Aug 14 2012

The 30th Birthday Party

The 30th birthday doesn’t generate a tremendous amount of attention, at least not compared to other major birthday milestones. It doesn’t come with any legal rite of passage, it’s not a Super Sweet anything and it’s a bit premature for over-the-hill jabs. Still, it seems there ought to be some sort of recognition of the end of one’s 20s. So what is the right way to celebrate the big 3-0?

It seems that most people turning 30 resort to one of three options:

  1. Go out all night and pretend it’s not going to hurt any more the next day than it did during the peak of their Jagermeister years.
  2. Host an oh-so-classy grown-up celebration complete with wine and cheese plate to show how oh-so-classy and grown up they are.
  3. Spend a quiet night at home pretending their second 29th birthday isn’t happening at all.

Which option you choose, of course, is entirely up to you. However, I can’t help but think that many of today’s 30-somethings will embrace more lively celebrations, if for no other reason than to prove that we’re not too old to party. And clearly we’re not – just ask my buddy who recently announced plans to rent an inflatable bounce house for his impending 30th, or my friend who has insisted on acquiring a tiara to wear on hers. You see, we’re a generation accustomed to big birthday bashes. We grew up in an era of jumping castles and birthdays in the ball pit. Heck, if Chuck E. Cheese’s sold beer we’d probably still be dancing the night away with that creepy mouse.

Oh yeah, I can see my generation making a big deal out of 30, so go ahead and start cranking out those party favors, Hallmark. Of course, some will choose to lay low, and that’s perfectly fine, but no matter how one chooses to celebrate, I do think it’s worth acknowledging 30 as significant. The way I see it: If you’re “over the hill” at 40, then 30 marks the age when you’ve finally reached the top of that hill. After 29 years of rigorous climbing, you’ve made it to the summit and you’ve got 10 delightful years to enjoy the mountain air before making your way down the other side. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

So, how will you celebrate your 30th?

Jul 20 2012

Dodging the Bouquet

A friend and I artfully dodge the bouquet at a recent wedding. (Photo no doubt blurry because we are moving so fast.)

When it comes to weird wedding traditions there are plenty to choose from, but one of the most enduring seems to be the ubiquitous bouquet toss.

In the rom-coms one usually sees this ritual depicted as a feeding frenzy, a bunch of rabid single women fighting tooth-and-nail to get their hands on that fate-sealing bundle of baby’s breath. But in reality, the bouquet seems a questionable commodity at best.

Since I’ve been attending weddings as a single woman I have not seen one of my fellow bachelorettes dive for the bouquet a la Alicia Silverstone in “Clueless,” except for maybe the 8-year-old flower girl. On the contrary, I’ve seen women engage in near-acrobatics to avoid the bloody thing.

Indeed, the last few weddings I’ve been to, the poor bride has almost had to pry us single gals from our chairs just to get us to partake in this archaic custom. The moment the announcement is made for the unattached ladies to head to the front, we’re all rendered immobile, frozen to our seats, the inhibitions we thought we’d washed away with free champagne returning.

Of course, once we finally rise in a group, the pushing and shoving does begin as we all jockey for position … in the back.

So what is the deal? Why are we so resistant?

Is it because we’re embarrassed to have our singleness spotlighted in this very public way? There is, after all, the fear that you’re going to be the only sap in the room to stand up. (Oh, the horror!) Or is our defiance more about making a statement – that we are perfectly content with our fabulous, independent, single selves. (I don’t need no man!) Maybe we’re just afraid we’ll end up with the creeper leering at us across the dance floor if the cursed thing falls into our hands.

I suppose one could argue that the rejection of the bouquet is somehow correlated to the overall decline of marriage in society. With statistics telling us as many marriages fail as flourish, it’s no wonder we’re hesitant to hang our hopes on a used floral arrangement.

If that’s the case, I find it interesting that men don’t seem to display the same reservations when it comes to catching the garter. Is this because they’re actually the ones still looking for the fairy tale ending, believing someone out there other than their moms is interested in cooking and cleaning up after them? Perhaps. Or maybe they’re just a little more excited about the prize in their competition. After all, they get to catch some lacy forbidden thing that’s been between the bride’s thighs, while us girls have dead flora flung at our heads.

If you ask me, the bouquet just comes with way too much pressure, so until I’m really ready to take the plunge, I’m going to keep practicing my dodgeball moves.

