A 31-year-old friend recently started seeing two guys, let’s refer to them as X and Z. Both are charming, employed and cute – in fact, similar to the point where I can barely tell them apart. The only difference is that X (for Gen X) is a perfectly ripe 35, while Z (for zygote) happens to a barely-hatched 25. You would think that my friend is using Z “for fun” and X for serious dating, da? Nope. Much to everybody’s bewilderment, Baby Z actually courts her and cooks for her and even recently helped her build a bookshelf, while the “better on paper” X routinely benches her, messes with her head and generally drives her loco.
A friend’s wedding was coming up. I asked my friend if she was considering bringing either of them as her date.
“Maybe I’ll ask Z. X would freak out and ghost immediately.” The casual manner in which she said this, as though it is completely habitual for a grown-ass man to come undone at the idea of accompanying a woman he is seeing to a wedding, may have been scarier than the statement itself. It also played into my then-budding theory, which is that men in their thirties are completely undateable.
You see, as a 30-year-old woman living in New York City, I am, technically, surrounded by an infinity of age-appropriate dating options. I should, technically, be seeing one of the hundreds of thousands of 30-something eligible bachelors roaming this city, running down the West Side Highway, dining in Williamsburg, dancing at Casablanca, etc. However, I find said mission virtually f*cking impossible.
Ever since I was a kid, the last few weeks of summer have been a period of extreme inner turbulence for me. In my childhood bedroom in Saint-Petersburg there are journals that describe my annual anxiety over la rentrée, accompanied by strategies on how I plan on becoming the most popular girl in class and finally understand chemistry (#goals). As an adult, I have often chosen this time to roll out the next life step – a new job, a move to or from Paris, even the launch of this blog almost four years back. Somehow, September always feels like an opportunity to change something important, to start fresh, to do more.
This September I don’t have any grand Life Changes lined up. After a tumultuous, eye-opening year of dealing with personal changes and observing the that world we live in, the transitions I’m experiencing are happening below the surface. They relate to the way I think, the people I want to be surrounded with, the impact I want to have. They also involve the things I want to write about. As hard as it is to believe, configuring subtle strategies on getting French men to shower no longer fits the bill.
N.B: This post comes to you in the midst of peak FOMO season, when it feels like the entity of your Instagram feed has collectively migrated to Capri and Mykonos.
To borrow from our President’s ten-word vocabulary, envy is a nasty feeling. It eats one up inside like one of those intestinal parasites, preventing them from attaining any semblance of peace. Religious scriptures of every faith speak of envy as the predominant source of evil. Envy catalyzes wars and ruins lives. And yet it remains a human emotion that is not going anywhere. In fact, I believe that it is currently experiencing a revival, having been reformatted, democratized, revolutionized, by social media.
In a way, we are victims of our time, the first generation stuck with the virtual embryos of the big green monster right at the tips of our fingers, ready to unleash the worst in us. We scroll and we look and we “like” and we absorb everything with the impressionable sponges that are our brains. And then, before you know it, we are comparing ourselves to some Slovakian IMG model or globetrotting fashion editor or second degree acquaintance who has graduated to become a Tribeca housewife. Because, on the surface, they all seem to have it so easy.
My friend is in the most boring long-distance situtationship of all time. Trust me, I’m not offending her by writing this, as she is the first one to admit to the dullness of the liaison. Their text message exchanges include extensive coverage of rain precipitation. Their monotonous phone chats could put a teething baby to sleep. No sparks fly in person – or in the bedroom – leaving most of us all wondering what, exactly, inspires her to keep him around.
The other night, after enduring the Chinese water torture of listening to her and Mr. Snooze discuss their bedtime rituals (he likes to sleep in socks!), I decided to unravel the mystery.
“Why are you subjecting me to this? Actually why are you subjecting yourself to this?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “I just have a lot of anxiety and having me call him every night calms me down.”
“You know what else calms you down? Chamomile tea.”
“Exactly. He’s my chamomile tea.”
And, just like that, my friend had tapped into a SATC-worthy theory: “Some men are like chamomile tea”.
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.
Some girls grow up wanting to be women. They dream of embodying the elegance of female role models, the power of women executives, the nurturing spirit of mothers. This was never me. A clumsy tomboy with a penchant for adventures, I always relished in my girl card and its accompanying sense of freedom. I thrived on my chaotic travels, my childlike curiosity, my denim shorts and makeup-free M.O. “You look eighteen” was always the pinnacle of compliments, and not because it meant that my skin was still void of wrinkles (it’s not), but because it signified I had retained the youthful spirit that made me me.