Sunday, July 22, 2007

30 and Thrilling

I turned 30 last Tuesday. With a birthdate like mine (7/17/77) you would think I would have all, or at least some, of the luck in the world. I tend, however, to be a magnet for disaster and catastrophe most of the time. And I am not lucky in Vegas. In real life, I work hard and know how to network, but I am not lucky. I once played the lottery and did not win. I am not lucky.

I spent all of last year, my last year of my twenties, gearing up to turn 30 -- preparing for the day I would wake up and not be young anymore. I focused on training myself mentally to withstand the horror that is 30. A few months ago, before I came up to Ithaca for the summer, for Cornell's School of Criticism and Theory, I was deeply depressed when I realized I would be spending my 30th at theory camp with a bunch of people I did not know.

I should be in Hollywood on that day, I thought to myself, partying with all of the other have beens. Boulevard of broken dreams and all that . . .

But I had a phenomenal day it turns out, though it started off a bit rocky. At midnight, the night before, my friend David accused me of being 30. "No," I said, "I was born in California. I was not born on the east coast. I have three hours left of my twenties."

The challenge then became how to spend those last three hours. What does one do in the final throes of youth? I decided to finish working on a project that was due the next day, since I really had no other choice. I actually stayed up all night, until 7am, working on it. Happy Birthday.

Then I skipped my Tuesday morning seminar and decided to give myself a birthday nap. I woke up sometime that afternoon and rummaged through a giant ice cream cone-shaped pinata that my mother had sent me the day before, filled with little gifts. When I first received the pinata, I thought it was an empty pinata, and the funny thing is that I was thrilled. I was so excited to be receiving a giant ice cream cone-shaped pinata, even if it was empty. When my mom asked me later that day if I liked the gifts, I had no idea what she was talking about. It seems that turning 30 means you're now easily pleased and amused.

So I searched through the pinata. I was looking for the pin (pictured above) she had sent me. "30 and Thrilling." I was going to wear it and make a parody of myself. I had decided that when in your twenties, it's easy to be sexy. But in your thirties, in the wake of diminished sexiness, you must be funny also. I would try.

That afternoon I attended a lecture by Daniel Boyarin. Boyarin on my birthday. I had been looking forward to this lecture for months, but I could barely keep my eyes open. At the reception afterward, I ate too much and drank too little. My pin was quite the conversation starter. Everyone, mostly women, seemed to feel the need to say the same thing to me: "30 is the new 20" and "Your 30s are the best years of your life." I asked one woman, who was going on and on about how great the 30s are, how old she was. She was 24. "But," she said, "I can't wait to turn 30. I am so jealous that you are 30." Uh, really? She seemed to think that by the time she turns 30 she will have her life figured out.

I am so behind if that was the goal.

But one woman did have a good point when she said, "The year I turned 30 was much better than the year I turned 20. I feel much confident in who I am now than I did when I turned 20." And she was right. I actually feel the same way. I would not trade 30 for 20, though I might trade 30 for, say, 26. My twenties were some of the best, and most horrific, years of my life. I suppose it's good to move on. If only I could keep my 29-year-old body.

But it gets good. After the reception, we decided to go to a place called Stella's for martinis. My first martini as a 30-year-old, pictured below, was ideal -- very cold and extra extra dirty. Lots of people showed up to celebrate, and it was a blast. There was a very loud "Happy Birthday" song, sung by the entire bar (we were the only ones there), that made me happy. Love my new friends. It was actually one of the best birthdays ever, if you can believe it. There is no other group of people I would've rather spent it with. And, as it turns out, Ithaca, NY isn't so bad.

30 is thrilling.

Something I don't often do, but here are a few select photos:

My first martini as a 30-year-old.

My friend Jenny and me. She bought me a birthday lemon drop shot.

Two Levinasians and two Davids.

My friend Mindi and me. She is super cool.

The face of 30: tired and angry.

David and Jenny are two of my favorites. I want to be Local Meat.


Dylan Trigg said...

I share your anxiety. My time is coming. There seems to be an abyss between 29 and 30, which no other age shares. I suspect that beyond our projects and work, there is little else which renders time continuous. Still, best of luck and happy birthday. Dylan.

myshkin2 said...

Your anxiety over turning 30 seems to eclipse (or at least compete with) your anxiety over the Holocaust and theodicy. Levinas would be proud that his followers display such depth.

DSW said...

Happy belated B-Day!

Monica, I share in your anxiety over turning 30. For me it was this past April and I was so completely fraught with fear over the big 3-0 that I didn't tell people, I begged B to NOT have a birthday party for me, and wallowed in self-pity for a good two weeks afterwards. It passed without incident and I realized my fear was caused by insecurities over not accomplishing all that I had planned/hoped to before 30.

In the following weeks, that insecurity became a catalyzing agent for action ... something you don't appear to need. You're a year (or less) away from finishing a Ph.D. - no small feat. I know more people who've started down that path and bailed out than have finished. You've helped plan two extremely successful international conferences; you have several publications; you'll be guest-editing a major literary journal in the near future ... and those are just the things I know about.

And if your academic achievements aren't enough, you're a hottie to boot!

B has told me on numerous occasions how much she admires you and she decided a while back to emulate your work ethic and drive.

I hope you've had fun in Ithaca and be safe on your way back.

Monica said...

Dylan--yeah, I agree, there's something different about the "abyss" between 29 and 30. I wish you luck as you navigate this abyss yourself! And thanks for the b-day wishes . . .

Myshkin2--Have a sense of humor! At a conference last month, Levinas's own daughter told stories of how her father's favorite films were comedies. He loved comedies. One can't philosophize at all times. And if you've read very much of my blog, you'll see that it is, in fact, my anxiety over the Holocaust and notions of G-d that all but dominates my mindset. It is actually difficult not to let that eclipse everything in my life. But I appreciate your perspective . . .

DSW--THANK YOU! You just made my day!!!

tikkunger said...

Happy belated B-Day. Mine was yesterday, i turned 35!

Adam Shprintzen said...


Happy belated! If you are still able to take a lemon drop shop at 30, I don't think you have to worry about getting old too soon.

There is actually something oddly empowering about 30, me thinks. Just a level of comfort in knowing what one wants, and sort of expunging the unnecessary clutter from life. At the least that has been my experience. Certainly that doesn't mean having it all (umm, or much of it for that matter) figured out. But I do feel a little bit closer at least, and most importantly comfortable within my authentic self.

Monica said...

Tikkunger -- Thanks! And happy b-day to you too!

Adam -- I think you are right about the lemon drop shots. Apparently I am doing just fine! And, yes, as it turns out, I would much rather be 30 than 20. 30 feels better in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

I think now that you are 30 you should go for the hot guy with the local meat sticker on (even if he is kissing somebody else)......D