Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New Decade, New Blog.

I read somewhere that your twenties were all about messing up and that your thirties were the years when you started to get your act together. This was never something I subscribed to having graduated from college at 22 with a job in advertising already lined up for me. I was convinced that I already had my act together and that this particular "pearl of wisdom" was for the lazier, party-time minded crop of twenty-somethings that weren't mapping out the milestones of their adult lives the way I had been doing since I was 16.

I'm now 29, just a little over a month away from my 30th birthday. In the wake of my arrival to this all-important third decade of my life, I have left a job in advertising working on a major salad dressing account; completed internships in publishing akin to The Devil Wears Prada (I thought I was done with advertising and wanted to be a writer instead); acquired an entry-level editorial job at a Hasidic Jewish publishing company where I wrote about blood diamonds and the brilliant cut; moved out of the city for a small-town publishing job where I worked for a pair of dysfunctional, lesbian psychos and wrote about forklifts; and then finally took up a stint in the family business where I realized there was no way I could work with my father in a professional capacity. I now work at an advertising agency (ironic) where I love my job and can picture myself staying put for the first time in my professional life.

Peppered amid my circus of work experience, were several dead-end relationships including a string of first dates with a member of the IRA, a long-term relationship with a computer hacker, an on-again/off-again relationship with a pot-smoking personal trainer who lived with his mom, and brief relationships with one guy from every faction of the American military minus the Airforce and the Navy. I've dated engineers and artists, Europeans and best friends. As if all of that wasn't enough, I also made it through two years with a wonderful man I was ready to marry, but alas, it just wasn't right and I broke the engagement.

In my twenties, I have lived in London, New York City, with my parents in the very rural countryside of upstate New York, alone in an apartment in Cazenovia, NY, with my ex-fiance in a house in Syracuse, and back to living alone in an apartment. While I've missed milestones like marriage and having my first baby, I've instead acquired fluency in the Italian language, an Ironman finish, and enjoy a second part-time job as a well-regarded fitness instructor teaching two spin classes a week at Gold's Gym.

It goes without saying that the course I had neatly charted for myself at the age of 22 is nothing like the road I actually traveled over the past nine years. Nine years, each one unfolding like the next installment of Harry Potter. What in the world will Spinster Lisa find herself meddling in next? Unlike Harry Potter though, I do not have any magic to help me along here. Just good old fashioned sarcasm and a sense of humor.

My rock has always been training for triathlon and writing about this wad of time that is apparently my life. I am generally pretty happy with who I am, but sometimes I find myself in situations that force me to compare myself to the "society ideal" of a woman. Enter "the baby shower."

Just in this past week, I've attended two baby showers. Two. Being at a baby shower makes me feel like somebody is tying me to a chair and holding me prisoner until I provide an explanation as to why I haven't gotten my act together yet to find a husband and start thinking about the creation of a nuclear family?

One of the showers was for a girlfriend of mine from high school. All of my friends from high school are married and having babies now. Most of them are teachers, though a couple are stay-at-home moms. Whenever I roll onto the scene at one of these events, I immediately feel anxiety over the fact that I probably have nothing to talk about with anyone.

Topics of conversation range from the best way to clean Cheerios puke off the wall, to what should be done with children's bangs. Occasionally some dialog about a Swiffer or a vacuum will come up (in this case it was the sexy Dirt Devil hand-vac that looks like a lava lamp) and I find myself sighing with relief because I can totally talk Swiffer for hours (that isn't sarcasm, I'm a cleaning freak). Sometimes my married mommy friends will ask me how things are going, because typically we're all too busy to get together and we fall out of touch. So I tell them about triathlon training, or the gym, or something interesting about my job. If I'm feeling sassy, I'll throw in something anecdotal about my wacked love life, but for the most part my trying to talk about any of these things at great length is always cut short by another "guess what little Billy did the other day?" kind of story. Few of my stories can compete with the likes of someone's big toe moving for the first time.

