Remember when you were in high school and you thought that you would really have your shit together by the time you were in your 20s? We spend our teenage years being told that these were the awkward years of our lives, sure that by the end of them the Handbook to Life would be automatically uploaded into our mental catalogues and we would get it all together. All the 20-somethings I saw on TV seemed like they at least had some vague idea of what they were doing in life, and I was just waiting for the day it all clicked. When I hit my twenties and realized that the moment I felt like a real adult might be forever pending, I returned to the TV shows and movies I watched as a teenager with a new glaze of cynicism.
Even the shows that pride themselves on being honest don’t depict the most uncomfortable realities of life. I understand that this is because real life can be pretty mundane and nobody wants to be reminded of that, but it still raises expectations unfairly. I don’t know about you, but I was convinced that I would leave my teenager years behind and suddenly develop into a graceful swan that glides through life in a sweet, sometimes slightly awkward, but overall elegant and effortless way.
1. You will have lots of spare time. Who are all these people who have time to lounge around in a coffee shop at 2pm on Wednesday afternoon? How have you not been fired yet? Do you get a four hour lunch break?
2. Your friends will be ready and waiting to hang out whenever you want. Inconveniently, my friends all have jobs, interests and hobbies of their own and don’t sit around in my apartment all afternoon waiting for me to come home so I can recap my day for them. Rude.
3. Everyone seems to have keys to their friends apartments. On that note, why is nobody concerned to come home and find a friend, who surely has their own apartment somewhere, sitting on their couch? How often do Rachel and Monica come home to their apartment and find Joey just sitting there? Either they distribute their keys very freely, or they need to get a better lock.
4. Being in your twenties means constant partying. A group text goes from “Friday, wine time!!” to “I kind of want to go to the gym, and then I’ll have to wash my hair, and I have a really good Netflix lineup planned…” faster than you can pull on pajama pants.
5. Money will be a small, insignificant concern. The classic financial mystery that is Carrie Bradshaw—she spends about one minute of each twenty-minute episode tapping at her laptop whilst leaning out the window on those lean, toned arms, and then spends the next 19 minutes strutting around Manhattan in Manolo Blahniks and drinking cocktails. She worries about how to make rent in one episode, and then all money problems are as swiftly forgotten as the tracksuits Miranda used to wear.
6. You’ll struggle to find satisfying work… for about five minutes. According to every movie I’ve ever watched, I should have had this job as an assistant for about two weeks. Then the head of a publishing house should have stumbled upon a page of my writing that slipped out of the leather bound notebook I scribbled in while sitting in a corner couch of my neighborhood cafe, and immediately offered me a full time writing position at his brand new magazine. In fact, I probably should have become the editor. He might also have been Mark Ruffalo or Hugh Grant, but that’s a secondary request.
7. Finding dates in cute, unexpected places is easy. Where’s the guy I meet buying soy milk at the grocery store? I walk past the same people every day on the way to work, I spend a lot of time in elevators, and I often drink coffee in parks. Hello? What am I doing wrong?
8. You can find an apartment that is just shabby enough to show that you’re young, but still very large and comfortable. I’m looking at you, Bridget Jones. There’s no way you’re affording that one bedroom flat in Borough without any housemates. Where do you hide them, under your bed?
9. Your awkward teenage years are behind you. Did anybody else wake up on their 20th birthday and expect to look in the mirror to see flawless skin, white teeth and a perfectly proportioned bod? All I got was the weight of adult responsibilities and expectations suddenly dragging on my shoulders.
10. All a makeover requires is contact lenses and a hair straightener. Think Anne Hathaway—The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada—all they do is take off her glasses, straighten her hair and burn the bad kitten heels. You can put Anne Hathaway in a moth eaten cardigan but she still looks like Anne Hathaway. This worries me, because I’ve never needed glasses and my hair is kind of already straight…and I still don’t look like Anne Hathaway. When’s my elegant adult transformation happening? Did I miss the registration date?
11. I’ll suddenly know how to dress like an adult. Everyone in movies seems to just know what’s age appropriate for them. You don’t see anyone on TV trying to squeeze into dresses they bought when they were 18 (aside from Lena Dunham in Girls, who often dresses like a toddler in a way that I find quite inspired). When do I replace all my denim cut offs with pencil skirts? Do I have to wear heels at work now!? If so, when will my body learn how to walk in heels without looking like a drunk baby giraffe?
12. I’ll have occasions to wear these grown-up clothes. Let’s be honest, nobody our age can really afford to go out for drinks that often—and certainly not at the kind of places where you actually have to look presentable and wear anything fancier than a t-shirt without any toothpaste stains. My (very few) outfits that are (barely) passable as “mature” or “sophisticated” rarely see anything other than my workplace.