Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A New Low Provides the Ultimate High

Over the weekend I was at the New York State Fair, and I paid three dollars to let a carnie guess my age – a game that would reward me with the crappy toy of my choice should he guess wrong by more than two years. He was on a winning streak until I approached him, confident with my new haircut and overall spunky aura that I still might exude a bit of “twenty-something” about me. I stood before him sipping my draft beer from an oversized plastic cup, with a hip cocked to the side to make sure my Le Sportsac fanny pack was on full display (more on that later). He jotted down his guess on a piece of paper and scanned the crowd for feedback on the number. Some onlookers smirked, but I couldn’t tell if it was because the number was too high or too low.

Then he presented it to me. 27. (Insert ultimate party of the soul here).

Maybe it was the Saranac buzz I had going on, or the fact that I’d just eaten a deep-fried Oreo cookie, but seeing any number that began with a “2” was good enough. The fact that he guessed 27 was particularly exciting.

Twenty-seven was the year I met my ex-fiancé, the year that I believed all of the stress and pain of investing in terrible relationships would come to an end because I’d finally met “the one.” Two and a half years later, it broke my heart to realize that despite how much we cared for each other, it just wasn’t working. With six months to go until I hit 30, I fought with myself to remain positive that turning 30 and being newly single on the heels of a broken engagement was no big deal. Obviously this blog proves that it’s not always easy to be positive about matters of the heart and one’s life plan.

Thirty hasn’t turned out to be as awful as I was anticipating. Everyone told me that this important third decade of your life is the time when people would start to accept you as a true grown-up. One became a vessel of smart decisions armed with a “cut the crap” attitude that ensured a more fulfilling life. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it does seem that this year has been one of particular growth for me in terms of career and personal relationships. I’m growing out of the girl I’m used to being and into the woman I’ve always wanted to become.

The idea that I am somehow 27 again is very liberating (even if only in the mind of a bull-shitting con artist hawking his hut of tsotchkes). I felt like I was getting a do-over, like I really was 27 and spending a day at the fair with a new man, in a new relationship. I don’t regret that I spent two and-a-half years with my ex-fiancé only to call it quits before the ultimate commitment, but I do feel bitter at times that I still haven’t gotten it right by the age of 30. Who doesn’t look back and consider other avenues in hindsight? Who doesn’t say “What if?”

Some days I think that turning back the clock and making better decisions is exactly what I need, even though that’s impossible and I am who I am today because of the decisions I’ve made – good and bad.

Proud of my newfound “youth,” I fastened my prize – a hot pink Koosh ball – to the belt of my fanny pack and proceeded to sashay myself around the fair with my plastic trophy on full display.

Let me expand on the matter of the fanny pack.

The New York State Fair is not the first place one thinks of when fashion comes to mind. Not good fashion, anyway. Enter through the welcome gates and behold the cornucopia of naked beer guts, feathered bangs, bedazzled Tweety-bird shirts, and “those should only be worn in your living room” sweatpants. It is for this reason that I have no qualms about donning the fanny pack when I go to the fair. It’s not that I see myself suddenly fitting into a world of fashion “No’s” – it’s more like Halloween. Sometimes it’s fun to dress the way you shouldn’t. I’ve simply opted for a fanny pack rather than neon pink thigh-highs (yes, I own a pair).

It isn’t a normal fanny pack, either. Think Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City) circa Season 4 wearing the Gucci logo belt bag (aka designer fanny pack). It is a fashionable way for women who need free hands to tote their things around without having to worry about the slipping strap of a purse upon the shoulder, or the “I’m about to get on a school bus” backpack. I should mention that the only time I feel this need for freed up hands is when I know I will be embarking on a day of drinking. But I digress.

In the case of the New York State Fair, I always have one hand occupied by a wine slushy or a beer, but the other is frequently ushering fried goods to my mouth. Who needs the hassle of managing a bag in the middle of all that?

By 9:30PM that evening, I was starting to feel my twenties slip away and reality was setting in…intoxicated at 30 comes with certain symptoms that I simply don’t recall from the previous decade. For starters, I was getting tired – and I was beginning to envy the people wearing their sweatpants while I continued to parade around in uncomfortable shoes and tight jeans. The fried food-a-thon that was making its way through my system in a tide of Sangria-infused Budweiser was also not feeling so great. At 27 I might have been looking for the next cab downtown to continue carrying on into the wee hours of the morning. At 30 I was jonesing for my Clarin’s Brightening Night Cream.

Before the end of the night, I decided that the Koosh ball would not be coming home with me. Though I’m amused with the idea of going back in time, I didn’t find it compelling enough to bring home a mushy piece of plastic that by that point had to have been crawling with germs. I removed it from my belt bag and handed it to the wise-cracking motorcycle man who was checking IDs at the beer tent by the Dinosaur BBQ (a popular biker bar serving food at the fair). He took the Koosh in his hands and gave it a little squeeze.

“Yep, I’ve hooked up with her already,” he said with a chuckle through his graying, unkempt beard. He tossed the ball to his friend, working the next line over. “Here, play with that!” he shouted to the man – another leather-clad dude with a tapestry of tattoos on his arm. One squeeze, and he hurled it back in our direction.

“This will be hours of fun,” he said, and I made my way past him to get one more drink…my second run at 27 now reduced to a single boob in the hands of a biker in the beer line.

The next morning I woke up with a headache and a craving for healthy food. Stripped of my fanny pack and plastic trophy, I was back to my usual self again – 30 and fabulous, and ready for a Sunday of domestic bliss. Some quality time with my boyfriend, a Swiffer, a home-cooked meal and a foreign film were just what the doctor ordered. Gallivanting about in a fanny pack with a time-machine Koosh ball and a beer could never match the high of being happy with who you are in the moment.

1 comment:

Clever Elsie said...

I think I started outgrowing alcohol by my mid-twenties. Up till then, I could sling back shot after shot and not have even the trace of a hangover the next day. Then, one night when I was 23, that all changed. I stumbled through the front door and couldn't make it to the bathroom before I lost the contents of my dinner. I thought that was a one-time thing, but I started noticing that it was harder and harder to hold my liquor. By the time I was 27, one drink was enough to get me buzzed. Now, at 30, I mostly try to avoid alcohol. Maybe I'll have half a glass of wine with dinner, but that's about it. No regrets about that; I'm sure my liver thanks me.