Well, that joke was in exceedingly poor taste.
God, I’m old.
Here’s the thing, though. 31 is not actually — stay with me here, just hear me out — that old. No. I know! It sounds outrageous. It’s like I’m typing in a nonsense language. Bleep bloop bleep! Rah rah ah-ah-ahhh, gah gah OOH LA LA, want your youthful thirtyness! I think MTV actually believes that people over the age of 30 are eligible for Medicare. But I’m here to tell you that it’s simply not true. I applied and they told me I had to wait until I was 35.
ZING. I am knocking them out the park today, friends.
Listen, though. Let’s be genuine for a moment. I want you to look me right here. Right in the middle of this here blog post. I am gazing into your eyes. My eyes are laser beams burning a hole through your computer screen. Sorry about that; hope your computer’s still under warranty. I am virtually gripping you by the shirt now. I am so close you can smell the cherry bourbon on my breath. I have no concept of personal space. I am slurring slightly. I’m also kind of sweating. Sorry about that. But it’s important, what I have to say. I have to get close enough so that you can hear me over your Pandora/Spotify jukebox. Because I really need to tell you:
I love you, man.
But no, really, wait, seriously. Seriously. I’m being serious now. Like, super serious. Real. For real. I’m being for real when I tell you:
I have been in my thirties for nearly a whole year now, and I’m actually pretty happy about it.
Cross my heart. Hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye.
Except minus the needle and dying part.
Even though I’m less than one tenth of my way through my 30s, so far this squeaky, eking little tenth has somehow been better than all of my 20s combined. You know why? I like myself better. This is the best I’ve liked myself thus far in my life. How rad is that?
So I might be a little skeered of aging right now, true. It’s sometimes hard not to be. I mean, when you sit down and write 31 on a piece of paper, if you gaze at it long enough you’ll come to realize that 3+1=4. Right? And what does 4 do? Well, you stick a zero on the end and that turns straight into 40! And if you double that it doesn’t take you long to understand that pretty soon — probably tomorrow — you’re going to be 80 and waking up every morning wondering if today’s the day you’ll die.
But wait! Here’s the thing. If I’m this rad at not-quite-31, imagine how awesome I’ll be at 80? I can’t even fathom. By then I’ll probably have developed the ability to control objects with my mind.
I’m still a month and a half away from my next birthday, but to make myself feel better about turning 31 I’m going to take the time to list out all the incredible things my 30s has that most of my 20s didn’t:
- INTELLIGENCE. Right now, I am the smartest I’ve ever been in my entire life. And through the rest of my 30s, I’m just going to get smarter. [Sidebar: thanks, internet!] I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was a total dumbass throughout a giant chunk of my 20s. You want to know how stupid I was? No? Okay! For one, I almost married someone I wasn’t remotely attracted to and didn’t actually even like! That was such a great plan! So awesome to waste four and a half years of my life like that.
For two, I once spent two entire days customizing my MySpace page. Do you remember MySpace? Show of hands if you remember MySpace… anyone? Okay, well, this is already uncomfortable. Anyway, I recall that as part of my profile I was able to pick a song that would play automatically whenever someone viewed my page, and after careful consideration I chose DJ Assault’s “Ass-N-Titties.” It was funny! I thought, because it was incongruous! It was so funny! I was the funniest person ever! I had to show them! All the people looking at my page! I needed to show them how hilarious I was, because otherwise they wouldn’t know! That’s what the profile was for, you see? OH MY GOD I’M FUNNY PLEASE LOOK AT ME.
I could go on with other examples — approximately 3,963 of them would be crimes against fashion — but you get the picture. Let’s just say that if I could go back in time, I’d walk up to my 20-something-self, grasp her firmly by the shoulders, and say, “Oh, honey. No.”
- CARING. On a caring scale between Desperately and Obsessively (10) and Honey Badger Don’t Give a Shit (0), over the past ten years I’ve gradually slid from about an 8 to about a 2. Which is to say, I mostly don’t care anymore. About how cool I look, about what people think of me, about how many comments I may or may not get on my blog posts. Sometimes I slip up and do care, but that’s what the rest of my life is for. Eradicating the urge to care completely. I figure by the time I’m 80 I’ll have probably achieved the advanced caring level of Chuck Testa Nope! (-17) and I’ll be actively making people question my sanity.
- IMPROVED RELATIONSHIPS. From, oh, roughly age 10 to roughly age 26, I did not get along very well with my mother. Something about growing up made us understand each other more.
- BETTER BOOZE, FEWER HANGOVERS. As Courteney Cox said1 in her role on Cougar Town: “I have better wine than this at home, and at this time of night, all I want to do is take my bra off.” TRUTH. The fact that I no longer want to go out to bars doesn’t make me feel old, it makes me feel like I finally found the special VIP room, and it’s located inside my house. I don’t miss my friends, either, because our weekends are usually spent huddled inside each others’ homes, braless, fixing delicious and extravagant dinners while sucking down our drinks of choice made exactly how we like them. Then we all collapse in our own beds for a full night of sleep. It is a beautiful world, out here in my 30s.
- ENHANCED LIVING. Time was when my grocery list consisted of white rice, canned beans, I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter spray, a box of Little Debbie snack cakes, and a bottle of cheap flavored vodka. Now the beau and I routinely make dishes like cambozola-stuffed and proscuitto-wrapped figs and gorgonzola watermelon salad, and wash it all down with a bottle of red or a nice infused scotch whiskey. I know way more about good food, and I eat (and drink) better than I ever have in my life.
I’m not too bougie to look down my nose at a box of macaroni & cheese, though. The only way I’ll ever look down my nose at macaroni & cheese is if I’m in the midst of shoveling it into my mouth via fork.
- MORE HUMILITY. The smugness of my 20s was a flimsy cover for my insecurities. I may still have strong opinions, but I’m not as quick to judge. I find that my anger tends to melt quickly once I uncover my eyes and let myself look at the human being standing behind the wicked spectre of my perceived enemy. I also find that I’m much more likely to cry at any television programming that involves sad puppies, tearful goodbyes, surprise reunions, shows where they rebuild the homes of people affected by natural disasters, and any episode of The Waltons.
Sometimes I do this at the gym. Do you know how hard it is to exercise when you are trying not to sob?
- THE KNOWLEDGE THAT SIZE DOESN’T MATTER, AFTER ALL. I’m wearing a size L dress right now. Let me tell you something: there was a time in my 20s where putting on a size L dress would have killed me. This wall, this tidal wave would have drowned me in guilt and shame. I would have beaten myself up for not being good enough, why can’t I just be good enough? I would have landed blow after blow of mental punches: Oh god, I’m totally huge and I already have cellulite on the backs of my thighs and I’m totally uncool and I don’t care what my MySpace page says, I’m not even remotely funny.
Here’s the thing, though. You know how I’m wearing an L? Well, yesterday I wore an XS. The day before that I wore an M. Which is to say: the tag is worthless. Well, and that the clothing industry is batshit insane. But mostly that the tag is worthless. Whatever it says is utter shit. I can’t believe I let a letter or number control me all those years. The clothes should conform to my body, not the other way around. I can’t understand why something so obvious escaped me all of those years.
There it is. Proof that youth isn’t everything.
How do you deal with aging?
1 Not that I’m cool enough to have ever even watched Cougar Town. What actually happened was, I was flipping through Caitlin Moran’s “How to Be a Woman” and this line — which Moran used to illustrate a point about bras — jumped out at me like a gift from the heavens.