I went hiking with a buddy last weekend who requested that, for my next post, I do something less autobiographical and more universal. He also requested that I “pontificate.” That was the verb he used. So now, my old friend, I hope you’re reading this (and knowing me, I’ll probably send you a personal emailing insisting that you do read it…and then I’ll quiz you later to make sure you actually did), just for you, I will pontificate on something that is universal: getting older. And just because I like alienating people, I’m going to narrow the scope of my audience just a bit by actually pontificate on getting older…if you’re between the ages of, I don’t know, 30 and 33? No, let’s make it 30 and 34, so I can include my sister.
But let me start with an autobiographical story (ha! sucker!). A couple of weeks ago I went to New York to attend two weddings. I did manage to squeeze in coffee in Chelsea with my dear friend Eddie (I don’t actually drink coffee, but you get the idea. I think I had lemonade and some kind of pastry). Eddie, screenwriting teacher extraordinaire, is the only professor from Columbia with whom I keep in touch. On nearly all of my annual pilgrimages to NY I meet with him for brunch, lunch or coffee, and our conversation usually focuses on movies, his newest play (he’s kind of been shifting recently from screenwriter to playwright), or my traveling adventures. This time, however, when I met with Eddie, he was truly distraught.
“J, thank G-d you’re here. I’ve been needing to talk to you. I’ve been so confused lately.”
“Eddie, what’s wrong?”
“It’s this new TV show, Girls. Have you seen it?” I had not…and I still have not. He continued, “a friend of mine told me to watch it, and now I’m entirely screwed up. Is this what young people are like? The show is about these over-privileged white women in their early-mid twenties, and I need you to tell me if this is a generational thing–generic ‘romantic angst’ about how empty, meaningless, joyless, mechanical, disappointing, and unfulfilling it all is–blow jobs, dope, threesomes, looking for Mr. Right in a world full of creeps and jerks, being a ‘professional’ working woman and a child still dependent on her parents for money, love, understanding, and sympathy? When I was in my twenties–” (I’ll pause for a second to tell you that Eddie was in his twenties quite some time before I was born) “we were adults. After you finished college you got a job and supported yourself, you weren’t allowed to take two or five or ten years to ‘find yourself’ or whatever these young women and men think they’re doing. Is this what it is like now?”
Yes Eddie, welcome to the year 2012. What was once called “Peter Pan Syndrome” is now called “gaining valuable life experience.” Actually, I just Wikipedia’d the show and it ends up that, although it received near universal acclaim, some guy on Gawker described it as “a television program about the children of wealthy famous people and shitty music and Facebook and how hard it is to know who you are and Thought Catalog and sexually transmitted diseases and the exhaustion of ceaselessly dramatizing your own life while posing as someone who understands the fundamental emptiness and narcissism of that very self-dramatization.” There you go Eddie—get rid of the “children of wealthy famous people” and you have my generation in a nutshell. G-d, I’m sorry.
I had dinner with another friend the other night who is a fan of the show and confirmed that both Eddie and Gawker are correct, but added that it’s important for us, as a society, to watch this show, so that we understand how pathetic we are. Is that really what we need? Some kind of wake-up call alerting us to the fact that our generation sucks? Have we not figured that one our on our own?
Also, have any of you guys ever read that blog “Fuck! I’m in my Twenties”? I think it’s supposed to be the blog version of Girls. It’s this feisty New York Jewess making little cartoons about how boys are noncommittal and it makes her sad. I really want to grab her shoulders and shake her and say “why don’t you just date a guy who’s mature? For fuck’s sake!” But then she wouldn’t have anything to write about.
The author of that blog is the same age as the girls in Girls—somewhere around 24. It’s a scary time, the early 20s, or at least it is for some. You’re out of college so lose that structure, and many people kick and scream to avoid any sort of responsibility. You’re still nervous about dating and sex (don’t try to pretend that you weren’t). You’re incredibly arrogant, even though you’re barely comfortable in your own skin. And now, there’s a new important element to being 24, apparently—you’re also unemployed, and so you’re reliant on your folks to cover the rent, just one rent increase away from moving back in with them. And of course, if Girls has taught us anything, your parents are also rich, so that helps. The unemployment aspect wasn’t part of it when I was 24, but it looks like it is now the norm. I have a lot of sympathy for college grads these days. I mean, those college grads that didn’t STUDY SCIENCE AND MATH LIKE I TOLD YOU TO! IF YOU HAD DONE THAT, YOU’D HAVE A JOB RIGHT NOW—TRUST ME. ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS WHO DID COMP SCI ARE NOW EMPLOYED, DO YOU NOT SEE THAT? But nobody listens to me. [Note: I’ve now seen a number of studies that don’t rank math, CS and science majors as highly on the non-unemployment scale as I would have hoped. They’re still better than most of the arts and humanities (although theology seems to be good for getting employed(?)), but your odds of getting a job with a “STEM” degree still aren’t as good as I’d like to think. So let me qualify that last statement by just saying that I have a lot of sympathy for college grads today, because they’re fucked.]
