Aside from the rhinestone studded kitty ears headband trend it spawned, the best part about Taylor Swift’s “22” was the College Humor parody it inspired about life a decade later. Entitled “32,” the spoof gets pretty much everything right. (As a 32-year-old, I can attest to that.) But it also misses some important stuff.
I was lucky to be raised by a woman who has always emphasized the many benefits of growing older and wiser (e.g. the relief that comes with caring less and less about your personal appearance), so I’ve never been hung up on age. When my girlfriends started fretting over the inevitability of turning 30, I can honestly say I couldn’t relate. Why should one birthday be more significant than any other? You’ll never be as young as you are today, after all!
Regardless of your attitude towards aging, it’s something we all experience every second of every day. And while some of the ways in which life gradually changes seem wonderful when viewed through the right rose-tinted lens, it would be disingenuous to try to spin growing older as a purely joyful reality. So after reflecting on the younger, quarter-life-crisis version of myself, it’s with a mix of amusement, exasperation, and nostalgia that I present the following list of the top ways in which life changes, evolves, or disintegrates, depending upon your viewpoint, by age 32.
1. You’re more likely to exchange recipes than swap walk-of-shame stories. (No joke: While writing this piece I received a recipe exchange invitation email from one of my closest childhood friends. It was the third such email I’ve received in the last six months and each one manages to make me a little sadder.)
2. The “going out” section of your closet no longer exists. Where stilettos once lived, there are numerous pairs of ballet flats. Subconsciously, you’ve started heeding the day-to-night tips lady mags love to push so you can transform office gear into happy hour/dinner date appropriate outfits.
3. You see your closest friends a lot less often, and the lead-time before hangout requests has gradually stretched from two days to two weeks to two months. Sometimes, friends will even send you a calendar request in advance of your scheduled social appointment.
4. When you meet someone new, your first thought is to assess whether there’s enough room left on your friend bus to accommodate him or her. Usually, the answer will be “no.” But if the new acquaintance happens to be exceptionally awesome (and/or potentially beneficial from a career standpoint), you’ll start thinking about who you can kick onto the roof to make room for them. Free time is a precious commodity, and not the time you have to burn between classes.
5. You’re more likely to drink daily in moderation (usually from the comfort of your own home, maybe even alone) instead of taking the weekend warrior approach to socializing.
6. Though more financially secure, you choose to suck it up and take public transportation instead of taxis way more often than you used to.
7. The purpose behind the whole 401K thing your employer offers no longer sounds ridiculously far off and unworthy of your attention.
8. Your approach to skincare is more proactive than reactive—by necessity. That means regularly staring at your pores and playing crystal ball with your face about where a zit might pop up next because when it does, it’ll be vicious. In the same vein, over-priced preventative eye creams no longer seem like a needless expense.
9. You have a batch of tactics to avoid washing your hair (e.g. braids, headwraps, and hats), and it really weirds you out to consider the time in your life when you were motivated to shower twice a day (once in the morning, and once before going out for the night).
10. You book dentist appointments willingly, and when you report that you’ve been flossing three times a week, it’s less likely to be an outright lie.
11. Exercising regularly is still about vanity, but only in part. You’re also thinking about stuff like cholesterol levels and the health of your essential organs.
12. There’s far less tension between you and your parents since you’ve slowly come to understand and appreciate how trying adulthood—and especially parenthood—can be. (Even if you don’t have kids yet, a few of your friends are statistically bound to by now so you’ll get a secondhand glimpse.)
13. Your menstrual cycle is no longer just a pain in the ass, but an unbearably painful monthly trial. If you haven’t cried during How I Made My Millions yet, you haven’t hit 32.
14. Surprise to the upside: Unless you’re a moron, sex is at least ten times better.