Let’s get something straight: I have no wish to be 21 again. Not if this would entail actually being 21 again, with the same lack of maturity, dearth of self-esteem, stacks of unpaid bills, cornucopia of bad boyfriends, countless cigarette-tinged hangovers, and overarching anxiety that I would never meet the right guy, never become a professional writer, and never, ever be able to make the rent on time.
However, these days I’m admittedly wistful. Because while my life turned out OK—more than OK, in fact; it turned out pretty great—I can’t help but wonder if the best stuff is behind me.
Because, damn, I did have fun, didn’t I?
Everything is settled now. A respectable if not brilliant CV. An excellent husband and two awesome children. A sweet house with a white-and-stainless-steel kitchen. A neurotic dog. But here’s what’s gnawing at me, by the numbers:
1. The idea of my upcoming high school reunion makes me feel a little sick. Thirty years? How is this possible? It’s not just the parade of pimply people from my past that haunts me, it’s how long ago I knew them. It’s the realization that The Replacements are now considered a retro act, like The Beatles or The Supremes were to us Gen X’ers back in the day. It’s that ’80s apparel has already made more than one comeback. And that my days of bad perms and asymmetrical haircuts are to be pulled out of the drawer and relived once again. (Thank God I graduated in 1985, a decade before tortuous online documentation became de rigueur.)
2. I finally joined Twitter because an editor “strongly encouraged” me do so. Speaking of the Internet, why does everyone suddenly need an audience to cultivate and manage? Why are we chasing followers, the great majority of of them strangers? At least Facebook is a network of “friends,” however loosely defined, to swap photos and trade witty remarks with, maybe get a little feedback—the equivalent of heading down to the student union to check out who’s hanging out at the rathskeller. Twitter is an all-out campaign to court fans and fame or, worse, notoriety. To be “favorited” or RT’d and validated and/or degraded by the masses, most of them enraged trolls. It makes me queasy. It makes me feel positively ancient. #IHateTwitter
3. I watch Girls and often feel a little, um, jealous. Am I the only fortysomething woman who watches this series with a combination of disgust and envy? Feelings of rampant annoyance over these characters has been well documented. But Shoshanna’s quirky spunk, Marnie’s hot lays, Hannah’s self-involved trek toward artistry, and, most important, Jessa’s amazing abundance of hair—coupled with their absolute freedom to fuck up—leave me reliving my own salad days in Manhattan. (Of course, I never had Jessa’s excellent tresses. I was always growing out that bad perm.)
4. I secretly consume John Green novels. You know something’s up when your precocious 11-year-old daughter, the same one who voraciously inhales books far too advanced for her age, is fighting you over the same dog-eared copy of The Fault in Our Stars—and you’re the one left sobbing by its life-and-death ending. Her droll response? “It’s not that sad, Mom.” In other words: Grow up, would you?
5. I hide stashes of Bazooka and Blow Pops in the back of my kitchen cupboards. I joke with my husband—who is a huge Sopranos fan and still watches the show in repeats, season after season, On Demand—that I’m pulling a “Ginny Sack,” whose character hid large bags of chocolate treats in the laundry room to quell her not-so-secret sugar attacks. While I’m fit and mostly healthy, I indulge in these toxic sweets exactly as I did when I was 7, 17, and yes, 27. Meaning, I partake of them at every opportunity. I can’t quit you, candy. Certainly not just because I’m a full-blown adult now.
6. I regret not knowing my own power when I was 25. Or 28. Or even 30. Only now do I realize how much power I once wielded as a younger woman. Media, my industry, is made and run by the young. The few who make a career of it well into middle age are terrified of all the upstarts and their dewy-faced enthusiasm. Why did I spend a moment battling feelings of insecurity? Why was I so damn polite?
7. I recently started snoring like a freight train. My grandmother sounded like an incoming locomotive when she hit the deepest gears of sleep. My mother, too, continues to blow out the eardrums of houseguests and shatter the occasional windowpane in the wee hours of the night with her own deafening in- and exhalations. I thought I’d escaped this clattering fate due to my aforementioned dedication to fitness and eating (mostly) right, but last night my husband woke me up three times—three times!—for being such a noisy old windbag. Shit. It’s all over now.