Jul 10 2012

Don’t Call Me Ma’am

I work at a university, surrounded by gaggles of fresh-faced youth, eager to soak up as much knowledge, life experience and Pabst Blue Ribbon as they can. It’s an energizing place to work. Until, of course, a zygote dressed in Abercrombie reminds you just how young you’re not.

It happened to me a few months ago; I was roaming campus, searching for the location of my next meeting, when an undergrad Justin Bieber look-alike approaches me and asks, “Can I help you find something ma’am?”

Ma’am? I nearly choked on my own tongue.

Surely you must be talking to the elderly woman behind me. What? There’s no one there? You’re talking to me? I could feel the crow’s feet deepening around my eyes as I stared at him, mouth agape.

How could it be that this kid I could have been in a Psych 101 class with just a few years ago was now addressing me in a manner that made me feel like I’d been offered help crossing the street?

Before I sound ungrateful, I acknowledge that he was just trying to be helpful, and it might have been a refreshing gesture … if only he’d had a better choice of words.

After pinching his cheek and telling him, “No thanks, sonny,” I quickly justified the whole exchange to myself: “I’m wearing my professional work clothes. He was just showing me the level of respect demanded by slacks and kitten heels.” Still, it stung.

At 29, it was my first ma’am experience.

I’m not sure men understand the amount of psychological damage that can be inflicted on a young woman by a four-letter word like “ma’am.” After all, the same doesn’t really ring true for “sir,” which oozes respect at any age. (There’s probably a lengthy gender studies discussion to be had here, but we’ll skip that for now.)

The bottom line is, unless a woman is a uniformed officer or the leading lady in an old-timey Western, she probably doesn’t want to be called ma’am. Not under the age of 40 anyway.

Ma’am makes us feel old. Ma’am makes us look over our shoulders for our moms or grandmas. Ma’am makes us want to drown our sorrows in vodka tonics, and if the bartender doesn’t card us, we may never recover from the emotional trauma.

So the next time you feel a “ma’am” coming on, please think twice. Perhaps try “miss” instead – it’s respectful, polite and has a far less matronly ring to it; you might even make a “ma’am” feel young again. Or if you really want to be safe, skip the courtesy titles altogether. A simple “hey you” might just be the least offensive.

Jul 05 2012

Bit by the Travel Bug

Oia in Santorini

I’m pleased to announce that I’m able to cross one of the big-ticket items off my OMG I’m About to Turn 30 Last-Minute to-do List. I recently returned from my very first trip overseas, and all I can say is WOOHOO! Why didn’t I do this sooner?

The Parthenon in Athens

I was fortunate enough to explore Greece with a dear friend who was also getting her passport stamped for the first time. It was good timing for both of us; we’ve both gone through some life changes this year and were in need of a bit of an escape. But what we got was so much more than just that.

Our trip included a big fat Greek wedding in a small town, visits to two islands – one that never sleeps and one that offered the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen – and some time in Athens to appreciate the historical sites in a big, graffiti-laden city.

It was the vacation of a lifetime and one we won’t soon forget. We experienced a lot of firsts along the way – clubs that never close, octopus for dinner, toilets you can’t throw the tissue into. And we learned a few things here and there – like European hotels have impossibly tiny showers, you couldn’t pay me enough to drive on the mad streets of Athens and a real Greek salad has no lettuce (and thus every Greek restaurant I ever loved in America is now ruined).

Mykonos

Now, upon our return to our dull American lives, my travel companion and I are aware that we are in trouble, because now that we’ve gotten a taste for travel, we’re hungry for it. Bit by the bug, we’ll be feeling the itch until we get on a plane again.

They say there’s no place like home, and it’s true, but something about leaving that home and experiencing something so different was refreshing in a way I can’t quite describe. The multiple languages and accents, the foreign scenery – it was all surprisingly comforting and uplifting, and I’m so grateful to have had the experience.

I don’t know, maybe it was the nasty old battle-axe who “greeted” us at JFK Airport that soured my return to the good ol’ U.S. of A, but I do know this: I’m starting to save for my next trip now.

(Oh, and P.S., I watched “The Matrix” on the long flight home, so I can cross one more thing of my to-do list! Go multitasking!)

Fira in Santorini

 

Jun 11 2012

Celebrities Turning 30 in 2012

Rapper Nicki Minaj and funnyman Seth Rogen both turn 30 this year. Surely neither of them got where they are today by "acting their age." (Photos: tamtam7683; Hoangquan hientrang)

Love it or hate it, we live in a society obsessed with youth, and with celebrities. Combine the two and… Bieber Fever anyone? But even young celebrities eventually get older. Following is a list of some famous folks who have turned, or will turn, 30 this year, from British royals to baby-faced actors still passing for high schoolers on TV.

