I refuse to act my age. Can’t do it, won’t do it, and you can’t make me.
The above summarizes my stance in a recent conversation with my roommate at 12:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. For us, it was still very much so a Friday night, and she had managed to coax my begrudging self to a string of lovely late-night establishments catered to our specific demographic: single, twenty-something, and assumedly reckless.
The first institution, I can only assume, was a prime target for those fresh acne-faced teenage moles the police arm with noticeably fake IDs in effort to combat illegal alcohol sales to minors. It was also factually the type of bar which employs the business model of “open tab contests” as a means to persuade a bunch of young, ballin-on-a-budget partiers to drink their unique assortment of Bud Light, PBR, and Natty Ice, instead of purchasing it at the bar next door.
Upon surveying the scene along the sparse and alarmingly sticky bar, and then the desolate yet excruciatingly loud dance floor, a lean and baby-faced gentleman approached me, similarly bemused by our shared surroundings.
“What’s going on with this place?” he inquired. “Where are all the people?”
I shrugged and gestured to a flock of similarly baby-faced, polo-donning men who looked as though they had just winged their Sociology 101 midterm and then funneled a couple of Bud Heavies back at the frat house. “And what’s with the people who are here?” I retorted. “They look like they’re 19.”
In response, my new acquaintance promptly turned his back to me and walked away.
My roommate and I then proceeded to the bar where I haggled with the bartender to secure a tolerable beverage.
“Do you have Guinness? No? What about a similar stout or dark beer? Okay, how about Blue Moon? Yuengling? Okay, do you have any beer besides Bud, Coors, or Natty? Really, anything else will do.”
One other variety of beer besides Bud, Coors, or Natty was offered. I settled on the Brooklyn Lager and considered it a win.
As our other friends slowly trickled in and the scene livened to match the astute musical selections (Shots! Shots! Shots! Everybody, shots!), the additional patrons offered minimal relief. For every 15 floral romper and stiletto-clad 22-year-olds, there was one 37-year-old gentlemen with grease-matted hair and a rounded belly visibly combating the restrictive nature of the striped button-down shirt which enclosed it.
Perhaps it was a fault of my own for prematurely praising the weekend gods when my friends eventually suggested a change in locale, but 25 minutes and $12 in cab fare later, I found myself sardined in a dark, stuffy, eardrum-erupting dance club on the Lower East Side. It was apparent that this particular establishment was attended for the sole purpose of sloppy, drunken make-outs on the dance floor and subsequent one-night stands with strangers who will drool on your pillow and/or vomit in your trashcan.
Shortly after midnight, upon exceeding my tolerated allowance of casual “accidental” gropes and sugary beverages spilt on my limbs, I decided to call it a night. Back in the comfort of spacious streets and with my roommate tagging along, I launched into a frustrated, Brooklyn Lager-fueled rant.
“If this is what being a young twenty-something is, I don’t want any part in it,” I lamented, my sandals angrily clomping along the pavement. “I’m over this lifestyle. I want to skip it. I want fast-forward and jump straight to what the thirty-somethings are doing.”
Not to be confused with a brash, drunken declaration that becomes unfounded in the clarity of daylight hours, I absolutely meant and wholeheartedly stand by my statement. There is a time and a place for everything, and I had happened to jump-start my days of partying early on.
At the ripe age of 16, I was slinging shots of sour apple flavored Burnett’s Vodka and honing my beer pong game in a friend’s basement. At 19, I was flashing a fake ID at bouncers and going by the fictional identity of Kasey Horseman, age 23, born November 11, 1988, star sign Scorpio. At 21, I was mastering the art of vomiting in bathroom stalls when I had over-indulged, but the night was decidedly not yet finished. At 22, I was over it.
When I say that I don’t want to take part in the twenty-something lifestyle, I’m certainly not purporting that I’m any better than the underage folk sneaking into bars or the sloppy couples making out on dance floors- I was them at one time, too. But, sometime between my Saturdays of throwing back shots of Fireball and my Saturdays of throwing on a pair of comfy sweatpants, I grew up. Somewhere along that timeline, I learned who I am, and I no longer identified as the party girl whose emotions and intellect are masked beneath solo cups and vodka tonics.
Nevertheless, perhaps my evolution is premature. Perhaps, at 24 years of age, I am not yet entitled to the type of lifestyle that awaits me a decade in the future. That’s how my roommate views it, at least.
“Is that really so wrong?” I implored post-rant, during our walk home.
“No,” I expected to hear in reply. “You do you, you do what’s right for you,” I longed for her to say. But she didn’t.
“Yes,” was her answer. A solid and assured “yes,” moreover. “You have to do the twenty-something stuff while you’re still a twenty-something. You’ll have time for the thirty-something stuff when you’re in your thirties.”
A valid point, we often wish away our lives with haste, viewing it a sprint rather than a marathon. We long for and crave the next chapter, the next level of success, the next threshold of happiness, and then, before long, our lives have passed us by.
I don’t intend to wish my life away, but I also can’t justify spending my time in a such a way that I don’t enjoy, merely because societal norms dictate a particular lifestyle for my particular life stage.
I don’t want to be sloshing a plastic cup of vodka soda around a dance floor while random guys attempt to slowly and subtly invade my personal space with their personal appendages. I don’t want to stagger home and pass out with makeup caked on my face. I don’t want to roll out of bed the next morning, head pounding, body acing, stomach curling, and then remedy the situation with the ol’ hair-of-the-dog trick, which is also popularly known as alcoholism. I simply don’t want to do the things that are hallmarks of a typical twenty-something existence.
Instead, I want casual bars with reasonable decibels and beers that are designed for sipping. I want in-depth conversations about literature, science, and psychology. I want dining out and dinner parties with friends. I want art museums, and movies in the park, and bowling. I want nausea-free early mornings, with freshly brewed coffee and a newspaper or magazine. I want the time and health necessary to devour books, pen prose, and create art. I want productivity, passion, and purpose.
Perhaps I am simply looking to fast-forward to the next life stage far too early. Maybe I’m denying myself the essential twenty-something existence and squelching the young, wild girl inside of me who will long to break free some years down the road, some years too late. Perhaps I’m alienating myself from my peers and ultimately doing both my current and future self a disservice. Maybe I’ll regret it all someday and I’ll, of course, type up a long-winded personal essay urging young people to act their age and grow up slowly.
These outcomes are all conceivable; however, I’m not concerned. If I’m wasting away my wild twenties, so be it, because I’m doing so happily. I refuse to act my age because I refuse to deny my truest self, and I think that’s exactly how it should be.