My biggest fear during the 29th year of my life was that it would be my last summer of wearing cutoff jean shorts. In retrospect, I assume (or at least hope) that my frivolous concern had more to do with symbolism rather than vanity. After having spent my early 20s on an ever-swinging pendulum between who I should be and who I want to be, I had only recently grown entirely okay with my real self: my offbeat personality, my often unstable career as a freelance writer, and a style so basics-driven that I could easily get dressed in the dark. Denim shorts, worn not as weekend gear, but almost as a warm-weather uniform, paired with linen button-downs and Converse sneakers, felt like an emblem of this self-acceptance, which made the thought of retiring them at the age of 30 feel hasty, unnecessary, just flat-out wrong.
I realize that there is no longer a rule that dictates a cutoff age for cutoff denim—or any other youthful clothing item, for that matter. I’m aware, technically, that 30 is about coming into your true self, about having amazing sex, about blossoming into a real woman in the best sense of the word. And yet, sometimes all it takes is yet another profile of an over-accomplished young mother-slash-entrepreneur-slash-style-icon showing off her impossibly chic existence (as satirized in this brilliant Julie Houts illustration) to experience an urgent call-to-action to grow up in every realm of life. Or is this mindset a result of living in America, in a culture driven (and often, misled) by quantitative results? Are Europeans, particularly the French, who are known to celebrate the process of getting older, less fixated on age as the barometer of one’s life (and wardrobe)?
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Full disclosure: I hate going out. What used to be a favored pastime in my early twenties has since become a bona-fide punishment, an ordeal that essentially starts with me mentally fast-forwarding to the moment that I get to go home, remove all traces of makeup, and cuddle up to my dog.
It was supposed to be fun and glamorous and liberating, wasn’t it? I blame the misconception on Sex and The City, the OG Fake News that sold us a warped version of being single in your thirties. Every weekend, Carrie & Co. would put on 3K worth of brand-new designer clothing and strut out to the Manhattan hotspot du jour and blow another few hundred bucks on fancy food and nasty pink Cosmos and have the time of their damn lives. MOMENTS LIFE IS MADE OF. Oh, and there would be brunch the next day.
Last week, my friend had sex for a plate of meatballs. Before y’all run out to stock up on minced beef, let me give you a quick rundown.
Step 1: Friend meets guy on Bumble, chats.
Step 2: Friend goes on Date 1, is not attracted to the guy but enjoys their conversation.
Step 3: Friend goes on Date 2, chemistry fails to emerge but pleasant colloquy continues.
Step 4: Guy invites friend over for a “home-cooked dinner.” She agrees, if only for the sad, simple reason that men don’t volunteer their cooking skills too often these days. She arrives to his Gramercy abode to find him going all Mario Batali on her with an Italian feast of pasta and meatballs (homemade! with ingredients from Eataly!). One bottle of red wine in they start hooking up, at which point she discovers that her Meatball King is a terrible kisser. And yet she still proceeds to have sex with him, an experience that quickly unveils itself to be about as unpalatable as the kiss.
Brooklyn Heights strolls. Photo by Caroline Owens.
How often do you come across a couple that met in kindergarten? If you live in New York City, the probability of encountering such endangered human species is about as low as, say, meeting a single 30-something-year-old male sans commitment issues. (Yes, I’m always projecting.) This is why when I had the luck of meeting Rachel Jo Silver and Justin Boelio, two Michigan natives who first laid eyes on one another in Miss Ruben’s kindergarten class in the late 80’s, I decided to do humanity a favor by documenting their unique union on this paramount platform. (You’re welcome, social anthropologists everywhere.)
What’s even more striking than the longevity of Rachel and Justin’s relationship is the actual fabric of it, built on respect and patience and the kind of mutual trust that allowed them to embark upon their very own joint venture. In 2016, the Brooklyn Heights-based couple launched the wedding video platform Love Stories TV, which you should explore right after you are finished with this interview! (Disclaimer: even the most cynical folks may turn into mush.)
Oh, they may also have the most compatible body language that I have ever seen, but I don’t want to get creepy so I’ll stop there.
Spending two months in Russia as a 30-year-old single woman is similar to what I envision military training being like. You come in terrified and weak; you leave tough and tempered and strengthened by the realization that nothing, ever, is going to seem difficult again. Having recently lived through said experience, I now present you a synthesis of key trends, reported directly from the line of duty.
I recently asked a 42-year-old man whether he thought I would ever get married. (What can I say? Four days with my brother had clearly traumatized me.) His answer? “Sure, just do yourself a favor and grow out that haircut. Men like long hair.”
I wish I could tell you that his words shocked me, or at least that I had some American feminism left in my system to battle him out for a woman’s right to a trendy overpriced bob. Alas, after spending the past two months in Russia and thereby being subjected to an unofficial local investigation into why I’m not currently 2.5 babies deep, his statement was mere icing on the sexist, antiquated cake I had grown all-too-good at metabolizing.
Truth be told, attempting to reshape some people’s inherent beliefs is a dire waste of time. After all, is there really any chance of convincing Babushka Nina that women are no longer ranked by their borsch cooking skills? Probably not, which means that it’s better to just smile and zip it. In predicaments that a – don’t involve fragile elderly relatives and b – call for real retaliation, I propose using a non-violent tactic entitled Revenge by Awkwardness, coined by yours truly. The goal: to yield your opponent to extreme levels of discomfort, causing them to quickly withdraw their statements.
Here are some examples.