My 30th birthday is just around the corner. I'm having a backyard party the day before, hosted by good friends. I'm going to serve sangria, bake neon-colored cupcakes, and have a raucous good time. On my actual birthday, I figure I'll help tidy up, recover on my sofa, field well-wishing phone calls from family, and watch that Lifetime movie about Saved by the Bell.
It's a very similar setup to all of my previous birthdays. Should I do something bigger, more self-involved? The Big Three-Oh just does not mean that much to me. I will soon be 30 and I feel nothing about it.
I guess my question is, am I supposed to feel something?
Thirty used to be the culturally mandated Official Ascent into Adulthood, when youth culture is left behind. Don't trust anyone over 30, right? Except your doctor and rabbi and grandma, presumably.
But I don't think it is anymore. I'm single, I'm childless, I'll go to a rock concert and have some beers, and I'll waste an entire weekend on a Law & Order marathon and tweet about it. How immature, how embarrassing for a woman my age! But I earn a middle-class income, I live alone in a nice neighborhood, I pay my taxes and keep a tidy house, and have a spicy disdain for teens (*shakes fist*). That all seems pretty adult, right?
I'm technically a millennial, one of the eternal adolescents (see: Saved by the Bell Lifetime movie), but I've not once felt the criticisms of my generation particularly applied to me. I've never asked my mom for help with a résumé. I feel pretty certain I am undeserving of any of the great opportunities life has afforded me. I can work independently without fear, but also crave collaboration with like-minded peers. Yeah, I got a trophy or ribbon for just participating in activities as a kid. You know what that means? I learned at an early age that trophies and ribbons are meaningless.
A benefit of that benighted millennial mindset I'm only now realizing is that I feel no pressure to hit a goal by a totally arbitrary date. Is there really a difference between 29 years old and 31 years old? Not particularly. Decades are convenient time-measuring devices — everybody loves a nice round zero — but there's no need to impose social or moral imperatives on them. Except for the big ones like marriage, children, death or divorce, life's milestones are recognizable only in retrospect. Moving to a new city, finding a great job, meeting your best friend: Those are lines of demarcation that can rarely be anticipated years in advance.
I've always felt older than my age, anyway. Many of my friends are older than I am. Some are a bit younger. None of us are radically different in temperament or personality, but many of those friends are also spouses, parents, homeowners — things I am not. And because I've selected such a good group of people to surround myself with, there is never any snide, backbiting pressure from them to make the same decisions they did. I don't even get it from my family! My mother is a little tripped out by the fact she will have a 30-year-old child, but that's about it. Everyone respects everyone else's decisions. Not such a snotty generation after all.
I'm sure that men feel pressure to achieve certain landmarks as often as women do, but as always there's an extra bit of insidiousness when it comes to women attempting to live out a normal human life. We're supposed to be afraid of aging. We're meant to wonder when we'll stop being hot, and we're expected to do everything we can to mitigate the inevitable. We're supposed to worry about having children — even the women who have made it explicit they don't want children.
Not to get too erudite, but — you know, whatever. I'm not really worried. I'm not at all scared. I'm sure I'll evolve as my life goes on, all of us do, but I've got plenty of time for almost anything I want to do. Far too many people spend their 30s undoing the rash decisions they made in their 20s.
I guess I shouldn't say I feel nothing. I suppose I'm kind of ... looking forward to it? I've heard good things about being in your 30s from people who would know. You feel more self-assured. You can almost physically feel in your brain that you're not as dumb as you used to be. You're looked to as a reasonable adult voice of authority, but are still allowed to have relative inexperience. Thirty will be totally fine.
Forty, though? I'm not ready to talk about that yet.