My granddad had novelty drinking glasses that were etched with a fake newspaper headline: Wilson Furious Turns 29 Again. If you asked him his age, he would say he was still 29. To hear my granddad tell it, 29 was the age to be. The salad days. The real golden years. I’ve been 29 for two weeks, and it may be too early to call it. But, I’m going to anyway: my granddad was wrong.
And here’s why, and this is what no one tells you. I just went to the drugstore and bought: acne bodywash because I still have bacne, tea tree oil because I still have face acne, hair dye because I have gray hair, and hemorrhoid cream for the obvious reason. In short, 29 everything about being a teenager AND an old lady, and not nearly enough of the good parts from either. You’re old enough to have swollen veins coming out your ass, but not old enough to retire. Sorry! You’re young enough to star in a “before” Proactiv ad, but not so young that you don’t have to pay rent. Sucks to be you!
29 is an in-betweener age. You’re still making those shitty life decisions that are going to give you the wisdom that only comes from age, but you don’t have the wisdom yet. But, theoretically, your brain is developed enough that you’re not making those crappy decisions with abandon. You’re old enough now to recognize that every choice you make has consequences. Not like when you were 18! Remember how you didn’t think about the lifelong consequences of choices when you were 18? Oh, you don’t? Well, that tattoo of a vagina you got will serve as a reminder.
At 29, you’re probably not getting carded anymore when you go to a bar. But you need to make sure you have your ID on you anyway, because you *might* get carded, and then you’re going to feel like a real jackass when you don’t have your ID on you and they won’t serve you and you have to leave your friends. Not like I know from experience.
29 means that all your friends are buying houses, having kids and advancing in their careers while you’re stuck renting a cockroach-infested apartment with no savings to speak of and you work a minimum wage job at the front desk of a gym. Or, conversely, you’re that woman with the house and the kids and you’re wondering what your life would be like if you had waited just a little big longer, envious of your still-single friends living what you can only imagine is a Sex and the City existence.
29 is your metabolism slowing down, but still having the junk food cravings of a 19-year-old stoner. 29 is gray hair that’s still as greasy as when you worked at Wendy’s for three weeks in high school. 29 is old ladies still calling you “honey,” and teenagers already calling you “ma’am.” 29 has you walking into American Eagle because you still kind of like their clothes, and walking out 10 minutes later because the music is too loud. 29 means that half of your conversations are spent having people ten years older than you letting you know that you’re too young to remember X pop culture reference. The other half of your conversations are you telling people ten years younger that they are too young to remember Y pop culture reference.
I’ve got 50 more weeks at 29, and I think I can safely say, I can’t fucking wait to turn 30.
5 replies on “On The Edge Of Thirty”
I love this post. You’re so right about realising the weight of your decisions in your late 20s… but not being old enough to have (m)any of them turn out right yet. Of feeling young, but feeling like you’re getting old. Of there being another generation of adults a whole decade younger than you, how dare they?! I’m afraid 30 isn’t going to make those feelings go away, but you do have a better excuse for being cranky and eccentric and letting certain stuff go (knowing what’s in the charts, or pretending you like to stay out late for e.g.) Still, I would like to be 29 again.
Turning 30 was a relief. It was like all of a sudden I had credibility. I was an official grown-up, no matter what my job or my eating choices said to the contrary. My late twenties was a weird no-man’s-land of being too young for some stuff and too old for others. Now I just do whatever the fuck I want, and very few people give me a hard time about it.
I’ll tell you a secret – the whole too young/old to “get it” thing doesn’t stop any time soon. Â However, sometime soon you will develop a “Who gives a fuck?” attitude toward the whole thing. Â Unfortunately, the reason for this change in attitude is that, as you near your 30th birthday, you start listening to all the advertisements that are geared toward women over 30. Â You don’t have time to worry about how old other people think you are because you are slightly afraid that you will fall apart at the stroke of midnight on your next b-day.
(You won’t fall apart, the media is just full of alarmists who want your money and know you will be feeling vulnerable)
I think the myth of a golden age is just that – a myth. But yes, your late 20s/early 30s are a remarkably awkward adjustment period between being “too young to get it” according to everyone older than you, and too old to sink into the blissful naivete of younger years. I’m 27, and I’m already there.
I’m 28, and I’m there too, in spades.Â I think it’s compounded for those of us (still) slogging through grad school, since university is this weird limbo between been a child-student and being a full fledged adult.Â The nature of that limbo certainly changes as you accumulate degrees, but I still don’t feel anywhere near as much of a proper adult as I feel I should be (or would be, if I’d called it a day with academia earlier).Â My friends of the same age are married, have children, and/or have houses, and I’ve got an apartment full of Ikea and an unsettling sense of aimlessness.Â (To be clear: the only thing on that list that appeals to me is the house, and the permanence that gives.Â I’m tired of living with white walls that I can’t afford to paint twice, and I’d like a garden.)Â Add in the fact that I TA’d students who were a full decade younger than I, and I’m ready to be out of this limbo too.