The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be:
- You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")
- 35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise
beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes, "I've survived so much that I don't waste time on small things anymore." Wise woman Esmeralda, another grad of our high school, puts it like this: "No time for half stepping. No time for games. You live like, 'Join my line or quit wasting my time.'" Amen, Ala! Artist Lisa affirms, "Don't really care what other people think of me anymore." (It really helps that Lisa has tenure!) Below, I am pictured roller skating with Lisa and her husband Jeff to celebrate Jeff's 35th birthday. With fanny packs and leg warmers. Because 35-year-olds DGAF.
- You've finally reached full brain maturity. This explains your 20s. Forgive yourself.
- You can go vintage shopping in your own closet. All that hoarding finally pays off! Hey, if Rihanna is gonna wear dem pants, I'mma whip out my JNCOs. See #2 above. Wait a minute, it's not the same because I'm not Rihanna? That may be a bonus, because at 35...
- Harassment drops off faster than fertility. Sexual harassment, slut shaming, and fashion policing shrivel when you turn 35. Our esteemed POTUS explained it clearly on the Howard Stern show: Diaper babies and gross perverts such as himself seek extreme youth, apart from any measure of attractiveness, simply because young people's lack of life experience makes them easy to control. Ew! All kinds of bullies love victimizing young people, whether sexually or otherwise, like basic mean girls. Every human being can be harassed at any stage of life, but at 35, it lightens up. Or maybe I am just so blind and deaf with age that I don't notice it anymore. Either way, ahh, so peaceful. My author colleague Christina Mitchell has noticed the same thing. She writes, "The social currency of fresh youth doesn't jingle in my pockets, so no one really cares how I look or dress, or if they do, they keep it to themselves, which is fine by me."
- The peanut gallery quits heckling you about "success." By 35, you've either gotten rich and famous or you haven't. Now it's too late--in general opinion. It's nice to be able to do what you want, at your own pace, without unsolicited advisors breathing down your neck. And if you actually want to get rich and famous, you have many decades ahead of you to find the right moment to leak that GILF tape and go viral. Or, you know, go back to school. Whatever coats your moat. Fewer people push you to do things, and fewer people try to stand in your way either, because...
- Today's adults are uncomfortable accepting 35 as the beginning of "middle age." Older people don't want to make themselves feel even older by saying that, and younger people want their 30s to be a whole decade-long extension of their 20s. (It's totally not, thank goodness, but let them dream.) 35 is the sweet spot when you are perceived as both young and mature at the same time.
- Playing with children is now fun and non-threatening. You're living your own childhood dream! Whether they're yours or someone else's, it's great fun to be reminded of that time in your life when you thought adulthood would be the greatest thing ever--and realize that it's finally true. Meanwhile, it's becoming less likely that someone will compliment how you interact with children in a veiled nag to get you to produce one of your own or siblings for your own, because...
- Nobody's trying to plan your family for you anymore. Now that you qualify as "geriatric" or even "elderly" (not joking, and it applies to men too) in the world of fertility medicine, your mom and all your "moms" have probably redirected their awkward prodding toward some fresher hunk of meat. No matter how many kids you've had, from zero to double digits, people don't feel as entitled to get up in your business about it.
- But you still actually have time to plan your own family. Despite common misconceptions (oh snap, that was a dad joke) most of us have a good 10 years or more of fertility, especially if we can gain access to some younger gametes. (Sorry, it's true. We're all adults here, right?) And there may be other options available, such as adoption, that may have been more difficult earlier in life due to financial or other circumstances. And if you don't plan on adding a wee one to your life anytime in the future, then sweet, you can go ahead and put the cap on that epoch of junk-exploding childbirth, screaming babies, poopy blowouts, or the threat thereof. More doctors are willing to "fix" you for good at this age.
- It's not too late to make major lifestyle changes for your health. Beyond fertility issues, there's still time to improve your life's quality and expected lifespan. You're young enough that small changes can still have a big impact, and you're just old enough to feel the immediately dire effects of making a 21-year-old's poor choices. Ah, new motivation!
- It's exciting to stalk childhood friends and acquaintances on social media. At this age, some people look endearingly the same as they did in second grade, while others are unrecognizable. Your first super-stud-obsession now looks like Danny Devito, while that awkward girl who got bullied in middle school has become a swan so photogenic that she looks amazing in other people's candid photos, not just through the indignity of Snapchat filters.
- Some of y'all can still pass for 25 on Snapchat. I won't out my two friends, code names Macarena and Magdalena, who are still confusing the college kids and suffering the occasional shock of finding someone whose diaper they've changed on Tinder. They know who they are. They have mocked me for having neither an Instagram nor a Snapchat account and asked why, to which I replied, "Because I am an adult." Which they then snapped, probably with some ridiculous filter on my face that makes me look like an infant forest creature. Girl. Boy. You do you.
- Your life is probably not half over, so if you're a late bloomer, it's okay. I won't tell anyone on Snapchat that you could legally drink before me.
