1. Because we suddenly have all this money to pay back.
Back when we were just taking out student loans with impunity and saying, “Mmm, don’t mind if I do!” to every misguided credit card offer that came in the mail the second we turned 18, life was smooth. You need a new couch? Work is for suckers, go get some fake money from the bank and then throw it at the sales guy like a stripper and be like “A gold-plated loveseat, sir, and chop chop — my Bugatti is double-parked.” Or, at least, that’s how it was for me and my friends. How we managed to go several years feeling flush with make-believe cash all the time and not fully realize that one day, a bunch of frowny-face men in suits were going to want to get it back, is beyond me. I think we just imagined that money rained from the sky à la Skittles every so often and we just had to hold our pockets open to get it. Little did we know that, four years later, we would be essentially changing our voicemail to, “I don’t have any more god damn money, why don’t you just come to my house and take the fillings out of my mouth? I’m sorry, banks, I’M SORRY.” Nothing makes you feel like youth is over more than overdue notices.
2. Because our friends are getting married/having kids.
A friend of mine has an old friend from college who was the coolest guy ever, of whom every other guy in the school was extremely jealous, who just embodied awesome. Do you know what that guy is doing now? Getting a one-a-day public Facebook post from his fiancée counting down to their nuptials. She writes things along the lines of “Only x more days until I’m Mrs. So-and-So. Can’t wait to marry my best friend ever — hi future hubby!!!!” (which she then proceeds to like) once a day, on his wall, in front of all of his friends. Just the other day, she posted a picture of a gallon of milk with the same expiration date as their upcoming wedding, as some sort of sign that the day was close. Yeah, the expiration date. And while this is fodder for us all to laugh at, at their expense (and don’t you dare judge me, what the hell is a grown woman doing writing that on a grown man’s wall?), there is a slightly depressing edge to it because you realize that, like dominos, your friends and incredibly lame acquaintances are falling, one by one, into the “grown-up and paired-off” category, and soon you will be the sad one for not having participated. You realize that people who were huge parts of your life are fading away to humiliate themselves on social media and then sort of retreat from society — and you can’t fault them. If it makes them happy, that’s awesome, but it doesn’t soften the blow of you never getting to see them again.
3. Because our relatives are asking invasive questions.
This goes hand-in-hand with the waves of friends settling down, and it only adds insult to injury. Suddenly, the aunts and grandmothers who were once concerned about where you were going to go for summer vacation and how you were going to spend your graduation money are now asking with more than a little desperation in their voices when you’re going to join the ranks of adults yourself. Are you seeing anyone? Do you have a job? What do you do? Do you have your own apartment? Are you going out a lot? No amount of lightness in the voice could ever mask the amount of weight behind these extremely uncomfortable questions — to which there is only one right answer. You are either doing things the “grown-up” way, or you’re still “messing around.” There are only so many times you can go to family holidays alone, or keep working in that restaurant, before their anticipation and judgment just becomes a kind of resignation about your life. The worst may still be when the questions stop altogether — when they know that the answer won’t be what they want and that, even if you’re happy with your life, you haven’t “succeeded.” Man, f-ck relatives. Coming around twice a year just to judge you, we don’t need them.
4. Because we don’t “get it.”
I have both the blessing and the curse of having a 16-year-old sister, and can safely say that 90 percent of what she talks is completely foreign to me, and I just kind of nod along as she goes off about this amazing new group/song/show/internet thing that I’ve never heard of. I then seek it out on my own, and realize there are veritable universes of pop culture that I am completely oblivious to, and which speak to me in absolutely no way. I have watched young people things over the past few years, like Fred, or Charlie Is So Cool Like, or Skrillex, and I just kind of stare, slack-jawed at the computer while I think to myself, “I cannot possibly have aged out of the relevant bracket this quickly, could I?” I mean, to be fair, I love One Direction — but I feel deeply guilty about it, and every time I see them, I think how they just barely make the cut for my love of them not to be mental statutory rape. You just watch them and you’re like “Oh, my God, those little boys are just so cute,” and then you stop yourself mid-sentence and want to go take a scalding shower. It’s unsettling, and I feel lost, confused, and in need of a blanket and some Backstreet Boys. (By the way, speaking of which, Howie aged like a bottle of fine, fine wine. Google it.)
5. Because our friends are starting to have bomb-ass apartments.
There is this phase that all twenty-somethings pass through (albeit at different times) in which they suddenly get a “real person” apartment and they decorate it with a bunch of inoffensive beige sh-t from IKEA, and they have a stack of fancy magazines, an intimidating bookshelf, and a legitimate entertainment setup. You walk into their place and there’s candles, and an espresso machine, and throw pillows, and they’re just like “Let me grab some of these beautiful stemless wine glasses so we can open up a bottle of red and talk about our office jobs on my couch,” and you’re like, holy f-ck, I am an adult now. At some point, you were teleported into a rom-com in which you are supposed to have actual apartments, with like, mahogany, and video game consoles that you never have time to use, and coordinated kitchen appliances. How are you going to bring people back to your place now and be like, “So I have three chairs and, umm, a couple of milk carts we can stack up to make a fourth one for dinner. Also, the dinner table’s an old door. And dinner is Ramen.” You can’t. You have to step your apartment game up, and quickly. You have to be an adult, too. To IKEA!
6. Because we can’t party like we used to.
There comes a point in all of our twenties when we’re looking for a cab on the street as the birds are chirping, the sun is coming up, and one of your friends is peeing on the corner and you’re just like, “I am too old for this sh-t.” It essentially sounds like all of the birds are laughing at you simultaneously, and you already have a hangover before you even go to bed, and you know you’re going to feel like a corpse for the next few days. Your body just can’t do it the same way anymore, and drinking/dancing in such a way is just essentially kicking it while it’s down. We will eventually have to come to terms with our decreasing elasticity and start scaling back, but somehow do it without becoming the enormous wet blanket who goes home at 11 p.m. after 2.5 beers and talks about how they want to get a lot done tomorrow even though it’s Saturday. Yeah, you don’t want to be that guy, but you have to find a middle ground. Though, let’s be honest, we might never get rid of those occasional white boy wasted evenings. At least, not for now. We just have to scale them back. Please.
7. Because we’re enormous narcissists.
Let’s be honest for a second, we know we’re not old. We know that the only reason it’s okay to even say this is because we’re the opposite of old. We know that there aren’t any actual senior citizens who go on for hours about how decrepit they are, because that would be uncomfortable, because that’s actually true. We’re just the generational equivalent of the thin girl who goes on endlessly about how fat she is just to reaffirm that she is, in fact, quite svelte. It’s hard not to feel old, of course, when you live in a minute-by-minute culture that gets tired of things almost as quickly as they became obsessed with them, that’s natural. But if we step off the internet for five seconds, it’s clear that we’re in the beginning of our real lives, and that everything is open and new for us — that we’ll never have this again. It’s fun to tease ourselves for being out of touch every now and again, but I hope we’re all self-aware enough to accept that being a twenty-something is, in fact, disgustingly young. Now let’s go celebrate.