The Angst of Being Thirty
Tonight was a night I may never forget.
It started off harmless enough. I came home from work in a rush as my girlfriend and I were invited to a surprise engagement party that the soon-to-be fiance of her childhood friend was throwing. Both of us were a bit nervous of this encounter because we are both socially awkward and riddled with anxiety when we attend events in which we hardly know anyone. But everyone at the event made us feel welcome.
I was envious of these people. All glaring with excitement and joy about the engagement. Effortlessly walking between different groups of people they didn’t even know, introducing themselves, and talking away. Why can’t it be that easy for me? It never has been.
Surprisingly, one of the men struck up a conversation with me, asking me who I was, how I knew the fiance-to-be, and what I did for a living. We both worked in the same field, so we had one thing in common from the start. We chit-chatted a bit, and he introduced me to some more people. It was going well.
The fiance arrived at the party, shocked by all the people that had come to see her. We stuck around for about an hour before ducking out shamefully. My girlfriend had to work in an hour, so we needed to bolt home. But that didn’t stop us from feeling depressed.
“Do you feel like your left out?”, I asked. “Yeah, kind of.”, she said. It was obvious when we stepped inside. Friends she knew from her childhood were still great friends with the fiance, hanging out with her on a weekly basis, but my girlfriend sees the fiance maybe twice a year. “The door swings both ways, ya know.”, I said, knowing full well that she would counter with the fact that the fiance has been invited to countless events and only showed once.
I really feel sad for her sometimes. She has no girlfriends. No good girlfriends to talk to on the phone late at night. Nobody to go shopping with her. It must be lonely. She has me, but sometimes I feel like she just wants that alone time to vent about my ridiculous habits. All in good fun, mind you, but something everyone needs in their life, right? Then again, I don’t have that either.
That sad realization hit me in the same moment I spoke with her about being left out. We talked about how it would be nice to meet new people, make new friends. But when you’re 30, it’s hard. Where do you meet people? This isn’t college anymore. I can’t go to the bar, party with a bunch of dudes, and two weeks later — we’re all tailgating together at a college football game. Now, my life is filled with a little boy running around my house and a girlfriend who has taken a role as a caring mother figure to him. We are a family.
The thought took me back to something a neighbor of mine once told me. He was from New York, and he said, “You know what the problem with this place is… you can’t talk to somebody and invite them over for dinner. Everybody is friends with their buddies from high school, and that’s it. No more friends. They don’t need anyone else. So, people like me who move around… we end up all alone because nobody wants to take the chance to get to know you.”
I’ve experienced this in my life on both sides of the table. I’ve been the person who has been ignored, and I’ve been the person who has ignored. Looking back on it, it’s silly that I ignored anyone. I’ve been a victim of it my whole life. To say that I give a bad first impression is an understatement. Apparently, I have ‘unapproachable’ written on my face. Why I would ignore anyone is beyond me these days?
All of these thoughts running through my head weren’t the worse part though. The whole engagement thing brought about an argument between my girlfriend and I on the way home. We’ve been together for almost 5 years. We’re not married. You get the picture?
But there was one breakthrough. She’s not known for expressing her feelings honestly when we talk. She’ll keep them close to her heart and only by my nagging will she eventually disclose how she really feels. Tonight, she told me how she really feels. She’s angry that I haven’t proposed. And honestly, she hit me with the “I think you’re afraid of commitment” speech.
Am I? I was once married before, roughly six years ago, and it… went.. terribly. In fact, I think it’s the big reason why I’ve put off an engagement. Shockingly, the whole social aspect of a wedding gives me anxiety as well. Everyone staring at me, everyone watching us. It seems petty to think about that, but it scares the shit out of me that I have to be the center of attention in that manner. But I can look past that if it means I make the woman I love happy.