- You don't even need that filter, because your acne is finally clearing up, and your tiny wrinkles can still be erased with a touch of hyaluronic acid moisturizer. My adult acne is better than it was in my 20s, anyway. Maybe that's because I've discovered the miracle of retinol, which fights wrinkles and zits at the same time. With age comes wisdom about skin care products.
- Silver hair is en vogue. I'm rocking my roots like it's going out of style. But it's not!
- Leg hair is losing its grip. I was like a blond gorilla in my 20s, and now my leg hair has gone all soft and downy. It's easy to wax with those little Nad's strips, and it's also easy to leave alone, because body hair, like silver hair, is now en vogue. And also because 35-year-olds DGAF.
- You know how to save money. For example, spending less on hair dye and waxing kits.
- Those student loans are finally getting paid off. What will I do with all these hundos of dollars every month? Probably fix up my house, because...
- Honey, we're home! You're more likely to own a home and have some equity now, unless you live in a super-expensive and hip city, which is also cool. Either way, you know how to design and manage your optimal domestic scene.
- You know how to feed yourself. You know how to cook something by now. At the very least, you have family members, lovers, and/or friends who know how to cook.
- Staying in is the new going out. You no longer have to simulate the desire to go get faced on the weekend. I love this part about being a grownup. I have a cute kid and a hot date at home, every single evening, and DaddyMan knows how to cook. #NotSorry to miss that hangover.
- Regardless of your academic history, you're super educated about the things that truly interest you. Like Rammstein trivia, the history of indoor plumbing, and the worldly wisdom of YouTube drag stars Trixie and Katya. You have countless hours of internet clickhole spelunking under your belt.
- You get all the jokes on McSweeney's. Like this one discussing whether 35 is a good minimum age for the presidency.
- You can officially run for president! Now there's a hot fantasy.
- You're old enough to remember when life was harder, and you're too young to have forgotten how subpar the "good old days" actually were. You can appreciate progress. Two words: dial-up internet.
- You know how to get along with your parents. And they're probably not super old yet.
- You've shifted from quantity to quality in your friendships. Christina agrees: "I feel like your 20s and early 30s, you are still gathering people into your life. You make space for a lot of love and care, but also drama, fights, and frustration. Now, I'm doing the more satisfying work of rooting people out. Or as Kelly Clarkson puts it, 'I've picked all my weeds and kept the flowers.'"
- You're a better friend to others, too. Christina continues, "I have more empathy for others, because I've lost some of the solipsism of my younger years."
- The people who love you think you're more interesting than ever now. Anyone who has ever loved you as a person--and hasn't simply been using you as another excuse to get faced on the weekend--thinks you are more interesting than ever before. Best friends and spouses and lovers don't get tired of each other when they change over time, they stay interested because they change over time. Now, having kids does make you legit boring to other adults for a few years, but that can happen at any age. And the fact that at least one small person thinks you are the greatest being to ever walk the earth helps make up for that.
- You know you're better than ever now. Your own skin has never felt more comfortable from the inside, regardless of what scars, stretch marks, wrinkles, and unfortunate tattoos you may have collected on the outside.
- Your sex life may have finally reached its peak. Avert your eyes, diaper babies. Survey says that experience and self-confidence are better aphrodisiacs than youth.
- Partly because other real grownups are hot. My husband has always had a thing for Mrs. Robinson, and I've always been distracted by leather-clad, bass-voiced beefcakes in their 50s. When I turn on the NPR station and hear Yanis Varoufakis, former Finance Minister of Greece and author of the aptly titled book Adults in the Room, talk about economics, I almost have to pull over the car. Oh God, the way he says "cah-pi-ta-lism." Is that a hot flash I'm feeling?
- You can flirt with well seasoned hotties and it's not creepy. That tall pharmacist with the exotic accent? The bald tattoo guy across the convenience store counter? That polite construction worker, that crisply dressed banker in the grocery store line, that single DILF on the playground... The good ones feel comfortable subtly flirting with a fellow adult such as yourself. And if you're into the ladies, women in your cohort may be bolder about making the first move with you than ever before. See #31-33.
- You might be able to write a good novel now. I spent the first 15 years of young adulthood writing frivolous doggerel, which I feel has prepared me to write something actually good at this point. I've done years of historical research, practiced writing, read a lot of books, participated in novel-writing and critique groups, and taken many workshops on the strategies of crafting a narrative. I know there are genius prodigies who write bestsellers in their teens or twenties (ahem, Mary Shelley), but the great thing about creating art is that gets easier, not more difficult, as we mature.
UPDATE: I did it!!! If you want to hibernate for the winter snug within the pages of a dark historical saga of obsession, survival, and preying upon the rich along the fringes of Byzantine civilization, make a generous space on your bookshelf for Leirah and the Wild Man, available in bookstores October 23, 2021 and in ebook formats on November 11, 2021 (my 39th birthday).
What's your favorite thing about life after birthday 35?
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