I confess this will be a hastily written post, because I’m tired because I’m battling insomnia these days, I drove a ridiculous amount today (from New York City to Westchester, Westchester to multiple Boston drop offs, to home), and tomorrow I have a ton to do for my daughter’s last day of school/prepping for summer plans. (In other words, I don’t care what typos you find.) However, as of this moment of typing, I have 1 hour and 49 minutes left of being in my forties.
As the clock ticks down, I’d like to have a look back at my first half century (yes, I know, the second half century doesn’t start for a year, but the numbers are nice and even now, and it’s my f’ing birthday in, now, one hour and 48 minutes, so let me have my way). This list is in no way exhaustive and I assume the minute I hit “publish” I’ll think of twelve other things I should have included, but that’s what I get for waiting till the last few minutes of this decade.
1968: According to all sources, this is the year that broke America. It is also the year I was born. My father reports that though I had all ten fingers and toes, my head was alarmingly cone shaped.
1969: Sesame Street airs for the first time. My mom hears about it and puts me in front of it on the second day. My father claims this means I started with the letter B and the number 2, and I never quite caught up. My father also sets me down to watch the first man walk on the moon. He later tells me that he feels I missed out. “I had your sister watch Hank Aaron break the home run record. Lots of people will walk on the moon in your lifetime but no one will ever break Hank Aaron’s home run record, so she got the better deal.”
1970: Despite living in Westchester County, where the greatest threat is the stray cats peeing in my sandbox, I develop and deep, abiding fear of cows. “Scared cows.”
1971: My sister, the Tweedle Twirp, is born, and my fear of cows abates, because apparently the newborn in my room will protect me.
1972: We leave the northern climes for South Florida.
1973: Who knows? My memory is terrible. I probably start kindergarten. Let’s go with that. I start kindergarten.
1974: I develop a masochistic love of the Miami Dolphins that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
1975: I win a blue ribbon for my science project.
1976: I begin my Bicentennial quarter collection. I also get a head gear, which I have to wear for 24-hours a day. The cutest boy in third grade tells me I look like a horse.
1977: Scott Baio becomes my raison d’être.
1978: My grandparents take me and my cousin to Israel. It’s my first trip abroad. I remember crying on a camel, but not much else.
1979: My parents disrupt my happy little life in South Florida and move me to Colorado. The Colorado years are traumatic for many reasons, so I repress all of them from my memory.
1980: Repressed. I do remember, however, sobbing at the election of Ronald Regan, convinced that it would be the end of the world.
1983: We move back to South Florida and my equilibrium is restored. Well, as restored as it can be in an emotionally fragile, insecure teenager. The Day After airs. I make a plan with the boy down the street that if the bombs go off we will use our fifteen minutes to lose our virginity.
1984: I’ve read George Orwell. Other than the Macintosh ad, the world seems to still be standing. I attend the Alexander Muss High School in Israel, where I miss Diet Cokes with a passion and my fashion sense reaches its pinnacle.
1985: Mr. Shultz, my AP Bio teacher, sends home a failure notices reading, “If Jennifer studied half as much as she spent talking to Hillary, she’d be a straight A student.” I get a C in AP Bio.
1986: “Who are we? Out for kicks! Senior, senior, 86!” I enroll at the University of Texas where people find it really odd that the name of my high school was Beach High and I can’t get over the size of the bows that the girls wear in their hair.
1987: Turns out the being a business major at UT was not my thing. I transfer to the film school at New York University.
1988: I make a lot of films. I write a lot of screenplays. I drink a lot of beer, mostly at Sophie’s and McSorley’s because New York in 1988 didn’t give a flying f how old you were.
1989: I make my beautiful student film, Shades of Gray, which was not, I repeat not, the most cliched, masturbatory, piece of shit ever.
1990: I decide I am meant for a career in advertising and I take a job at Saatchi and Saatchi ($18,000, which even then, didn’t buy you much, and concerns my parents).
1991: I decide I hate advertising so I take a job in publishing, with a massive pay cut ($14,000, alarming my parents significantly).
1992: I decide I hate publishing and take a job at a film agency, with a massive pay cut ($11,000, which sends my parents into cardiac arrest).
1993: I decide I hate agenting and go back to publishing, going back to my 1990 salary ($18,000, which now seems like a fortune to my parents).
1994: I decide, no, I do hate publishing, so I quit my job, spend three months driving from Miami to Seattle, where I start the MFA program in fiction at the University of Washington.
1995: A blur of writing, writing workshops, and self doubt.
1996: After completing my MFA, I think about marrying my current boyfriend. I put off a decision by fleeing to a kibbutz in Israel for four weeks, which somehow turns into six months working in the kiwi fields, then travel Eastern Europe for a month and a half, providing lots of fodder for my writing, but little stability for my life. (Didn’t marry the boyfriend.)
1997: I live a free-spirited life, freelancing as a copyeditor/proofreader, living the wild life in Seattle, and writing in my free time, constantly wondering if the paycheck will come in before the rent is due.
1998: I’m tired of not being sure if I can pay my rent and look for a day job. A friend says, “Do you know that little Internet bookstore in town? I hear it’s hiring copyeditors.” I apply and get a job at that little Internet bookstore.
1999: I did it. I partied like it was 1999. Discover stock options, gin martinis, and oysters on the half shell.
2000: My friend, Eugene, says, “I’m riding the STP with a few friends. Do you want to do it with us?”
“Sure,” I say. “Where are you planning on camping?”
“Camping?” He scoffs. “We’re not camping. You can do it in two days if you want, but we’re riding it in one day.”
Took fourteen hours, but I rode it in one day. The pain, though, lasted for weeks.
2001: 9/11. Now I’m sure world will end.
New husband convinces me to move to Boston so he can attend some stuck-up pretentious school that will teach him how to wear khakis and blue button-up shirts and use words like “monetize” and “attritting.”
2003: After spending a week in New Orleans in which I was drunk for 23 out of 24 hours of every day, I discover I’m pregnant. My son has his revenge by being breech and spending two months with his head poking into my ribs.
2004: Freelancing sucks. My child doesn’t eat. The house is falling apart. I try to run away. Literally. Run my first marathon. Still have all the same problems. But now my body hurts.
2005: Do the only logical thing. Have another child. Pray that this one eats. I don’t care what else could happen, I just want her to eat.
2006: Child Two does eat. However, she doesn’t sleep. I rethink that bargain I made with God. Try to run away again. Marathon number 2.
2007: I’m exhausted. There is no God. Marathon number 3.
2008: Still haven’t slept. Marathon number 4 (my PR of 4:13:46, not that I was counting).
2009: In between freelance work and catnaps, I start writing a novel. Marathon number 5.
2010: Body breaks. No more marathons. But still writing a novel. Finish novel.
2011: Get an agent. Novel doesn’t sell.
2012: Cry a lot. Discover bourbon. Cry into bourbon.
2013: Get off ass and write another novel.
2014: Novel sells.
2015: Drink bourbon in happiness instead of sadness.
2016: Modern Girls publishes.
2017: Start writing next novel. Fend off emails from people asking if it’s a sequel. No, it’s not a sequel.
2018: Turn 50. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I’ve got 32 minutes left of this decade. Think I’ll spend it asleep. Here’s to another 50!