I woke up on the morning of my 30th birthday naked and alone in an unfamiliar hotel room, with a dead phone, covered in peanuts. As I crawled around the room, desperately searching for a phone charger, I attempted to piece together memories of the previous evening. All I could think was: This is 30? I realize that 30 isn’t “old.” Still, each milestone age is inevitably approached with some anxiety, because it forces us to assess our lives and our achievements and our bodies and our relationships, and basically to compare our worth as a human being to that of all of our peers. And that’s annoying.
Hair and Makeup: Ingeborg
Taken from Vogue
By: Karley Sciortino
But back to the day itself. On my birthday eve, I had dinner plans with a 36-year-old lawyer from D.C. About a year ago, the lawyer met a close friend of mine on OkCupid, and the two had a really fun night out. But at some point during the date, my friend decided that if she couldn’t imagine sleeping with this hot, sweet, successful guy, she had to finally admit to herself that she really was a lesbian. Instead of scheduling a second date with him, she just gave him my number. “If you like me, then you’ll like my friend,” she said, “because she’s basically me but blonde and half-straight.”
A couple weeks later, the lawyer and I met for drinks in Soho—my first and only blind date—and really hit it off. Since then, we’ve met up whenever he has come to town on business, and when my relationship was in one of its “open” phases. (My ex and I opened and closed our relationship more often than I changed my sheets, which says something about our romantic turbulence, as well as my personal hygiene.) I suppose it’s a bit of a red flag that he has always refused to tell me his last name, but he’s hot and seems harmless enough (he does ballet as a hobby), so I’ve just stopped asking questions. A few hours before the last dinner of my 20s, I got a text from him: “Hey so I reeeally want you to meet my friends. They’re a married couple who swing! I think you’d get along. Mind if they crash dinner?” Followed by a salsa-dancer emoji. I said “Fine,” and the martini emoji, and headed to meet them for dinner at Narcissa, at the Standard East Village, where the lawyer always stays.
The couple were in their mid-30s, he an all-American sensitive jock type who looks like a young Christopher Reeve, she a cute, dimpled blonde with a full sleeve of tattoos. They both work in finance. They’ve been together for more than 10 years, open for six. They want to be together for the long haul, they said, and after reading Sex at Dawn, they came to think that having one partner for life just wasn’t realistic. (In the ’90s, people read the Atkins diet book and shunned carbs. Today, people read Sex at Dawn and shun monogamy.) The lawyer kept rubbing the back of my neck affectionately, as if we were actually dating. He ordered another bottle. Now, maybe I was being naive—or plain dumb?—because I hadn’t picked up on any vibes about the evening from the lawyer’s texts. But once I was two drinks deep, it suddenly became very clear that we were on a date with this other couple, and that the three of them had been plotting this for some time. I started nervously chugging my prosecco.
“Turning 30 isn’t a big deal,” the swinger wife said. “Turning 29 is the big deal, because you spend the entire year anxiously counting down the days until you’re 30. You turn into a maniac. But once you’re finally 30 you can just chill out and move on with your life. You start to care about things less—it’s so freeing, not to care.” She’s right, honestly. The past year—and specifically the past few months—have seen some sharp and somewhat bizarre shifts in my personality. A couple months ago, I abruptly decided that I no longer wanted to dress like a senator’s wife and developed a sudden passion for sportswear, and began creepily lurking around city basketball courts in an Adidas sweatsuit, smiling at sweaty 20-year-olds. I once opened my mailbox to find a pair of pink velour sweatpants that said YOLO across the butt that I had no recollection of buying. I started wearing glittery eyeshadow. I set my Tinder age range to 22–26 and starting going on a lot of mediocre first dates that involved talking about people’s internships. I impulsively bought a shirt with a giant marijuana leaf on it even though I don’t smoke weed. I remember, when I turned 26, I threw out all my $12 Rainbow skankwear and started buying Escada power suits because I wanted to be taken seriously. Now, apparently, I want to look like a teen mom from the British projects.
“Is this a group date?” I asked the lawyer after following him to the bathroom. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to,” he said. I smiled. “Yes, I’ve heard of consent, thank you.” “We live a double life,” the swinger husband said. “We have our swinger friends, and then our regular friends. They’re not necessarily close-minded, but if they knew what we were really like . . . well, it wouldn’t go over well.” He was painful-handsome in a very obvious way—like, you can imagine that in the wrong outfit he’d just look cheesy. But he was not in the wrong outfit. “Years ago, when we started swinging, we’d meet people on Craigslist,” said the wife. “Usually people wouldn’t send photos with their face, so we’d be going in blind. We met a lot of creeps. Like this one guy who showed up alone and wouldn’t stop talking about his bowel movements.” Now they meet people through apps and life’s way easier.
After dinner we went up to the lawyer’s hotel room. I’d never done the two-couples thing before. I’ve had threesomes (which I like) and been to sex parties (which I can live without), but this was new. It really turned me on that these two good-looking men were confident and open enough for a foursome. I mean, all guys want a threesome with another girl. It’s like a default question these days: Just after “Where did you grow up?” comes “Would one of your hot friends like to come over?” But most can’t handle the idea of sex with another dick in the room. They’re too afraid they’ll like it.
I had imagined a tangle of bodies, but what ended up happening was a straight-up swap. It felt very ’70s. That went on for about half an hour, with the husband and wife occasionally pausing to kiss each other and then going back to whatever it was they were doing. After that my memory is pretty hazy. I’ve yet to reach the point where I know when I’ve had enough to drink. Maybe that happens at 40?
In the morning, I showered off the peanut dust and shame-walked down to the lobby to charge my phone behind the front desk. I had an email from the couple’s joint Gmail account: “It was a pleasure fucking you into your 30s. Hope to see you again sometime!” And a text from the lawyer: “I had an early meeting. Do you remember spilling the gross mini-bar nuts all over the bed?”
I got home, hungover and happy, and threw out my Adidas sweatsuit. I couldn’t decide whether I should invite Sam, the software engineer who I met on Tinder who I actually like-like, out for after-dinner drinks. He’s a multilingual bisexual—the best type of guy. He seems to like-like me, too, but that may be because he just moved to New York a few months ago and therefore is not yet jaded slash doesn’t have any other friends to hang out with. New transplants are the best lovers, because they haven’t yet assessed their worth. “We’ve only been dating for eight days. Is it too much to ask him out for my birthday drinks?” I asked this of my friend Kaitlin over Bloody Marys. She looked at me like I should already know the answer to that question. “Absolutely do not invite him,” she said. “It’s more chic to look like you don’t care.” “But I’m 30 now, so I just generally care less. Which actually allows me to care more, because I care less about caring.” She looked at me like I was an idiot. “You wouldn’t understand,” I said. “You’re only 25.”
“At 25, you care,” I explained. At 25, you don’t get invited to the good parties, you wear the wrong clothes, and you sleep with guys who you think are successful but in hindsight were actually hangers-on, and when they don’t text you back, you care. At 25, you can’t afford a good colorist so you dye your own hair from a $9 L’Oréal box and in the wrong light your blonde looks green. You’re insecure, you fake orgasms, and your Craigslist roommate’s coke parties keep you up all night. People don’t take you seriously, and you hate that you care, but you do. Sure, my boobs were a bit perkier at 25, but they didn’t even look that great because I bought the wrong bra. “Around 30,” I went on, “your life starts to naturally sort itself out. You have this surprising newfound confidence—it’s like it just sneaked up on you in the middle of the night. You stop caring about the little, insignificant things. It’s so freeing, not to care.” But she wasn’t listening to me.
Karley Sciortino writes the blog Slutever.