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thoughts on thirty
mixed messages make me mental.
by adam kraemer (@DryWryBred)

Am I getting old?

I have no idea.

If you listen to pop culture, they'll tell you that yes, I am. And that no, I'm not.

I recently read some cultural pundit who claimed that the 30s are the new 20s, but better. The theory was that the 20s have become a time when one is supposed to find oneself, decide what to do with one's life, make the mistakes of youth, and generally learn as much about human existence as one can before getting into one's 30s and applying all of that knowledge. As such, so I read, the 30s are now where things really start to become fun. Which is good, because my 20s were kind of a blur and if I'm going to have fun, I want to remember it from now on.

Of course, I read that theory on the very the same day that I heard a radio commercial telling me that the minute I turn 30, my testosterone level is going to drop by 40%, affecting not only my sex drive, but my work performance. Because of how often my work performance is bettered by my desire to eat red meat, watch football, and have sex. "Maximum Testoster-what?"

In other words, if you ladies were interested in enjoying a piece of the sexual dynamo that is me, you apparently should have let me know before yesterday. It's all downhill from here.

I'm going to flatter myself for a moment and assume that you all remember my column from my 28th birthday about how much I love birthdays. Yes, even the people who didn't know me then, and had no idea that my column existed. You remember, damn you. Yes you do. Uh-huh. Yup. You remember. Do, too.

Not my point. My point is that my love for all things birthday has not changed. To wit: I'm celebrating my birthday all weekend this year - Friday night is a nice family dinner at a great New York restaurant, and Saturday is an intimate Adam-fest to which I've invited every single person that I've ever met whom I thought might attend. (For those who just don't get me: "intimate" is used there in a facetious way. Also, if I didn't invite you, it's just that apparently the memory starts to fade at 30, as well.) Sunday, if I'm still feeling up to it, my brother has planned for me a Greco-Roman orgy with all the farm animals you want to bring. (Maximum Testoster-what?)

I'm not really looking forward to Sunday.

(For those of you canny enough to pick up on the fact that I'm writing in the future tense even though my birthday weekend has already passed, good job. Now stop reading, smack yourself, go outside, and get some fresh air. You're probably the kind of people who didn't like Braveheart because "no one used that kind of broadsword at the time of William Wallace's death.")

What I'm saying is, I plan on enjoying this birthday with the same enthusiasm with which I enjoy each birthday; in general, I'm just happy to have made it. Not that I live a particularly risky lifestyle, but I'm not exactly the boy in the bubble either. Besides, there are plenty of ways to die in New York that have nothing whatsoever to do with the unexamined life. I just found out that the right hurricane, hitting the coast at the right place, with the right windspeed in the right direction could theoretically drown everyone in the subway. A round of applause for the Army Corps of Engineers, folks.

As an aside, if something horrid happens to me between the writing and publishing of this column, at least we know God appreciates irony.

However, and this is a big "however," I have no idea what to expect. Well, I know how my parties are going to go -- those are easy; I expect to get showered with love, affection, and sexually explicit offers from hot women. What I don't know is what to expect about 30. And 31. And 32. You get the idea.

I mean, 30 is a milestone. Heck, people who were my age when I was born are now 60. People who were 60 when I was born are now Vice President. This is a big one, people.

So why the mixed messages? Why is half the world telling me I'm still young and the other half trying to sell me anti-aging products?

I don't actually have an answer, but I'll tell you, it's confusing the gray hair out of me. I remember being told a few years ago by my roommate, who is in his mid-30s, that at 25 he started noticing that he could still party like he did in college, but he paid for it much harder the next day. He then told me that when he hit 30, he found he couldn't even party like that anymore. At the time, I was appalled at the prospect. Now I find it almost comforting.

And on the flip side of that, one of my best friends just turned 31, and by all indications managed to stay up for his entire birthday weekend. As in didn't sleep at all. I find myself in awe. And slightly horrified. And jealous. And appalled.

See? Confused.

