Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Woman in her Thirties is Change We Can Believe In

I was working in hi-tech in my early twenties, right about the period in every woman's life when all her friends are getting married. I wasn't. In fact, I had just gone through a break up of epic and soul-crushing proportions. I was not in any mood to discuss font options for stationary, and yet every day my cubicle was filled with color swatches and the sound of giggling young women on the phone with the florist during their lunch break.

One day I got into a conversation with J, a middle-aged man who worked on the same account I was on. He let it slip that his girlfriend was moving in with him that weekend, and the sarcasm practically burst from my lips.

'Don't tell me. You're going to cover the bed in rose petals and when she comes into the room you'll be down on one knee.' He shook his head. 'Wait, I know. You're going to make dinner for her and slip the ring into her champagne glass. Really. Tell me all about it.' He laughed.

'I'm not going to marry her,' he said. 'I've been married once before, and I won't do it again.' He didn't say it in that my-life-experience-is-much-more-significant-than-yours kind of way, he said it genuinely. When I asked him why he said simply, 'Because people change.'

'Yeah,' I thought. So true. People do change.

Recently K and I were discovered online by an old... acquaintance from high school. She sent us both email messages that easily could have been written when we were still sixteen. The only difference in her drama was the height of her bangs and the age of her children.

'She hasn't changed a bit,' K and I remarked. 'She is exactly the same.'

'Yeah,' I thought. So true. People never change.

This weekend at K's baby shower, I found myself reflecting on this very conundrum. As she opened gifts including something called a 'nipple brush' (scary), I found myself going back to when things were different. It's amazing how quickly the mind can make a movie of your relationship with a person, replaying each event in a way that makes it feel like it was both yesterday and three thousand years ago. It's hard not to look at your life as pictures of a scrapbook rather than steps on a journey. But I think that's what it is.

As far and wide as our journeys have taken us, a woman in her thirties is comforted by the fact that things change. Douchy boyfriends get kicked to the curb (eventually), people grow out of the need to impress people using a beer bong, expectations of life become more realistic and less self-serving.

Yet, as far and wide as our journeys have taken us, a woman in her thirties is comforted by the fact that things don't change. I know with whom I can share my secrets. I have an immovable home base, no matter where I go. And, while I have thrown a retirement party for light beer in a can, some of my girls will remain faithful. We can have our separate drinks and toast to the same changing future.

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