When I awoke on this, the first day of my 30th year, I was relieved to discover that nothing felt different. Most importantly, my breasts did not feel different. I’ve been really worried about them for the past few months. I convinced myself that on February 14, 2012 my succulent feed bags would instantly fall to my knees or shrivel up entirely and dangle flaccidly from my chest like deflated birthday balloons. But it seems Mother Nature and her BFF Gravity were feeling generous today, so I was able to scratch at least one of my Turning Thirty Fears off of my list.
Yes, I was afraid of this day. On the outside, I wore a brave face and several defiant I’m-still-young outfits in the months leading to my V-day B-day (D-Day). On the inside, however, my mind was drowning itself in paranoid and hopeless thoughts (and liquor). And so the Turning Thirty Fears were born, and they multiplied on a daily basis, each more somber and desperate than the last. In no particular order, these were:
1. I will instantly become less attractive, and whatever beauty I have left will continue to rapidly fade with each passing second of my now miserably old existence. This in turn will make me a less worthy and significant member of society.
2. I will no longer be cool. Even if I make valiant efforts to be cool, these will only seem sad and pathetic. Being cool is very important.
3. I will be unhappy with “where I am in my life” (whatever that means). You know, that I’m not working my dream job, or avec-babies, or married, or even living on my GD own.
These Turning Thirty Fears have been weighing on me so heavily for the past several months that my massage therapist gave me an extra 30 minutes for free the last time I saw her, because she was “deeply worried” about what the hard knots in my neck and back apparently said about my mental state. “This is one of the worst cases of stress manifested physically that I have ever seen” were here exact words. Burn! She told me I had to let go of or deal with whatever was bothering me, or I risked being crushed by the figurative bowling balls of pain I was carrying around on my already weak shoulders.
With this advice in mind, the first thing I did this morning was crawl out from under my bed, march downstairs and into my front yard, and yell, in the spirit of the beloved child actor Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone: “Hey, I'm not afraid any more! I said, I'm not afraid any more! Do you hear me? I'm not afraid any more!!!” for all to hear. Well, truthfully I only yelled it from inside the warmth of my home (hello, it’s effing February out there), but still. This small act of childish rebellion made me feel instantly powerful and awesome and ready to face my Turning Thirty Fears today. Here is my best effort at yelling at my TTFs, and at myself, and at anyone out there who needs to be yelled at.
1. Re: Diminishing Beauty / Sea Hag Forever
Guess what: your looks WILL fade. But this WON’T happen when the clock strikes midnight on the eve of your 30th birthday (it started happening on your 25th birthday, ha). And there’s no point in stressing out about it, because looks DON’T MATTER. I’m not even going to get into the whole “impossible beauty standards created by the media” or the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” stuff. I’m just going to keep it simple: when is the last time one of your friends said “you know, I’m so happy you’re in my life, because you’re just so fucking hot”? When did your parents last say “we’re so proud of you for being attractive”? When did your boss state “you’re doing a great job, thanks to your amazing bone structure”? People care about how you treat them. They care about how you make them feel. They care about how much joy and fun and intelligence and adventure you bring to the table and into their lives - not about whether you have clear skin. Think about the people you love most, right now. Go on, gather them all in a room in your mind and take a good look at each and everyone one of them. Why do you love and cherish and respect them? Is it because of how they look? Nope. This is a two way street, girl. Your friends and family - aka the only people that should matter to you - don’t give a leopard’s chode about what you look like. They will love the fuck out of you no matter how much cellulite or how many wrinkles you have. They just will, and deep down you know this. Start reminding yourself of this every day, or at least every time you’re about to have a meltdown about your love handles or double chin.
That covers the “what other people think” dilemma, but what about what I think of myself? Here’s a script for when you have to defend yourself against your toughest critic: “You have functioning limbs and organs and you can see, smell, hear, taste, and breathe without difficulty or interruption. You can stand up straight and jump and run and you have the memory of being able to do cartwheels. You’re actually having a pretty good hair year. Your teeth are straight and white(ish) and you have nice nails and according to some people, your face looks like a sunrise. Your skin is soft, your hands are strong. You have a smile that makes people feel good. You are beautiful. Now, drink this - it’s a big glass of shut-the-fuck-up. Love, me.” Basically, remembering that you are alive and (for the most part) in one piece can do a lot to bring you back down to earth. If the above speech doesn’t work, try googling “really ugly people”. And if THAT doesn’t make you feel beter, try thinking about people in other parts of the world who will spend their entire lives in poverty and getting raped and beaten. Then think about how you were just complaining about your eyebrows. Makes you feel like a pretty big asshole, right? Good.