I mean, I don't feel any older than I did when I was, say, 25. But I know I am. I have more life experiences. I know more about people, about the world, about the likelihood that someone will pick up a hitchhiker in Montauk, Long Island, when he looks like he's spent the night sleeping on the side of the road (nil, by the way). And every now and then, I'll see a high school or college kid wearing some new fashion and think to myself, "Wow. That's a really stupid look. Rebel against your parents much? Now get off my lawn." In short, I'm pretty sure that I've passed the "young man" stage.

But I still feel like a young man (go ahead, feel me). I'm not sure when middle age starts -- 40, maybe; it keeps shifting with our longer life-expectancies -- but I can say with near certainty that I've at least now started the middle third of life, unless I'm lucky enough to have the longevity of my grandfather, who, at 96, looks not a day over, well, 80. Maybe I just feel like a young man compared to him.

Of course, for all I know, everyone feels like that forever. Maybe people always picture themselves in the zenith of their youth, when the knees didn't ache, when the hair was thick and, well, present, when the world was full of opportunity and possibility. Or maybe it's more realistic than that. Maybe the 40-year-old me will look back on the 30-year-old me and shake his head ruefully at "how young I was, then. I was always on someone's lawn." Of course it won't matter, as the 40-year-old me is going to have more money than he knows what to do with and a trophy wife whose Bat Mitzvah is coming up in 2005.

Which brings me to my final point: I don't even know if I should feel anything at all about where my life is right now. Two of my thirtyish cousins are married with kids, my brother's engaged, and I'm 100% single. I have a job that I very much like, but I know it's not my career. I live in a great apartment, but it looks a little too much like our interior decorator and our maid took each other out in a suicide pact (it would explain the ghostly apparitions and the bathtubs filling up with blood, anyway). The point is, I'm very much not where I pictured myself at 30, but does that mean I'm not where I'm supposed to be?

I know more and more of my friends my age are living in similar conditions. Maybe some of them own apartments, but hate their jobs. Others might have the career thing figured out, but haven't had a successful date since college. And some might have the job, the relationship, and the living arrangements, but no hair. So maybe this is what being my age means in the new millennium.

Or maybe I don't really know anything yet. After all, I'm still young. I'm only 30.


A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.

more about adam kraemer


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lisa r
10.11.04 @ 7:35a

I see no reason to pay attention to anyone else's definition of old. I operate on the theory that I'm only as old as I feel. It keeps everyone guessing (although I'm honest about being 39--which I just turned for the first time) and lets me act like me. "Age-appropriate" is for the birds once your an adult, anyway.

juli mccarthy
10.11.04 @ 9:59a

If you're only as old as you feel, today I'm 112.

Aging is a funny thing - you really don't feel older in and of yourself, until you look back at your past. Yesterday I met an adult who wasn't yet born when I graduated high school. Eek.

(Happy birthday, Adam.)

adam kraemer
10.11.04 @ 12:20p

Well, I mean, sure you're only as old as you feel. But there is physical aging, too. Right?

bill copeland
10.11.04 @ 12:46p

Some of us like our bald heads.

I'll say, at the young age of 29, I'm no longer remotely impressed by someone who can stay up partying all weekend at 31. Well, I'm somewhat impressed that they can do so, but the fact that they choose to makes it unimpressive.

dr. jay gross
10.11.04 @ 1:06p

There are 2 types of testosterone: The one that allows you to stay up all night and the one that keeps you up all night. Zorba was perpetually 30+ and I'm sure he lived 'til he was 2.5 times as old as you are.

Birthdays are like 'rep' markers....the more you practice, the better you get. No wonder you like birthdays. Keep practicing!!

juli mccarthy
10.11.04 @ 2:14p

Sure, Adam, there's physical aging, but it generally happens very slowly. You don't wake up one day and suddenly discover your hair is grey, your face is wrinkled and your tits are where your belly used to be. My knees hurt oftener; often enough that I've come to accept that knees = ow, and I'm no longer surprised by it. Birthdays do seem to bring out the tendency to take physical inventory, though.

tracey kelley
10.11.04 @ 4:38p

Adam might not have to worry about knees hurting as -

- oh, wait, ya'll are about the same height, aren't you? :)

My knees kill me. But, then again, they have since I was a teenager.

