Thirty is not the dirty word I should have feared

Twenty nine, again. Twenty nine + 1. Both ways I’d been viewing my upcoming birthday. Something seems terribly adult about being thirty, and I haven’t been feeling so certain about the adult things in my life.

But I had it all wrong. Thanks to a little lot of help from my friends, 30 is going to be great. Compared to the 28-about-to-turn-29 year old me, this girl today has grown up so much. My expectations for myself, my life, and those in it, have become much more focused and much more precious.

There’s a small market down the road from where I’m staying in Seattle, and the sign at the cash register says they card anyone who looks 30 or younger. I have yet to be carded in the 28 days I’ve been here, and finally last week I laughed out loud as the cashier once again sold me wine. He (rightfully) thought I was crazy when I thanked him through the giggles, because my trips to Ken’s Market have humbled me and forced me to get over myself and this fear of thirty. He doesn’t have to know I keep up a friendship with my high school boyfriend really only because when we meet now as adults, he tells me I still look sixteen. (Kidding about the only part. Not kidding about how I always fish for the compliment.)

The word I should have feared all year was not thirty at all, but housewife, a self-imposed label I’ve been trying out for the better part of a year. I thought it was okay to call myself that. Because of my visa that graciously allows me to live in the US, I’m not allowed to go to work. So I have to stay at home. I don’t have kids so I’m not a stay-at-home mom. I tried to embrace being a housewife without a house, learning to cook and clean in my apartment like a domestic ingénue. Thanks to Brian & Chad for introducing me to this gem:

I did briefly try calling myself a domestic scientist, especially around the weeks of research that went into my first turkey dinner. But people laughed at that. I don’t blame them. There’s nothing overly scientific about watching reruns of Gilmore Girls and West Wing all day.

I had no idea that people home loathed my housewife label so much. My mother and my other mother, Corina, held their tongues for months. And I appreciated the space to try out the title and bizarre new role on my own. But no mother actually enjoys hearing her capable, intelligent daughter label herself a housewife. One could even say reduce. Turns out no friends do, either. And I mean no disrespect to those housewives out there. I have mad respect for stay-at-home moms. I think I would fare much better at that. But when you’re only 29 and you’re buffing basically imaginary rust stains out of your shower rod with tinfoil two days in a row, you wonder if maybe you sold yourself short somewhere along the way.

It took me 9 months to start to really wonder if I had lost my fucking mind. It wasn’t until I was in Newfoundland in March that I started to work through this. I changed my ticket for an extra 6 days because I knew I was on the verge of a break through, and the time with my friends and family was crucial. I met new friends in Pam and David and watched their bewildered WTF expressions as I introduced myself as a housewife. They both insisted I give that up that title. Strangers have an uncanny ability to say the honest shit to your face your friends and family have been choking back for months. Their immediate rejection of my housewife life sparked something inside me that I haven’t been able to ignore since.

In those extra days home, I would cradle my friend’s new baby boy and cry over him. I would lie on my belly alongside my friend’s baby girl during her tummy time and whine. I would go to coffees and Sprout lunches and Piatto dinners with girlfriends and great aunts and ask about life and relationships. I am grateful for the sisterhood I have home, women from all facets of my life who always find time for me when I come back. The older I get, the more I rely on the women in my life for guidance and knowledge and I cling to their experiences and stories, and relate them to my own.

There was nothing more comforting than listening to my friend explain she’d been waiting her partner out for weeks, watching how long he could go without cleaning their only bathroom. (A very gross experiment that she had to end after several weeks for her own sanity.)  I also enjoyed watching my friend face palm at Piatto after she texted her husband to check on their sleeping baby, and after asking for a picture, he sent a selfie of his bearded mug. It’s comforting talking to my friends who are married to students. Or those with spouses who are also at home and out of work. Or those who have lived somewhere where they didn’t really fit in. All of their words helped me realize how badly I no longer want to be a Volusia County housewife. I can’t just sit around and vacuum my days away. I need to do, something. Work, somehow. Feel capable and talented and intelligent more than just during the precious few weeks I give myself home.

I texted one of my closest friends a few of these realizations one evening before we drove together to our other friend’s house for an adult sleepover. (Adult sleepovers are better than childhood ones, I’ve discovered, because they involve wine and fresh bed sheets.) I was a bit nervous for his reply, because for me, this all seemed so BIG and NEW and my head was spinning. But his reply was perfect, and I’ll never forget it. He said “mmm, I feel like I’ve always known this about you.” And I wanted to plant a big kiss on his forehead in relief. My friends so get me. They have never forgotten pre-housewife Laura and apparently most of them have been biting their tongues just waiting for me to come to my senses on my own.

During tummy time when I made similar confessions to my girlfriend, she might not remember, but I always will, how the words tumbled quickly out of her mouth as she then confessed how she thought of me every day, worried about me doing so little daily. I had no idea everyone else seemed as panicked as I was about this housewife lifestyle I couldn’t quite grasp. (Have I mentioned my friends are the best?)

So for my 30th birthday, the gift I’m giving myself isn’t a trip to Vietnam. Isn’t a tattoo. It isn’t the tickets to Yo-Yo Ma & James Taylor I enjoyed last week. Those were all great. But my gift to myself is dropping the housewife label. I won’t call myself that anymore. And I won’t live my days like that anymore, either. I’m going to quit the domestic goddess hashtags and just focus on goddess instead. Happy Birthday, to me.

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