Of course, this is not relevant to me, or you if you were in my elementary/middle school/year course/college/JET class, because we’re all in our 30s. If I had any artistic talent, or if my handwriting was remotely legible, I’d make my own version of that blog and call it “Fuck yeah, I’m in my Thirties, bitch!” Being in my 30s is awesome. When I was on the verge of turning 30, one of my older cousins (in her…older than 30s), said that your 30s are much better than your 20s, because once you turn 30, you stop giving a fuck what other people think of you. I think we can all agree that truer words have rarely been spoken. I mean, other than at work, where I’m constantly terrified of what the partners and of counsel and senior associates and mid-level associates and pretty much everybody else thinks of me, I totally don’t give a fuck (and let’s disregard, for a moment, the fact that I spend nearly all of my waking hours at work).
So what does it mean to be in your 30s? Well sheeit, I probably don’t need to tell you, but here it goes: Being in your 30s means…
1. Not having to buy all of your furniture from IKEA. Granted, I bought my desk, coffee table, TV table, kitchen table, and little kitchen stand (for the microwave, toaster and rice cooker) from IKEA, and my dresser was a hand-me-down from my sister, but I bought a damn amazing couch from this place and it was really expensive and I love it! I’m sitting on it right now, and now I’m going to lie down on it as I watch an episode of Breaking Bad because apparently season 4 is now on Netflix, so it looks like I’ll continue this blog later.
2. Being able to at least pretend that you have your shit together. Most of us have achieved some level of financial sustainability. Many of us are done with school, now doing something related to a career, not just a job. Many of you are married. Some of you have kids. On paper, this makes us look like “adults,” which is helpful for finding new, better jobs and people to date (or marry, as the case may be), getting mortgages, and making our parents proud. But let’s face it—we still have no idea what the fuck we’re doing. I suppose the idea is to “fake it ‘til you make it”…but when do you really “make it”? I think of my dad. He’s 70 and retired. He spends a lot of time sitting in his super-comfy easy chair, reading at least 1-2 books and watching 3-4 movies every week. When he’s not in his chair, he’s hiking through beautiful, mountainous wilderness in Europe with my mom or riding his bike through the Rockies with his biking buddies. He spends a ton of time with this grandson, who completely loves him, and he cooks and takes photography classes for fun. And during all of this, my mom is still working and supporting him. In other words, my dad has officially “made it”. So I only have 39 years to go.
3. Getting to be bitter, cranky old men and women. “When I was your age, we listened to music on cassette tapes. If you didn’t like a song, you couldn’t just click a button to skip it, you had to fast forward and time it exactly, or else you accidentally skipped the next song too!” Or, “when I was your age, Star Wars was a series with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. There was no Jar-Jar Binks, for Pete’s sake!” Or, finally, “When I was your age, there was no Internet pornography. If you wanted some visual age for when you were ‘crackin’ the whip on ol’ Jebediah,’ you had to steal a decade-old Playboy from the barbershop or your creepy uncle, or you had to pay the drunk homeless guy in front of Quick Stop to go in and buy you a nudie mag, and you had to trust his judgment to pick a good one! And if you didn’t like the girls in whatever pictures you managed to scrounge together, you closed your damn eyes and used your imagination! Yeah, that’s right, kids used to have imaginations! Before they were destroyed from watching all the TV with the Mighty Rootin-Tootin’ Rangers and your Pokey-mans or whatever the hell you call them!”
We also get to have all sorts of minor old-age problems, like agonizing hangovers, gray hair, hair loss (a touchy subject with this author), and a little bit of unwanted weight gain. It’s fun to sit around talking about how we’re becoming geriatric. The other day, a friend of mine turned 27 and complained about how she was “getting old”, and I just shook my head. Kids. And although we’re “getting old,” we’re still young enough that we don’t need to have routine prostate examinations. That’s a good thing.