In your 30s, you take what you liked of your 20s, toss out what you didn't like, and move on. (Don't make me reference my column when I turned 36.)

It's good that you're reflective, it's good that your introspective. But if you think all the "fun" is over, well, it just depends on your definition of fun. Trust me: it will change.

Physically, sure, things happen. But look at Roger. The man doesn't look a day over 30. It's all in how you take care of yourself.

adam kraemer
10.11.04 @ 4:51p

Crap. I'm going to have to start taking care of myself?

robert melos
10.11.04 @ 8:16p

Nah, I don't go to doctors, or believe in conventional medical treatments, and I can still manage to get out of bed most days, and actually do some physical stuff, like sitting in front of the computer web surfing and dialing a phone.

I believe age is a state of mind.

adam kraemer
10.12.04 @ 1:39a

Well, I figure I've already had two hernias and cancer, so I'm ahead of the game. Right? Right?

erik myers
10.12.04 @ 8:15a

I suppose it depends on what the game is.

adam kraemer
10.12.04 @ 11:27a

Yeah, that would be a crappy game, actually.

I was just informed that more women like guys in their 30s. Any truth to the rumor?

jael mchenry
10.12.04 @ 11:56a

Well, I like my 26-year-old boyfriend, but I expect to keep liking him when he's in his 30s, too.

anya werner
10.12.04 @ 11:57a

Well, given that I am *in* my 30s - and later 30s at that - I do like guys in their 30s. But, I seem to remember liking them from my 20s, too. :)

tracey kelley
10.12.04 @ 12:40p

You and me both, sister. :)Whoo!!!!

I think that men in their 30s have a confidence that is more attractive. They've gone beyond bravado and said "You know what? Fuck it. This is who I am right now," single or not. They are also often more honest which is also quite attractive.

And hopefully, their lovemaking has improved tremondously over their slam and bam 20s. Which is incredibly appealing to women in their 30s. cough

juli mccarthy
10.12.04 @ 12:59p

Just let me take this moment to say that men in their 40s are even more so, thankyouverymuch.

tracey kelley
10.12.04 @ 1:05p

I have no doubt. The "training" continues. Whee!

brian anderson
10.12.04 @ 1:52p

I've read that most Americans think "grown up" begins at 27. I'm apt to agree.

My father, on the other hand, mentally thought of himself as "about 27" for years upon years. Now that he's retired, he's moved up to about 32.

Adam, as someone who's just a tinge older than me (and still "100% single"), I'm planning on taking you as an early-warning system to my own aging.

adam kraemer
10.12.04 @ 1:56p

And why not? To be fair, it feels okay, so far.

Though I'm starting to think that maybe my life should change soon. I'm in exactly the same situation I was at 26. That's weird.

rachel levine
10.12.04 @ 11:15p

Every age I'm at I feel the same. They're all okay.

adam kraemer
10.13.04 @ 11:22a

Yet looking back, you can see you've changed, right? I'm definitely not the same person I was at, say, 21.

jael mchenry
10.13.04 @ 12:29p

You aren't?

brian anderson
10.13.04 @ 12:34p

You kinda walked into that one, Adam.

I'm grateful every day that I'm not the same person I was at 21.

adam kraemer
10.13.04 @ 12:44p

Well, I used to be a woman.

No, seriously, I've just experienced more; my perceptions are shaped by everything that's happened between now and then. I think for starters, I'm a lot more confident now than I was at 21. Aren't I?

lisa r
10.13.04 @ 8:28p

Okay, gentlemen, explain something to me. I've just turned 39, and it doesn't bother me a bit. However, I have 2 guy friends who are 27 and 30 who have this whole age angst thing going. The 27-year old is "celebrating his 25th birthday again this year" and to hear the 30-year old tell it, he's over the hill now. When did guys start getting paranoid about age?

tracey kelley
10.14.04 @ 10:03a

I think for some, it has something to do with what they had visualized their life to be by a certain age.

adam kraemer
10.14.04 @ 5:47p

Well, that's a lot of it, yeah. I mean people are meeting and getting married and getting careers later in life, but it doesn't mean that it's where we saw our selves 8 or 9 years after graduating college.

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