30 is a Magic Number

The Snark Zone: Letters from the Editors
Erin “Billiard” Nappe


Days before my 30th birthday, I got an early present.

Smack in the middle of my forehead was the biggest, reddest, nastiest pimple you’ve ever seen. Seriously. I’m talking Mount Vesuvius, here. My roommate kept telling me it was my “birthday zit.” Thanks, that makes it better.

At the same time, I found myself obsessively picking through my hair, looking for rogue grays. I get them. They’re usually short and wiry, with minds of their own, poking out from my part screaming, “look at me!”

I look with dismay at my blemish-ridden skin. What kind of cruel trick of nature is that? Gray hair and zits?

Sigh. Such is my lot in life.

I had been looking to this day with a mixture of anticipation and dread for about the past two years. On my twenty-eighth birthday, I had a bit of a meltdown. Why? Because suddenly, I felt, I had crossed an imaginary line. I wasn’t just 28. I was almost 30.

A lot of people, women in particular, use their 30th birthday as a benchmark, a measure of success or failure, a means of comparison, of evaluation. It turns into a list of “supposedtobes.”

Supposedtobe successful.

Supposedtobe to be rich.

Supposedtobe married.

Supposedtobe a homeowner.

Supposedtobe a mother.

Some of them are my “supposedtobes” and some of them are general “supposedtobes.” What I definitely was not supposed to be was single, underemployed, underpaid, and sharing an apartment with my best friend.

But I think that perhaps the scariest thing about leaving my twenties behind and entering the rank of “thirtysomething” is this:

I am now officially an adult.

Now, I know… that technically happened 12 years ago, when I gained the right to vote, but let’s be serious.

Some might say that it happened when I graduated from college, got my first job, or moved out of my parents’ house. When I began paying my own bills and being (gasp!) responsible for myself.

But I say it happened two weeks ago, when I crossed that symbolic threshold from young adulthood into actual adulthood.

When I turned 30.

I certainly don’t feel like an adult. I don’t feel like I’m any older, wiser or more mature than I was two weeks ago. I haven’t suddenly been handed the Secret Code to the Universe. But still, here it is, and here I am… and something funny happened along the way.

I’m okay with it. I’ve made peace with my station in life. I realize that the choices I’ve made have led me to where I am. I realize that life is not a race, and getting there first (wherever “there” is) does not make one person better than another. My life has changed dramatically in the past few years, in good ways and bad.

I decided, at 28, to go back to school and begin a new career. My relationship with the person I thought I was going to marry ended.

It became a time to let go of all my old expectations, to set new goals, build new dreams, look forward instead of looking back. It became a time to embrace the inner me.

Said roommate and best friend did a wonderful job of easing the turning-30 pain for me. She organized get-togethers, gifts, surprises, and filled the entire weekend with all of my favorite people. Instead of moping around and feeling sorry for myself, I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time.

On Saturday night, we went to see one of my favorite bands. My friends got me sufficiently tipsy, and I flitted about all night smiling and dancing, wearing my flashing “Kiss Me, It’s My Birthday” button with pride. One young ‘un, about 21 years old, asked me how old I was.

“Guess,” I told him.

“Twenty… three?”

“Oh my God, I’m going to hug you.”

I told him I was turning 30, which prompted him to exclaim, “Wow! You’re the hottest 30-year-old I’ve ever seen!”

I think I’d like to keep him.

But seriously, it all just goes to show that the cliches are true. You’re only as old as you feel. Growing old is inevitable, growing up is optional. Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

I am 30. Hear me roar.

Now hand me some Clearasil.

pencil

E-mail: billiard[at]toasted-cheese.com.

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