So my friends and I are all hurtling down the slippery slope to 30. It’s all we can talk about.
“Dude,” we say. “I’m turning 30. Don’t ask me to be out until midnight.”
“Dude. I’m almost 30. I’m not taking this passive aggressive crap from my boss.”
“Dude. I’m going to be 30 in November. Am I still allowed to shop at Forever 21?”
“Dude, I need to hit the gym. Now that I’m turning 30, I can see every cupcake I eat making a cupcake-shaped bulge in my thighs.”
Turning 30 for us will not be what turning 30 was for the generation before ours. Thirty is the new twenty, they say. Women’s Lib has changed everything. People of both sexes delay marriage and parenthood in favor of building careers, continuing educations, or enjoying their independence so that stage of blissful, self-indulgent self discovery lasts several years longer than it did for our parents. We buy a few more pairs of designer shoes, take a few more exotic trips, date a few more losers. Our parents had more time to adjust to being grown ups than we did. Maybe that’s why by the time that stunning number 30 creeps up, it seems unbelievably strange.
Ali is the first of us to hit this all-too-adult-sounding age. Ali lived next door to Momo and I our Freshman year at NYU. At 18, he used to stroll into our dorm room, wearing a Kangol cap and serenading us on his acoustic guitar with songs he invented about us on the spot. He liked to torture Momo with a terrifying plastic figurine of Pinky, from Pinky and the Brain. He named his band “Slut Magnet.” These days, like me and the rest of our college buddies, he’s a careerperson in a committed relationship. We still giggle at Chef from South Park and we love Rock Band but we have bills and jobs so we are, of course, very serious and grown up. It seems unbelievable that we’ve known each other for over ten years, that we were teenagers when we all met at Freshman Convocation. For his 30th, Ali’s girlfriend has arranged a surprise party to be held on the rooftop of a hotel’s lounge in Times Square. It is certainly an excellent view and an enigmatic place to spend a milestone birthday. It is also quite the change of pace for me. In New York, I favor 2nd Avenue Irish pubs: a jukebox, Guinness on tap, copies of The Independent abandoned on a barstool, dark paneled walls. Despite thorough tutelage from Gia during our reckless single gal days, I’ve never really learned how to behave in a nightclub. In the spirit of expanding my horizons, I embrace the challenge.
I bring Diego, who knows how to behave in a nightclub and has always gotten along well with Ali. At the hotel, there is a velvet rope and a long line of yappy 20 year olds texting and wearing sparkly bandaids around their hips. We aren’t at the venue for more than 30 seconds before I’ve already humiliated my brother by cheerfully asking the bouncer if all of the people in line are going to The Ali Party. When Diego grabs my arm and orders me not to talk, I’m honestly surprised.
On the elevator ride to the penthouse, two teenagers complain about “the fugs” who’ve been let in tonight. Upstairs, a woman wearing a headset ushers us to the rooftop terrace, where Diego and I are squashed between various strangers’ body parts as I hunt for people I recognize. It’s a beautiful night – mild, cloudless, and clear. There are are cushioned benches and wire tables underneath a partial casbah-style canopy but because it’s so crowded, there is no place for us to sit. The neon cacophony of Times Square screams 20 stories below and untiss, untiss, untiss throbs in our ears. The smell of vodka, rufies, and date rape hovers in the air.
Diego: Do you want a drink?
E: No. I want to DANCE!
Diego: [whispering] Don’t.
E: What? Did you just say ‘don’t’?
Diego: Yes. It’s a silent, screaming plea.
I pout, because I really do want to dance. Untiss, untiss, untiss: the beat is infectious. I’m sure I can remember some moves Gia taught me back in the day. Untiss, untiss, untiss. Diego pays $8 for a Corona; I sip a club soda, which spills on me as a rake-thin girl swats her clip-on ponytail into my straw. Untiss, untiss, untiss. Untiss, untiss, untiss. The beat overtakes us both and we dance – you know, as siblings do in clubs – bobbing our heads like the fellows from Night at the Roxbury. We catch ourselves, shudder, and shake it off. I shouldn’t dance anyway. The Evite said, “Ladies – dress to impress!” so I’m wearing four inch high heels. I wore heels every day from age 14 to 24, but dude – I’m going to be 30 in March and just can’t take the pain like I used to.
“Ugh,” says Diego, who will be 28 in November. “All the girls here look like the Kardashian sisters.”
I shift my weight from foot to foot, trying to alleviate the throbbing. The Kardashian and Hilton families are still filling all of the seats so I make a move to sit down on the edge of a large plant pot until Diego shoots me a dangerous look. I try to focus on the twinkling lights of Times Square, realizing that I’ll be in Dublin for my 30th birthday. I wonder if I will have any friends to celebrate with.
Ali arrives, fighting his way through the restless crowd and blinking in surprise to see us there. We clap for the birthday boy in time with the dizzying beats of untiss untiss untiss and swoop in for hugs. One of Ali’s friends hands him a whiskey shot.
“Dude,” says Ali. “You know I don’t drink. It’s really nice that you all are here, but, man, I’m 30. You should have come over to our place and had some tea.”