At this particular shower, I was sitting with some of my friends who casually asked me how the "boy situation" was going (code for: I heard you broke your engagement, how about some details?). Another woman at our table was talking about her daughter's wedding plans. Having just paid off the non-refundable deposits for my "almost wedding," I steered clear of that conversation all together. Then there were some comments about how we're all turning 30 soon and how most of my friends have decided they are done having children! Meanwhile, I haven't even started, not that having a child is even something I'm sure I want to do. The point is that while I sit at these kinds of parties (baby showers and wedding showers), I start to realize that the only "expected" gathering of friends and family to support and celebrate a woman are for when she is either getting married or having a baby.

I wonder why society doesn't do anything to recognize the woman that is out there trying to be independent, kick ass at her career, or make the hard decision to break her engagement to a man she loves, but cannot marry. It seems ironic to me that if I had decided to marry my ex-fiance because it would be easier than being single again, I would be celebrated by society! Or how about the people that become pregnant because they believe a baby will fix their relationship? Those people get to have a baby shower and they are celebrated and rewarded with a society-inspired need to recognize these kinds of milestones.

Does a single woman making hard decisions and doing the right thing not deserve some recognition? Is a single woman moving out of a house and into an apartment not worthy of a new food processor, a blender, a set of silverware and some new bathroom towels? When I add up all of the money that I've spent over the years supporting my friends' weddings and babies, it is quite significant. Furthermore, at these gatherings you are usually expected to fill out your own Thank You card to make it easier for the person who is receiving all of the gifts to let you know that they are appreciative of your efforts. It just seems so contrived to me. I don't write this to say that I think my friends aren't truly thankful, I know that they are and they would be there for me if I asked them for anything...but my point is that society doesn't encourage that kind of support for people like me.

In fact, breaking my engagement has shown me the true colors of a lot of people and has made me feel like some kind of spinster witch. I think I would be more accepted in some circles if I had gone through with a wedding I didn't believe in 100 percent and then got a divorce a few years later.

One thing I know from my twenties, I am not a society-driven girl. I have never done anything because "that's what is done." I don't send Christmas cards...not because I'm the grinch, but because I reach out to people in other ways, in my own ways. I do not follow trends, because I find what works for me and do my own thing. I am a loner with several introspective hobbies. I want to be married one day, but I want that because of the bond it represents...the act of having found that one person that is your soul mate. Not because it's easier or it's "supposed to happen." Not because I want to spend days picking out the perfect cake and making groups of women miserable wearing dresses that don't fit in hideous colors.

Do I want a baby? I don't know. Right now I feel that I've got a lot more on my to-do list then creating another human. I want to do an Ironman again. I want to travel more and continue writing. Most of all, I want to stay true to myself which means I'll probably continue down some kind of tumultuous path in the eyes of society on my quest for "things that make me tick."

So I'm embracing these last few moments in my twenties and reflecting upon the haphazard mosaic of my own personal milestones over the past ten years. I don't know what 30 will bring or the years that will make up the next precious decade of my life, but I am done with feeling bad about where I am in life, or rather, where I'm not.

I've started weeding things out of my life that give me stress, that I've been investing in because I feel like I have to. Maybe that's what they mean when they say you start to get your act together in your thirties. Maybe you start to channel your energy into the things that truly matter to you, rather than wasting it on the things that don't, or the things you can't change.

In the spirit of rechanneling that energy, I'm embracing my spinsterness and sharing it here. Welcome to The Spinster Chronicles, a line-by-line account of all the ways I'm defying our society's expectations, and loving every minute of it.


Anonymous said...

Great post, Lisa. I really enjoy your writing style. I am not a "tradtitional" girl either. Sometimes it really hurts, but then other times, I just love it. Check out an article about "The New Girl Order". You may find it fits you. :)

The Hippie Triathlete said...

Thanks for sharing this link on Facebook, I'm lucky to have seen it! You should throw yourself a self-appreciation shower like Carrie did on Sex and the City when she faced the very same issues as this.

Love the vulnerability. It takes guts. Even though I'm married, I have felt (and sometimes still feel) like this many, many times. Remember that in those social "circles" you speak of, there's probably one or two women who secretly worship you--wish they were fitter, happier, hadn't married young, etc.

Thanks again for the great class on Tuesday, I love the double entendre of your blog name!