“I was in the fifth grade the first time I thought about turning thirty. My best friend Darcy and I came across a perpetual calendar in the back of the phone book, where you could look up any date in the future, and by using this little grid, determine what the day of the week would be. So we located our birthdays in the following year, mine in May and hers in September. I got Wednesday, a school night. She got a Friday. A small victory, but typical. Darcy was always the lucky one. Her skin tanned more quickly, her hair feathered more easily, and she didn’t need braces. Her moonwalk was superior, as were her cart-wheels and her front handsprings (I couldn’t handspring at all). She had a better sticker collection. More Michael Jackson pins. Forenze sweaters in turquoise, red, and peach (my mother allowed me none – said they were too trendy and expensive). And a pair of fifty-dollar Guess jeans with zippers at the ankles (ditto). Darcy had double-pierced ears and a sibling – even if it was just a brother, it was better than being an only child as I was.
But at least I was a few months older and she would never quite catch up. That’s when I decided to check out my thirtieth birthday – in a year so far away that it sounded like science fiction. It fell on a Sunday, which meant that my dashing husband and I would secure a responsible baby-sitter for our two (possibly three) children on that Saturday evening, dine at a fancy French restaurant with cloth napkins, and stay out past midnight, so technically we would be celebrating on my actual birthday. I would have just won a big case – somehow proven that an innocent man didn’t do it. And my husband would toast me: “To Rachel, my beautiful wife, the mother of my children and the finest lawyer in Indy.” I shared my fantasy with Darcy as we discovered that her thirtieth birthday fell on a Monday. Bummer for her. I watched her purse her lips as she processed this information.
“You know, Rachel, who cares what day of the week we turn thirty?” she said, shrugging a smooth, olive shoulder. “We’ll be old by then. Birthdays don’t matter when you get that old.”
I thought of my parents, who were in their thirties, and their lackluster approach to their own birthdays. My dad had just given my mom a toaster for her birthday because ours broke the week before. The new one toasted four slices at a time instead of just two. It wasn’t much of a gift. But my mom had seemed pleased enough with her new appliance; nowhere did I detect the disappointment that I felt when my Christmas stash didn’t quite meet expectations. So Darcy was probably right. Fun stuff like birthdays wouldn’t matter as much by the time we reached thirty.
The next time I really thought about being thirty was our senior year in high school, when Darcy and I started watching the show Thirty Something together. It wasn’t our favorite we preferred cheerful sit-coms like Who’s the Boss? and Growing Pains – but we watched it anyway. My big problem with Thirty Something was the whiny characters and their depressing issues that they seemed to bring upon themselves. I remember thinking that they should grow up, suck it up. Stop pondering the meaning of life and start making grocery lists. That was back when I thought my teenage years were dragging and my twenties would surely last forever.
Then I reached my twenties. And the early twenties did seem to last forever. When I heard acquaintances a few years older lament the end of their youth, I felt smug, not yet in the danger zone myself. I had plenty of time …”
From Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin.