In terms of “big birthdays” — milestones that are collectively designated as meaningful in the form of a number — we don’t mention 25 enough. Twenty-five is a quarter of 100, a century. The year that totters between decades of time-honored youth and projected maturity, pushing you into a whole other demographic in the eyes of marketers and abruptly granting you permission to rent a car in any state.
25 is major.
As someone who was recently forced through the age’s doorway herself, I’ve had no choice but to accept certain indisputable laws of time and gravity that come along. And it is these moments with their past expiration dates that have shifted my perspective and reminded me I’m far from ageless:
My life-long dream of becoming the unexpected star of an urban high school drumline is never going to happen, no matter how vividly or often I imagine this scenario: I walk onto the basketball court, tenor drums along my hips, toward the table of audition judges. They exchange glances and smirks, even a nudge or two, as if to say Oh, this is gonna be good. The handsome percussion leader, Antoine, says, “What you got?” I cough in a moment of panic then begin. My eyes close and the air fills with the sounds of a young Nick Canon meets Sleigh Bells (only Treats). All three of their jaws drop and their shoulders involuntarily bop along. One of them whispers, “Girl’s got nasty skills.”
There is an unwritten decree that as a 25-year-old, I am no longer allowed to attend a dubstep show. It’s the first music genre I’ve ever encountered that has made me feel old and say things like, “How do you expect me to dance to this?” or “Why are my insides vibrating?” The sounds of crashing machinery, the seizure-inducing lights and the half-naked children putting mysteries on their tongues all make me dizzy. I don’t know much about these Basshoney and Shrillex boys, but I hope they are drinking plenty of fluids.
I am too old to make out with someone in college, even a fifth year. I don’t care how impressive his beard is or how frequently he reads Paul Krugman’s column — this really just shouldn’t happen. It’s not even a matter of age difference at this point; it’s about place in life. I started a 401K earlier this year, all right? You slept with a halo of spilled Flamin’ Hots around your head last night, and I… well, I may have too, but I’m going to wash my sheets first thing in the morning, believe that.
I can’t act like my parents aren’t two of the coolest people I know and that I don’t actually enjoy hanging out with them anymore. Seriously, they’re really dope. They pursue interesting creative endeavors, read important books, make interesting friends and, for the most part, have good taste. My mom is not just someone to comfort me when I get upset about a guy, and my dad is not only on my speed dial for when I’m filling out a W-4. I’d like to say that they’ve grown into the kinds of people that, as a young adult, are worth spending time with, but the truth is they haven’t become anything — it’s me who’s changed.
If I go to Forever 21, it must be done quickly and possibly wearing some kind of hat/sunglasses/mustache combination. You know what really makes you not feel 21 anymore? Entering a store whose name serves as a constant reminder you’re no longer the age of the spirit it suggests you exude. It also doesn’t help when you’re browsing floral jumpers next to a metal mouth loudly describing the over-the-shirt action she received from a sweaty kid named Brandon the night before.
Getting stupid messed up is not that cool anymore and it comes at a cost. Weekend nights that begin in decadence and debauchery now end with mornings of unmet promises to friends and bruises discovered in the shower. The empty calories and unforgiving gas of 3 a.m. Mexican food I don’t even remember eating taunt me, along with the fact that I have no idea what happened to those three 20s in my wallet earlier in the night. Dear god, how many tacos did I order?
Being healthy is more than about looking halfway decent in a two-piece. Maybe eating well, exercising and taking care of my skin will lead to a longer, better life or some shit like that. This is a new concept for me — making decisions based on the long term. Things like avoiding cigarettes because they’re actually poisonous, not because they make my hair smell bad. Or wearing sunscreen because a burn that will turn into a tan is not worth the damage in 20 years. Lately I find myself replaying what I’ve eaten that day not to watch my calorie intake, but to make sure I’ve had enough roughage to, you know, stay regular.
I must face the fact that they’re coming. The marriage proposals and the weddings and the babies are coming, and they’re not slowing down for anyone. Fortunately none of my close friends have walked down these paths yet, but there are enough people on my social periphery to furrow my brows. The way I see it, the next five years are meant for carving careers, figuring out what you truly want in a partner and having some adventures. So with bewilderment — and perhaps a tinge of anxiety that I’m in fact the weird one for not wanting any of this yet — I click through photo albums of engagement rings and little toothless smiles and watch as those around me “settle down.”