2. Re: No Longer Cool / Might as well start wearing Mom Jeans.
Again, there’s just nothing you can do about this. You WILL become less cool, but it’s because you have a lot of other shit to do instead. Shit like supporting your friends through tough times, or raising your spawn, or working on your own relationships, or learning new things, or dominating everyone at work, or figuring out how to relax and slow down, or improving yourself in numerous ways. Before you were 30, you might have had time to spend 95% of your waking hours wondering whether you should hate Lana Del Rey or like the latest Gaspar Noe flick or wear neon this season. But now that you’re older, sorry, you just don’t have the fucking time. And that’s a good thing. Just keep a few younger people in your entourage; they’ll keep you in the what’s-cool loop, and you can focus on saving the world and whatever.
3. Re: Is this who/what/where I should be right now? omg?
When I was younger and an idiot, I thought that by the time I turned 30 I would have everything figured out and be this bad-ass shit-together working wife and mother who was also running for Prime Minister or something. Instead, I’m not married, I have zero babies, and I don’t really know what I want to do with my life. Shit.
Let’s tackle these puppies one at a time.
(a) Marriage: It’s Walt Disney’s fault, when you really think about it. My favourite movie as a child was The Little Mermaid, which taught me that red heads are hot, having a beautiful singing voice is really important, and marrying a man, even at the cost of giving up everything else in your life, is the only way to achieve real and everlasting happiness. Super! Add to this the pressure from friends, family and society in general, and a girl can end up feeling pretty shitty about not having something she doesn’t even know if she wants yet, if at all.
The thing is, most people I know who are married don’t report being happier or more in love or more fulfilled once they are married. In fact, out of the 9 couples whose weddings I attended this summer, I would say none of them feel this way (that marriage = everything better and perfect forever). Are they all super happy and excited to be married? Of course! But did it solve all of their life problems and solidify their place in this cruel world? I doubt it. Do I feel happy and in love and fulfilled right now, without being married? Yes. So eat it, Ariel, you 16-year-old child bride freak. The next time someone asks me when I’m getting married, I will reply “when you explain to me how it will change my life for the better, and also pay for my wedding.”
(b) Babies: Holy shit, babies are really disgusting and annoying. They’re also infuriatingly dependant and stupid. As Louis C.K. says “my wife assassinated my sexual identity and my children are eating my dreams.” But, I mean, they’re also really cute! And I think I will probably want to make one some day in the distant future, but not yet. I realize that my parents had me when they were 22, and their parents had them when they were 16, and their parents had them when they were 11, and so on. But that’s just fucking retarded. I’m pretty sure if they were being honest, my parents would admit that they would have loved to wait 10 more years to have me so that they could have done a lot more travelling and drugs in the 80s. I’m also officially over the biological-clock thing starting now. First of all, I have 27 cousins. I’m pretty sure I come from a line of women who are good at getting pregnant. Second, if my ovaries turn to ash before I decide I’m ready to give up my life, well, I’ll adopt. Angelina looks pretty fucking happy to me.
(c) Life plan: Again, I thought that by age 30 I would either be a high powered lawyer (tried it, hated it), a successful writer (does this count? It didn’t.) or just generally famous and beloved by the world at large (there’s still time). None of those things have happened yet, and somehow the world didn’t end. In fact, when I really think about it, my world has never been better. Every day I get to spend time with the people I love, eat amazing food, drink delicious beer, laugh a ton and do other assorted joyful things like organizing stuff by colour and telling people what to do. Not bad, right?
Finally, I have decided to make a list of the things I have accomplished by age 30, just to really seal the “I’m totally fine and not going to die old and alone” deal:
- Have the same best friends as when I was 14, and a dozen new and wonderful ones as well
- Graduated high school and undergrad at the top o’ my class
- Got my law degree, like a BOSS
- Told Bay Street to suck my dean, never looked back
- Fell in love
- Got my heart broken and survived
- Learned French, et je parles encore tres bien, merci.
- Learned how to make other people think I’m not bald
- Stood up for myself on numerous occasions
- Stood up for what I believe in on numerous occasions
- Learned how to take daily meltdowns from a 10 down to an 8
- Learned when to say no
- Learned when to say yes
- Saw Radiohead in concert 5 times
- Supported myself for over 12 years
- Learned how to be a good friend
- Learned how to forgive
- Made the phrase “chode licker” cool
- Travelled a lot of the world
- Drank over 5000 beers (I assume)
- Learned how to let people go
- Managed not to be morbidly obese despite ongoing food obsession
- Became best friends with my brother
- Learned how and when to help others
- Learned when to shut up (she didn’t)
- Did [insert many disgusting things]
- Learned how to love myself (spiritually and physically)
- Learned every line from the Simpsons
- Somehow still alive
- Learned how to laugh at myself
- Learned how to conquer many of my fears, including turning 30, but not including spiders
Tonight when I go to bed, I won’t be afraid anymore. My 30th birthday came and went, and I still feel like me. And you bitches ain’t seen nothing yet (until I’m really drunk in a few hours, and then you’ll probably see everything).