Happy Birthday to…

  • Jessica Biel, March 3
  • Seth Rogen, April 15
  • Kelly Clarkson, April 24
  • Kirsten Dunst, April 30
  • Cory Monteith (Finn on “Glee”), May 11
  • Prince William, June 21, and his lovely wife Kate, Jan. 9
  • Mark Salling (Puck on “Glee”), Aug. 17
  • LeAnn Rimes, Aug. 28
  • Anne Hathaway, Nov. 12
  • Nicki Minaj, Dec. 8

For more famous peeps exiting their 20s this year, check out this list on IMDB.

Jun 07 2012

VIDEO: A Little Hope for the Future

As we grow older, some of us have the tendency to get a little curmudgeon-y. We grumble in sentences that begin with “kids these days” and “when I was that age.” But it’s important for us to realize that the future probably isn’t as bleak as we sometimes imagine. Once in a while someone comes along that reminds us of that. This week that someone was Meghan Vogel, a small town girl from Ohio who’s captured the attention of a nation for an act of sportsmanship that went above and beyond expectations.

On Saturday, 17-year-old Meghan, a runner for West Liberty-Salem High School, won the Division III state championship in the 1,600 meters. But it was her last-place finish in the 3,200 that made headlines. Emotionally and physically drained from her earlier win, Meghan struggled in the 3,200 and found herself lagging in last place. Then, in the last 50 meters of the race, a competitor ahead of her – a girl by the name of Arden McMath – stumbled, opening the door for Meghan to speed past and avoid a last-place finish. But that’s not what Meghan did. Instead, she stopped, picked up her struggling rival and carried her to the finish line, making sure Arden crossed first. The whole thing was caught on video and quickly went viral, showing up on news stations and websites across the nation and even overseas.

The response has been remarkable. People have been brought to tears, have called the young girl’s actions inspiring and heroic. It’s all been a bit bewildering to Meghan, who did what she did just because that’s the kind of thing Meghan would do. I know that to be a fact because I know Meghan Vogel; I’m proud to say that she is my cousin.

Needless to say, it’s been an exciting week for our close-knit family. It’s been a real blast seeing my cousin and my aunt – Meghan’s mom and track coach, Ann Vogel – popping up on Good Morning America, ESPN, NBC Nightly News and all over the Internet. I still tear up when I see the video and get that urge to tell everyone I know, “that’s my cousin!”

Yes, our family is very proud of Meghan, yet it continues to amaze us all, Meghan included, that what she did, which at its core was a simple act of human kindness, has received the attention it has. I guess it just goes to show how much the world is craving good news and positive role models for our youth, and I’m thrilled that my cousin gets the chance to be one of those role models. She deserves it.

I know one thing: The next time I start to feel like a curmudgeon-y adult losing faith in “kids these days,” I’m going to roll tape of Cousin Meghan and remind myself that we may not be so doomed after all.

Jun 04 2012

Where Not to Shop When You’re 30

In need of some retail therapy I recently hit the mall with a friend who’s been loyally beside me at the sale racks since we were gangly 14-year-olds searching for the perfect baggy jeans. Eager to fill our closets with yet more fashion-forward apparel, we decided to stop by a favorite old store that had welcomed our business on many occasions in the past.

But this time something was different.

The moment we walked through the door, greeted by the usual violently bright colors and the chest-rattling bass of an overproduced pop song, we felt like we were under attack. Instead of diving right in as we once would have done, we tensed up, realizing almost immediately that we had no business being in this store, which shall remain nameless but is not called Forever 30.

While we probably should have left right then, we didn’t. We couldn’t. We weren’t ready to face the idea that we might be “too old” for one of our favorite old mall haunts, or that we could be “too old” for anything. What had happened to us? We once thrived in this environment, feverishly clawing through tangles of strappy tops and tiny shorts, motivated by the pounding music that made us feel like we were in a night club. Of course, back then, neither of us was old enough to be in an actual night club.

But now we circled the racks cautiously, staking our ground, with bouncy teenagers whizzing past us in clouds of blonde hair and Bath & Body Works. We were suddenly in a battle zone, fighting for our youth, hesitantly selecting summer dresses and sequined tops as our weapons.

