A dear family member once came to visit me because he needed a change of scenery. Upon finishing a delectable meal, we strolled in Gramercy while deciding what to do in a city of endless possibilities. Live jazz below Houston perhaps, seek out a sexy concoction at the nearby rooftop lounge, or find tickets to the hot new burlesque show that got excellent reviews in New York magazine. An independent film was out of the question. It had been a long, stressful week, so we were ready to cut loose. Whatever the final choice, we knew there would be plenty of good booze, good music, and good conversation. He then turns to me and says: ¡Qué buena es la vida de adulto contemporáneo! It suddenly dawned on me how youthful I felt, considering that just a couple of months ago on The Island I was una vieja de treinta y pico de años.
The Island is a place of extremes. The middle class is rapidly disappearing; education and healthcare are acutely inclined toward the private sector. Most importantly, Island society is devoid of a balanced continuum of life experiences. Therefore it comes as no surprise to be called a hag by the age of 30. I will gladly explain why.
At 15 you attend all the Mis Quince celebrations, thus you get your first taste of partying and drinking. It makes sense that from 15 through 18 you will have three years of serious partying under your belt. From 18-23 you are at your peak, reigning supreme in the social scene. Attending college, you still live at home (there are no college dorms except for the art school Altos de Chavón). You might have a job, so you spend all your money on yourself because mommy and daddy are supporting you (hence why most bars and lounges are overflowing with youngsters). At 23 and upon graduating from college, if you haven’t been in a serious relationship, you are on the search for such. But I warn that at 23 you are running late. By this time you should be celebrating your eighth year of amores provided that you have kept your high school sweetheart as your boyfriend. However, if at 23 you are lucky enough to find an Island suitor who regards you as decente enough, you may expect to be in this relationship for about three years if all goes well. Because there is no dating on the Island, ALL relationships are expected to end in marriage (formal marriage proposals are non-existent). Which means that marriage at 26, is signal for you to immediately conceive your first child. Your second child should come by age 28, the latest. So you see that by age 30, babies and marriage (and the monetary expenses that accompany them) overhaul your life, thus hindering any opportunity to come out and play with other adults. The most you do is have dinner at a friend’s house or attend birthday parties, also at a friend’s house. Worst of all, if you happen to be a single female Islander, at 30 you will most likely be touched by spirituality, hence all nightlife desires are expected to come to an end. Either way, you have no choice but to be content, for you have been partying for fifteen years now. Ya ta’ bueno.
So do not be shocked when you call your family and friends on The Island in hopes to paint the town red, and the greeting you get is:
No porque tu sabes que después que llegan los hijos… y ya la edad de uno no es para andar en el medio… después que yo me casé ya yo no salgo… mi marido no me deja salir, y mi nueva vida espiritual me prohibe llevar una vida de excesos.
Do not take it personal either. As Yorks, we take for granted that with every passing New York City minute, we seize the opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Carpe Diem is our Modus Vivendi. We have galleries to open, restaurants to rate, meetings to attend, traveling to plan, portfolios to diversify, lectures to attend, books to get signed, careers to change, cocktail parties that require our presence; the list goes on.
On occasion, debauchery looms (after all it’s NYC and we are thirty-something reigning supreme). And the next morning over brunch, we slowly begin piecing the vestiges of the night, asking ourselves what the hell did the drag queen waitress put in the blue drink that propelled us to take off our shoes and skip around Columbus Circle while singing Je Ne Vais Pas Travailler?
I end this entry by stating that I am not in the business of validating peoples’ choices, except of course if they are judging mine. But there is something that knocks the wind out of me when I hear people my age say, pero…¿Es que tú no te piensas recoger? To what I respond:
Don’t we have the rest of our lives to be old?