Friday, June 4, 2010


I'm not saying that this necessarily applies to me in any way, but I happen to find the concept of a modern woman on her thirtieth birthday -- maybe, say, one who is a mother, is in an unlikely but very happy marriage, and is underemployed -- intriguing. Say this particular woman -- just to pick a location at random -- lives in a suburban development, in a reasonably kept house and wholly unkempt yard, somewhere southeast of Phoenix, Arizona.

1. Learn astrophotography.

Now, how does our modern woman -- and say, just for the sake of argument, that she holds a couple of college degrees and a bazillion dollars in student loan debt -- how does she take stock, on birthday No. 30?

2. Revisit the Grand Canyon. Take someone.

Let's say this is a particularly self-absorbed self-aware thirty-year-old woman, and let's say she dug up a lame-ass "30 things to do before I'm 30" list that she wrote in/after college eons ago. Let's say most of those things are still undone. The list itself wasn't even finished, perhaps.

3. Learn to cook better.
4. Buy a house.

And let's assume -- not that I can identify -- that our woman is pathologically introverted except for via keyboard; that she's fiercely opinionated but too chicken to voice her opinions; and that she's the type to, I don't know, cry at school talent shows and talking-dog movies.

5. Get better at origami.
6. Teach son about the desert/wildlife.

Suppose this woman really hasn't learned much these thirty years. Can't cook, save maybe a dozen dishes. Can't drive in strange neighborhoods. Can't balance her checkbook.

7. Try several types of sushi.
8. Teach a college course.

Suppose our lady isn't even sure about the things she has learned. Raised hard right, now she leans left. Used to attend religious services; isn't too fond of them anymore. Used to selfishly adore being adored by certain individuals; now avoids their Facebook friend requests. Doesn't want to be called "girl" but isn't "yea woman!" enough to say anything about it. Thinks she's a better mom than you but won't say so. Thinks she's smarter than you, and will say so, but will probably pretend it was a cough if you get mad.

9. Learn to drive stick
10. Skydive/parasail/bungee jump.
11. Scuba dive.

However, we can figure she's learned at least a few things in her three decades. At four, maybe she learned Sit -N- Spin = barfing. At six, maybe she learned the boy who tricked her into taking the wings off a ladybug was a sadistic douche, and perhaps she acquired a lifelong passion for animals. Somewhere around nine, she learned she had something or other called ADD, and it made her brain both better and worse than other people's. At twelve, she learned she was smarter than most everyone, which was not a social boon. Somewhere in there, she learned to hate the desert, and then to love it; she learned to love baseball and poker, and she spent a few straight years turning over rocks to watch what scurried out.

12. Dance in public and not be embarrassed.
13. Volunteer at an animal place.
14. Get Master's degree.

At fourteen, she discovered she was pretty good at writing, and decided to be a writer, probably a journalist. At fifteen, she met a guy she figured she'd someday marry. Between fifteen and twenty-one, let's say she did a bunch of stupid shit that was largely forgettable, save for learning that Jell-O shooters are not the same thing as Jell-O Jigglers, and deciding she would not, after all, be a writer or marry that guy.

15. Make new friends.
16. Visit a volcano.

Perhaps this is a woman who, stupidly, like a million other women, sealed the deal with a new guy before there was a deal; and who, like at least thousands of other women, had a whole new deal a couple of months later.

17. Shark cage!
18. Get in the best shape of my life.
19. Get organized.

And let's say this woman decided, right then and there, that her life had entered a whole new chapter. At twenty-two. Not that I would know anything about that.

20. Publish photography.

Of course, after the deal changer, she dated a bit, and eventually decided to get to know that first guy again, who was really pretty great after all. We can assume she's married to him today. Let's say she became a writer after all. Sometimes she's good at it. Let's figure once in a while she even gets paid for it.

21. Publish a book.
22. Run a 5K/10K/marathon.

It's safe to assume, hypothetically, that our woman doesn't get out much. Not many ticks on the life list. But maybe she knows all the desert's critters by sight and sound. Maybe she's passed on this knowledge to another generation. Maybe she sat on her thirtieth birthday and watched her son reading chapter after chapter, reclined on the couch, in camouflage shorts and a superhero t-shirt. Maybe she just got a whole host of handmade birthday presents, encased in rainbow-paper-and-scotch-tape cocoons. Maybe she figures that's at least as good as a bungee jump.

23. Kayak in the ocean.
24. Plant a garden.

Maybe this thirty-year-old has a wandering mind and she thinks, out of the blue, of that fishless fishing-hole scene at the end of The Last Picture Show ("Is bein' married always so miserable?" / "Naw; not really. About eighty percent of the time, I guess."), and how it reminds her of that one fishless fishing-hole scene in an episode of Stargate SG1, and she knows her husband would know exactly which scene she means, and that's gotta count for something, even if she'll never learn to dance.

25. Be fluent in Spanish.
26. Become a good mom.

I wish I had a satisfying conclusion. But it's just an intellectual exercise.

Suppose our intrepid woman still doesn't really know anything. Doesn't have a clue, really. What's next?

Yeah. I don't know either.