It was after a few “is this a shirt or a skirt” moments that we headed, dazed, toward the fitting room, where the 18-year-old attendant kindly retrieved us some “larger sizes” (turns out our age wasn’t the only thing that had increased since our last visit here). A bit of tugging and pulling later, we managed to find a couple of things we liked (never mind that juvenile “First Kiss” tag on the back of my new white shorts; a long top will cover that up, right?) and made a hasty beeline for the cash register.

I don’t think our breathing returned to normal until we were outside the store. It took a little longer for our eyes to refocus and our heads to clear. Although we were only in there for about 30 minutes, that was long enough to have the following epiphany:

I am almost 30, and I no longer want to feel like I’m in a night club when I’m shopping. It doesn’t motivate me. It exhausts me, and it gives me a migraine. And if I want to go to a night club, I now have a driver’s license that allows me to do so on a Saturday night.

Women in their 30s want to be fashionable and absolutely should be. We’re still young and stylish. But I realize now that it is probably time to graduate from the bubblegum juniors stores, if for no other reason, to preserve my Zen.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go squeeze into my “First Kiss” shorts and start my day.

May 23 2012

What’s That Ticking…

You know that phrase, “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched?” Well my mom thinks I should count my chickens, or, more to the point, my eggs. Seriously. She actually said to me the other day, “I heard on one of those news shows that women can get tested now to see how many eggs they have left.” Yes mother? And…?

The topic of my reproductive years has increasingly been creeping into my conversations with my mom. I haven’t quite figured out how she manages to seamlessly interject comments like, “It’s harder to get pregnant after 35” and “I guess you could always adopt” into conversations about the weather and what I ate for dinner, but she’s sneaky like that.

Now to be clear, my mom doesn’t want me to have a baby right this minute. After all, I’m not married. What she is trying to do is remind me, repeatedly, that I only have a few good years left so I’d better secure a mate, settle down and get a bun in the oven before it’s too rusty to cook anything. No pressure, of course.

I never really expected I’d have this kind of dynamic with my mom. I’ve seen enough chick flicks to know there are moms out there who nag their daughters about giving them grandkids (and I believe everything I see in chick flicks). I just didn’t think mine would be the type.

When I was growing up, my mom and dad put a lot of emphasis on me getting an education and starting a career. Much less was said about marrying me off and opening the grandbaby factory. I think we all just took for granted that that would happen in due time and didn’t really need to be discussed. Well, now that I’ve got the education and the job taken care of, it seems mom’s got a new set of expectations.

Are we a generation of reproductive slackers?

I realize plenty of people have babies in their 20s. I know this because my Facebook newsfeed is crawling with pictures of them, almost from the point of conception. However, many of us are waiting longer to procreate or are forgoing that particular milestone altogether.

The average age of first-time moms in the United States has climbed from about 21 years old in 1970 to 25 today, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. In the UK, women are waiting even longer, until about 29 on average. (I always felt like I could relate to those Brits.)

So what’s going on? Why are we suddenly so reluctant to settle down and start families? Is it because we’re too independent and self absorbed to make the commitment? Or are we just being practical planners?

I’ve only recently come to think of myself as being “grown up” enough to have kids of my own. This really hit home for me after an awkward mix-up at work, in which a colleague confused me with another co-worker who had recently announced she was expecting. (Imagine my bewilderment when congratulated on my “exciting news.”)

It was an honest mistake and we had a good laugh about it, but what I found most alarming about the whole incident was that this colleague hadn’t doubted for one moment that I might really actually be pregnant and thrilled about it.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that a positive pregnancy test was devastating, life-ending news? Oh wait, no, that was in high school, and that was more than 10 years ago. Where have I been? Watching too much “Teen Mom,” apparently. Until recently, my first instinct when someone told me they were pregnant was to ask, “Is this good or bad news?” Now I understand that most people having kids at this stage of the game are actually doing it ON PURPOSE, which is great, because while the rest of us are dragging our feet, we need someone to keep the population going.

I do want kids. Someday. Just not right now. Because I’m too independent and self-absorbed. And I’m ok with that. Besides, I always said I had until 35 to have kids, so I’ve got plenty of, some, a little bit of time. Thirty was just the age by which I was supposed to be married.

