I used to wonder why so many women I admired in pop culture always felt the need to infantalize themselves. Wasn’t the entire point of a feminist, self-assured stance to not strive toward youth? To be comfortable in one’s skin regardless of age? But now, I get it. There is nothing worse than reaching the over thirty point. It all becomes too real. Between the fear of life and death, it’s all you can do to find time for your Botox injections. And yes, there are numerous people, both men and women, who will tell you that the “richest,” “most fulfilling” years of their lives didn’t come until they had the “maturity” of old age to get that high-paying job and those Aryan children. They are conveniently blocking out the suppleness of their skin and the carefreeness of falling back on the “But I’m still in my twenties” excuse for always fucking up.
I thought I would be fine with the aging process. Until my twenty-ninth birthday descended upon me. While I had no friends worth shaking a stick at as none of them ever actually remembered the exact date of my birthday, I at least had a boyfriend–one I had been “seeing” for about six months, and who I had met amid the baguettes section of the Whole Foods on the Lower East Side. I still don’t know if it was in spite of or because of my Geena Davis in Beetlejuice look that he asked me out. And this was the other bizarre part of one’s latter twenties and early thirties: the concept of actually going out with someone and not just fucking them. My flight or fuck response was suddenly conditioned out of me, as though I was subconsciously protecting my vag from STDs that could harm the baby I would never have.
Alexander was thirty-two years old. The only thing I liked more than the fact that he was older than me was that he didn’t go by Alex. He worked in marketing, which was as banal as working in finance, but he didn’t talk about his job, thereby adding to his cachet. When he asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate my impending infertility, I came up with the aged person’s stock answer of going out to dinner somewhere overpriced in the West Village. At the last minute, however, I made him cancel the reservation and told him I wanted to go to Top of the Standard, the very literal name of the club at the top of the Standard Hotel. It was there, I decided, that I could reclaim my youth among the affluent European zygotes.
I put on a black lace cocktail dress, a bolero jacket and heeled boots. Surely, this look was nondescript yet stylish enough not to give away my out of touchness with fashion. When Alexander rang the doorbell, he said simply, “Happy birthday, Samantha.” It gave me a brief chill as I flashed to that scene at the end of Sixteen Candles. He handed me a small box and briefly nuzzled the side of my head.
I poured us both some red wine and raised my glass to him. He insisted, “Open your present.”
I smiled and proceeded to delicately open the packaging the way a poised, grown up woman is supposed to do. When I saw the aquamarine stone necklace framed in diamonds, I felt like a cliche material bitch. This is what Alexander thought to give me because we were both living in New York and of a certain age. Jewelry was what you gave to a woman you wanted to secure, sentimental gifts were what you naively gave to a girl you liked having sex with consistently.
I wiped the expression of mild disgust off of my face and put the necklace on with a gracious air. “This is too much Alexander, really.”
He beamed, “It’s your first piece of ‘old woman’ jewelry.”
I forced a giggle and took another sip of wine.
At The Standard, the scene was just as I had expected. I moved my body to the dance floor while Alexander went to the bar to buy fifty million dollar drinks. What he didn’t know, however, was that I felt inclined to put some ecstasy in my wine. If I had to turn twenty-nine, I could at least do it while only vaguely aware.
Its effects began to kick in when someone with a man’s silhouette (all shapes are inviting when you have the lens of MDMA) started rubbing against me. I took this to mean I should make out with him. After twenty minutes with no sign of Alexander, I took making out to mean we should go to the corner booth where I then sat on his lap, pulled up my dress slightly and let him subtly penetrate me. So much for the de-conditioning of my flight or fuck response. It was, of course, in that moment of elated abandon that Alexander returned with two dirty martinis.
I don’t really know where Alexander went after that, or where I did, for that matter. And I’ll still never know who the silhouette was. Whatever happened, I woke up twenty-nine. I woke up wanting to regress, to dress myself in Lolita’s heart-shaped glasses and a giant bonnet with a lollipop prop. It was all getting away from me. But if I comported myself in a certain way, maybe it wouldn’t.