4. Knowing what we want—at least in terms of looking for potential mates. When I was a dumb kid in my 20s, I wanted a girl who was a half-Japanese, half-Brazilian supermodel with a Ph. D. and a really amazing ass, who was an excellent cook and loved the Giants and had heard of all of my music, and who was really kind and inspiring, and who was Jewish. This was all silly—the perfect woman like the one I described doesn’t exist, and even if she did, these are all things that look good on paper, but in real life she’d probably be lame. I genuinely thought that this was what I wanted, and would settle for nothing less. Now that I’m a few years older and seemingly wiser, I know that I was almost completely off. At the age of 31, I now know what qualities would make the perfect mate: I am looking for a woman who can tolerate me for more than an hour or so. And who has a really amazing ass.
5. No longer being so fucking dumb. Have you noticed how kids in their 20s are super fucking dumb? When they talk, they actually use phrases like “OMG” and “totes” (the first is short for “oh my G-d” and the second is, I believe, short for “totally”) in speech. I once heard a girl in her 20s say “LOL” in response to something funny. “LOL” stands for “laughing out loud.” If I understand correctly, “LOL” is something you type when you’re talking on the IM and your friend says something funny, and you want to indicate to your friend that what he said was so funny that you’re actually laughing out loud. In real life, when somebody says something that’s so funny that it makes you laugh out loud, you indicate this by actually laughing. The whole thing reminds me of that “IM Me” song that came out when we were in college, back when AIM was all the rage. I couldn’t find the actual video for the song, but I found this mock video from collegehumor.com, a website devoted to “college humor”:
[Note: For some reason, I’m having trouble getting the video to embed itself properly, so if you can’t see it and you really want to for some reason (and I don’t necessarily recommend it), you can try clicking here.]
Speaking of which, people in their 20s are so fucking dumb that they find “college humor” amusing. I remember back when I was in my 20s, I once sent a friend of mine in his 30s a video clip that I thought was funny. He informed me that it was “college humor,” and objectively not funny. He was right. Totes.
6. As my cousin said, no longer giving a fuck what people think about you. Did #5 above piss off any of you fair readers who are in your 20s? Well you know what they say: it’s better to be pissed off than pissed on. Actually, that’s not necessarily true in all situations. Trust me–you’ll understand when you’re in your 30s, and you’re no longer too prude and embarrassed to explore your deepest carnal desires.
But unabashedly exploring your inner ecstasies is just part of the fun. Once you’re in your 30s, you don’t need to worry about being cool. It’s simply not something that matters anymore. That is why, when it’s cold and I don’t want to wear shoes, I have no shame in wearing my sandals with socks, even though numerous people claim this is a fashion faux pas. It’s not like wearing socks with sandals is going to prevent me from getting laid. My glaring personality faults, on the other hand…
7. Being able to be nostalgic for the 80s and even the 90s. This is kind of the flip-side of #3. About a month ago, I had a week in whicyh two completely unrelated people in my life used the phrase “Zack Morris phone.” Also, can I get a hell yeah for Calvin and Hobbes? And the Far Side? And the Pharcyde? I can still rap pretty much their entire first album, and I know some of you can too. The other night I saw the new Batman movie with a couple of friends who are also in their 30s, and we were reminiscing about Michelle Pfeifer, and how at the time, her Catwoman was as sexy as sexy could be. Although, I gotta say, Anne Hathaway’s ass in the newest Batman is something else. Do you think she could tolerate me for more than an hour or so?
8. Realizing that you’re not going to write the Great American Novel by the time you’re 30—because you’re past 30 and you still haven’t written it—and being okay with it. When you’re in your 20s, you worry that you need to have accomplished all sorts of shit by the time you’re 30. You need to have gotten married, bought a house, had a kid, made your first million, become a household name, saved the world. Then you turn 30, you realize you haven’t done any of that, and you know what—well, I think this scene from the classic summer camp hit Meatballs says it all:
OMG that scene totes makes me LOL and PMP.
Alright kiddies, I think this post is long enough. If you’ve graced the planet with your presence for over 3 decades, get down with yo’ bad 30-something year old self. And don’t forget—you are fucking hot. If you’re not there yet, don’t worry, some day you will be, and then you will understand the true meaning of the phrase “totally tits”, as used when describing the awesomeness of your 30-something year old existence.
As always, thanks for reading. I should let you guys know now that I’m taking a hiatus from this blog for a month or two to focus on some other creative endeavors, but if you need a pep talk on getting older, you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org (or my normal gmail address or through facebook or on my cell phone).
Word to ya mother.