Uh oh…

May 07 2012

VIDEO: “We’re Not Young” Parody Pokes Fun at Getting Older

For the past several weeks, the catchy and upbeat “We Are Young,” by the indie pop band “Fun.” has hovered at or near the top of the Billboard Hot 100, with its sing-songy lyrics about being young and “setting the world on fire.” Meanwhile, a re-imagined version of the song, titled “We’re Not Young,” has gained traction in the viral video world, with its comedic, sometimes painfully relatable lyrics about some of the not so “fun” parts of growing up.

The parody video, from Yahoo!’s SketchY comedy series, features a cast of downtrodden 30-somethings lamenting dead-end jobs, unsatisfying relationships, weight gain, even prostate checks. The original song’s carefree proclamations that “tonight we are young” and “we can burn brighter than the sun,” are replaced with lyrics like:

“Now I know that I’m fat / Shut up about that / I guess I’ll do elliptical / Maybe I can finally do that yoga class / But I probably won’t / HD-TV / Gonna stay at home and watch ‘Modern Family.'”

So sad. And so totally hilarious.

If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s worth the 4 minutes and 58 seconds. After all, we’re all getting older, so we might as well laugh about it.

May 02 2012

Counting Down to 30

Thirty. It’s the dirty word that’s been taunting me since my last birthday. And it just keeps getting closer…

I realize age is relative. I mentor a 10-year-old girl and when I recently told her I’d be turning 30 on my next birthday, her mouth dropped open and she said, “I didn’t know you were so old!” Ouch. I considered leaving her at the park right then and there, but instead decided to ask her how old she thought I was, to which she replied, “You look like you’re 22 or 23.” Phew! Relationship restored. I then asked her what she thought was “old,” and she answered “35” without much hesitation. So I guess I have a couple years left before I need to start shopping for a walker.

On the flip side, I’m the youngest person in my office at work, where I’m affectionately teased for being the whipper snapper who “wasn’t even born yet” when such-and-such happened.

The reality is, us 30-somethings (or near-30-somethings) fall somewhere in the middle, teetering on the thin line between bar-hopping and Bingo. I will celebrate my 30th birthday in four months. That’s right, just 16 short weeks until I leave my 20s behind for good. And although I am hopeful that my 30s will be full of great things – exciting developments in career, life and love – I must admit this impending birthday has me just slightly terrified.

Lately I’ve found myself wondering, what does it mean to be in my 30s? What am I supposed to be doing? How am I supposed to act? And what if I’m not where I thought I’d be by now? I don’t think I’m alone in pondering these questions, so, as part of a generation that enjoys obsessing about such trivial things, I launch this blog to discuss the good, the bad and the scary of the dirty 30s.

To kick things off, I want to be sure I end my 20s on a high note. The last 10 years have been pretty productive – I graduated from college, started a career, made some lifelong friends – but there are just a few last-minute things I feel it is imperative I accomplish before I enter the next decade of my life.

And so I present to you the OMG I’m About to Turn 30 Last Minute to-do List. (If you’re nearing 30, I suggest you make your own, because let’s face it, ya ain’t getting any younger.) Over the next four months I will attempt to accomplish the following 10 things, in no particular order, before turning the big 3-0.

  1. Start a blog
    Woohoo! I love being able to check things off my to-do list.
  2. Ride a mechanical bull
    Because I’m pretty sure this becomes sad in your 30s. And because I live in a town just classy enough to have one.
  3. Eat a deep-fried Twinkie
    This seems increasingly hazardous to one’s health with each passing year.
  4. Color my hair an obnoxiously unnatural color
    Because I feel like I should see myself in electric blue before geriatric blue.
  5. Travel abroad
    Because I want to drop anchor overseas before I have too many things anchoring me at home.
  6. Go to a movie by myself
    Because it’s high time I conquer that fear of being alone in public.
  7. Scream myself hoarse at a concert
    I feel like I should get at least one more of these under my belt before 30.
  8. Watch “The Matrix
    So I will no longer have to be subjected to: “What?? You’ve NEVER seen it?”
  9. Do a thorough closet cleaning
    So my future children won’t have evidence of the bad shoes and bare midriff of my youth.
  10. Get a psychic reading
    Maybe they’ll be able to tell me what my 30s have in store.

So there it is! Since I don’t have too much time left in my 20s, I tried to keep it manageable (I don’t think I’m gonna be able to complete that master’s degree in the next four months.) And while I may not be able to get to every last thing listed here, I’m going to give it the old college try … because I’m still in my 20s and therefore not too old for a good ol’ college try. Or college sweatshirts. Or shorts with the name of my college stamped on my butt (or am I??)

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