Saturday, January 8, 2011

Before and after 30

I received so many nice comments and notes about my last post (not the veg one, the one before, the one about life) that I thought I ought to come clean regarding its impetus. Basically, it came about because of a little mental breakdown I had last Monday.

I turn 30 in less than two months.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!! she cries, frantically trying to hide her 6 grey hairs (3 more than last year) while desperately examining her eyes for faint lines and the start of wrinkles.

I know. I know that the world doesn't end when you turn 30. My friends who've already taken the plunge say its better than your 20s! One in particular calls it the decade of decadence! Apparently I'll actually be a woman! And I'll feel more confident and self assured and life will be GREAT!

Hey, I'm down with that. And actually really looking forward to it.

My freakout actually was more about 30th birthday PARTY. Specifically, who would and wouldn't be there.

In my perfect world, all of my peoples in the US would magic themselves to London and all of my peoples from this side of the pond would magically all be available and have babysitters and plus-ones and disposable income and we'd tear up the town and party til the break of dawn and I would be skinny wearing an amazing dress with high heels that I could dance in for hours and my hair would be perfect and I'd be tipsy drunk but not sloppy and hey while I'm at it a limo would be there for the night to take me and said peoples to all of the party spots we want to go to.

Back to reality: Two glasses of champagne insures unruly behavior. Heels don't actually allow me to comfortably enjoy an evening on the dance floor. I barely go out on the town, so while I'd love to go out I wouldn't have the faintest idea of where to actually go. And now for the worst part - who would come? My American friends can't, and shouldn't, fly over here for a weekend. Most of my friends here are either married and living out of London with newborns or are good friends that I spend time with, in couple-y situations, but not as besties. Basically, at that moment I was mostly upset that 30 was a big glaring light illuminating the fact that I don't have close friends here like I have in the US. And that felt like a failure.

The Irishman, ever the sweetest gentleman, suggested that, if I were this upset about not having my American peeps with me on my birthday, perhaps I should go to them - ie, flying to New York for a 30th birthday vacation. When Virgin announced their fare sales, it really did seem like a possibility. But something was stopping me from clicking BUY NOW for the tickets. I discussed this situation with my friend Kat who, ever pragmatic (she is a Taurus after all), gently suggested that maybe I had to shift my expectations of what my 30th birthday should be. I thought about that for a while, and realized that she was right.

Rah rah partying and dancing might have been a total option for my 30th birthday had I stayed in New York, and it would have been BALLIN'. But I didn't stay in New York. Instead, I moved to London and fell in love with a lovely man who just happens to be 5.5 years my senior and therefore at a different lifestage than me. We are old souls whose idea of a night out is more of the wine drinking variety, rather than raging. While I do every so often miss putting on a sparkly top and bouncing to Rihanna, I have to accept that at this point in my life I actually don't want to go for it all too often. AND THAT'S OKAY. It may be what I want to do for a big milestone birthday, but if it can't happen because I don't have the people around me to go for it, well, that's just life. MY life. Who knows - maybe 35 will be a bitching dance-on-the-tables-at-the-club event. But it's not going to happen this year and secretly I think I am more relieved than disappointed.

The part about close friends around me? That, I realized, isn't true either. What is true is that my friends in London are different than my American friends: I don't have anyone here like my friend Rietje, with whom I speak another language of design, boys, and giggles, or my friend Sloane, who sees all of my faults but thinks I'm okay anyway. But I DO have more than a handful of warm, funny, endearing and sweet boys and girls I call my friends here in London. I am not alone, nor a failure. I have to accept, however, that as I age and as life slides through different stages, friendships will be made in many different forms. It's not because I'm American, not because I'm different, but because this is how life works.

So I decided to embrace my birthday party in the same way that I've embraced my age. I'm going to be 30 and I live in London so that is where I shall celebrate. I want the people I care about most in this country around me, so I've chosen to plan a big meal on the day before my birthday at a child-friendly place so that more of those mommy-and-daddy friends can join me. I'm going to get a sparkly dress, alright, and maybe some beautiful heels as well (at a restaurant, I can sit down) and I will definitely drink champagne. And I will sit with my peoples, and laugh, and smile, and think about how far I've come in the last 30 years, and hope that all of those people around me on that night will be in my life for the next 30 years.

It's not going to be epic, but it's definitely going to be perfect.


  1. Loved this. The whole "my real friends are all in the US" thought has been plaguing me lately, too. But I think you're right - it's just way too easy to compare your life in England to your life back home and unfairly label *differences* as *weaknesses* I too have good people in London I consider friends - they are not the same as my friends back home - but they're still friends, and it would be a shame to not realize that, just because the friendship is different and newer.

    It's nice to know I'm not the only one struggling with some of these issues - and helpful to hear your thoughts!

  2. Anything you do for your birthday will be memorable and that's what you want! I totally get where you are coming from and it's not a fun struggle but whatever the outcome is I'm sure it will be a fun one. My birthday is in April and I could either go home to NY or travel. I can't decide! All in all, I could have a little celebration the next time I'm in NY if I really wanted to. Keep smiling. Birthdays are matter where! =)

  3. Thanks for the support, guys. I think that the "friends" dilemma is hard for every expat but it's probably the biggest taboo blogging topic. Three years in, you're still wondering if you should do more to meet people or be more social or etc etc etc. Big milestones like 30 are hard because you revert right back to old ways of thinking. I'm glad people think this post is helpful!

  4. I'm in the same boat, D. Good to hear others are as well. It's a weird situation that is hard for anyone to grasp unless they have experienced it themselves. You're totally right, it's all about adjusting expectations whether they are expectations around your friends or whether you're coming to terms with the fact that your future "dream house" may end up being a semi-detached at the end of the 243 bus line. :-)