Every day until August 9, 2017 is a countdown—a solemn countdown until I’m 30 and officially old. In less than a year I’ll be on my way to becoming a boring old man. There’s no living this down in the age of social media.
Thirty looms over us millennials like some invisible clock, ushering in the big Either/OR: couple up, or be that guy who holds out while all his friends find wives and start making babies. I’ve been dreading this event’s arrival like the end of days. The time youth is officially spent—the beginning of the end.
Next August the earth might as well swallow me whole and suck me down to my own personal hell: some hyperactive shit-throwing toddler and a pregnant wife who hates my guts. I can see my 30-something self, barricaded in the bathroom pretending to take a poop—the fruit of my loins banging on the door, the love of my life screaming at me to take out the trash—all while I browse through my iPhone.
There I am, looking at pictures of my 20-something self. I continue swiping—stumbling upon some scandalous pictures of a long-ago fling hidden deep inside my phone. A girl from a night out in Hoboken when I was young and free, a trophy from my bachelor past. Then walking over to the mirror, catching a glimpse of my receding hairline and sprouting belly. My young virile self, conquered by a gelatinous blob that lives for Sunday evening HBO with the wife in the hope that premium cable gets her excited enough to throw me some nookie.
Ok, maybe I’m being melodramatic.
This is merely one possible future—a cynical outlook. Marriage and kids don’t have to be a life sentence. In fact, I’ve heard it said family is one of the most enriching things that can happen to a man. The target of all those drunken nights out in our 20s, whether we’re aware of it or not. The moment a dude lives for more than himself and experiences real happiness.
It’s not a completely unfamiliar idea. I was in love once. Waking up to someone you care about is an amazing feeling—Sunday morning love-making followed by a pancake breakfast is quite possibly the best thing ever. But that was in my mid-twenties when I knew that marriage was in my distant future—somewhere vaguely in my 30s. I found some comfort in my distance to the big 3-0. Time was on my side.
The angst of approaching 30 was triggered this summer down the Jersey Shore. It was early on a Saturday night, and my brother, a friend of ours and a cool couple were hanging out when the topic of where to go came up. My brother and our buddy were dead-set on the bars and clubs of Seaside Heights, made famous on MTV. I could immediately sense The couple’s FMO—fear of missing out.
After I went upstairs, changed into fresh threads, and gelled my hair like a true Jersey boy, I joined everyone for a drink. “While you’re out having a good time, remember this,” the girl announced. “Come Monday you’ll be by yourself watching TV, while we’re happy in each other’s company.” She added that the whole relationship thing came down to having someone to watch TV with after a long day of work. I sensed her playing down their relationship among three dudes, but there was honesty in her voice.
In the end she cut her guy loose and let him go out with the boys. He didn’t last long though, calling it an early night and taking an Uber back to the nest while we all continued to drink. By Sunday morning I was 100 dollars poorer, glamoured into buying drinks from a bartender with a very pretty face wearing a tank-top and super short shorts that barely contained her goods. When Monday arrived I was watching Netflix, a show whose plot I wouldn’t remember come Tuesday. The girl had been right. I felt pretty alone, but then I was overcome by an unexpected feeling.
I don’t envy most couples—even when nursing a hang-over alone in bed with nobody to eat pancakes with. As I transition into a 30-something it’s up to me which path to take, which Either/Or to choose—my fate hasn’t been sealed. I’m a free man. Millennials are obsessed with the dread associated with turning 30. What was never disclosed to me was around this time you start to develop a sense of knowing what the hell you want out of life, and more importantly—how to get it.
It seems all too easy finding yourself tied to a ball and chain, living for TV binges with the other half. That’s the last thing I want. The only thing worse than being alone is to watch yourself slowly fade away in front of some television—a victim of your drive to procreate. But when I think back to the couple there’s no denying that real feeling of contentment you can’t get boozing with your buddies every weekend.
I’ll confess, as much as I resist marriage, a beautiful wife and family have a powerful appeal. Think about it, starting your own little clan with the person you love waking up next to every morning. Nothing can come close to that. But at the same time, I’m starting to believe loneliness isn’t inherently bad. It’s an absence—the natural position you assume while you figure out what you want out of a relationship, and making sure you don’t end up barricaded in your own bathroom.
So, with the countdown to 30 in full effect do I make it a mission to find my other half, or continue on solo and embrace the bachelor life?
I don’t know, but for the first time in my life I feel capable of taking such a question head on. I can’t help but attribute this feeling of assuredness to age—even if I am turning into a boring old man. Maybe 30 isn’t so bad—at least that’s what I’ll be telling myself.
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