I Got Over My Fear of 30, And So Can You

I’m ready for you, 30. Throw all the Merino wool sweaters and New York Times Real Estate sections you want to at me! You’ll never win!
Publish date:
March 7, 2012
birthdays, aging, fun, humor, thirty

Back when I was in my early twenties (I’m now 28), 30 seemed a million years away. I was young, fresh-faced, wide-eyed, and eager, always excited about how to live life at its most zany, while also wisely shaping my future according to my lofty career goals. I knew 30 would be good, but it also felt so far away that I also viewed it as the age when one becomes an Adult with a capital “A,” and I was nowhere near it.

In fact, my friends and I spent our early twenties dressing like clowns and laughing like crazy (#livelaughlove). And there’s nothing wrong with that, except to say that we would tease each other about looking or acting like a 30-year old, and that such behavior was stale, unattractive, and, ultimately, unacceptable.

What did 30 look like? At the time, 30 meant women who wore bland pantsuits and drank Pinot, and men with bald spots and depressing pinstriped shirts. And, in a sense, we were right. Thirty was the very moment when a person officially had to, in our eyes, become a grown-up (or, better yet, a “grown-ass wo/man”). Getting there, reaching 30, meant you had arrived at the moment where you were expected to pack your bags and stop being so excited about life, for fear of looking sad. Sure, you could try and retain your youth, but it would look desperate. And no one wants that (except my creepy uncle who lives with my grandma, but that’s another xoJane post).

Thirty, as I saw it then, was meant for some very specific milestones: coupling off, making money, buying real estate, and beginning to think seriously about marriage and children (by, like, 32 at the latest). And these were concepts that required maturity, clarity, and the attention span of someone who cared. And when you’re a twentysomething New Yorker, the idea that you have to grow up by any age is essentially ludicrous, since this town is filled with nothing but cuckoobirds who can skirt responsibility as long as they pay their rent on time. (No, really, that’s why so many people in New York at batsh*t bonkers -- because we are a city that does everything in its power to keep you from remembering your age.)

When my best friend, Jackie, bought a house with her longtime companion (her boyfriend, but “companion” makes her sound like an elderly lesbian, which tickles me) in Richmond, Virginia, she was only 25. But she had coupled off, and was prepared to domesticate, marry and make babies (although not too soon, since she wanted to continue living her life as a wholly-formed individual person with a career trajectory, a successful jewelry line, and a piping desire to keep life fun and weird).

Although it didn’t work out as planned (and she now sublets from me, illegally, in Brooklyn -- yay!!!), it made sense for her at the time. Eventually, I imagined I would be doing the same thing, too, albeit with the same zest for life (read: randomly erratic, spontaneous behavior and a penchant for decorating one’s home like a haunted library) as my bestie.

In fact, my parents (like yours) are from “a different generation,” as we’ve heard again and again. Since we were raised with the knowledge that we could do anything because we were Special, my mom and dad’s folly of marrying each other at 26 and being pregnant with me by 28 (they’re the same age) seems somewhat liberal even for the early 80s. But my parents had also settled into adulthood at what was still a rather viable pace back then, buying a house in the Long Island suburbs for $75,000, while my dad worked in the family business and my mom cut her law career short to focus on raising me and my sister, who came along four years later.

I am the same age now as my mom was when she gave birth to me, and the idea of being anywhere near as mentally prepared as she may have been to have a child is mindnumbing. Like, that could never happen. I have so many things to do before I’m 40 -- hell, before I’m 50! -- and I doubt I could potentially feel ready to devote my entire life (because, honestly, that’s just how I think you have to do it when you make a human out of your semen) to a tot.

I’m not alone on that, either. Thirty has changed drastically. Everyone I know feels little to no desire to have a child before they’re 30. Between seismic generational shifts, major changes in attitude about parenthood and marriage, and the ideas infused into popular culture that, if you’re not a “Teen Mom,” you’re “Up All Night” with your baby once you hit your fabulous forties (Christina Applegate and Will Arnett are 41 and 42, respectively), I no longer feel like 30 is the cutoff point for goofing off.

(Also, obviously, no one can afford a baby. Truly. The economy is in such bad shape that dudes are pulling out early because how much does that stroller cost? That’s four months of my monthly gym membership! Make your own baby!)

I love the show thirtysomething, which was a primetime dramedy about upper-middle class white folks in Philadelphia in the late eighties and early nineties. Although it characters are shrill, self-important, and so incredibly Caucasian (Black people in Philly? Who knew!?), I find it fascinating to see a fictional portrayal of what my very own parents may have been going through at the same time. But I also love it because, to me, its ensemble of characters would be no younger than fortysomething if they were raising kids today. And that makes me feel good. And young.

I also love the show "Happy Endings," not just because it’s the funniest show on television (it’s the funniest show on television), or because the character of Max is, single-handedly, the most positive representation of a gay dude I’ve ever seen, anywhere (he is, single-handedly, the most positive representation of a gay dude I’ve ever seen, anywhere). I love it because I see myself and my friends in these characters. They are all adults, and yet, even the most “together” of them (Brad and Jane, a couple of handsome, Type-A overachievers) are still neurotic goofballs whose youthful (read: immature) behavior reeks of not just being ill-prepared for children, but knowing that they should wait a little while. What’s the rush? My thoughts exactly.

There is no rush anymore, at least in my social circles. Maybe it’s different for the girls I went to high school with, whose Facebook walls are littered with nothing but wedding photos and sonogram scans. That’s probably what they wanted (and if they didn’t, sorry!), but not me. I’m actually in a place where I can look at 30 and think it not colossally different from 25 (don’t ask me about 35).

Did I think I would own a home before I was 30? I’d hoped so. Did I imagine I would be making six figures? I did. But neither of those things are going to happen. And that’s okay. Because with 40 being fabulous, I can do what they do on Happy Endings: dress nice, enjoy wine, and generally love my life without feeling like I have to “settle down.”

If turning thirty means I can be well-groomed, informed, and mature without feeling phantom baby kicks inside my belly, so be it. It also means I can be a responsible grown-up, continue pursuing my dreams and safely remind myself that, if Bethenny Frankel can wait until 40 to check all the Biggies off her list (“having a baby” = “biggie”), then I’ve got a while before I need to start getting nervous.

I’m ready for you, 30. Throw all the Merino wool sweaters and New York Times Real Estate sections you want to at me! You’ll never win! I’ve got at least a dozen more years ahead of me before I start to worry about matching tuxedos and table arrangements, and no one can tell me otherwise. I’ve got places to go, people to see, and video games to play.

And just because I like a crisp pinot every now and then, that doesn’t mean I want to open a joint checking account with my boyfriend #dealwithit