At 29, this is what we do:
We finish bottles of red wine by ourselves, without apology, with only the faint whisperings of worry about how we’ll feel the next morning.
We fold our weary limbs into the corners of friends’ couches, bar booths, coffee shop chairs, or hotel chaise lounges, and we talk, and we enjoy heavy pours, and we think, “How and when does it all get easier?”
We light each other’s cigarettes, although we’d never, ever call ourselves smokers. Because who, really, is a smoker anymore? Because cigarettes kill, and smell terrible, and stain your teeth yellow. But, we do it, still, and we like the pleasant weight of their white thinness between our fingers, the thread of smoke curling around our faces like a picture frame, the long, slow, savory inhale, the strange forbiddenness of it all, even now, at 29.
We gush about men. We complain about men. We swear off men. Only to admit that, no, really, we need men, we crave men, we want a man’s weight atop us.
We remember lust is not a shoulder we should lean on.
At 29, we can officially recall our “early 20s.” And when we do, we wonder why we’ve forgotten so many of those lessons we fought so hard to learn.
But at least now, at this age, we finally understand what is good and bad for us.
We bare secrets. We talk of cheating, lying, betrayal, broken hearts, shattered egos. We talk of these things openly, honestly, because we understand that what defines us is a compilation of all our actions. We refuse to limit ourselves.
And so we roll up our sleeves, and dig in.
We start buying “treatments” for the skin around our eyes and lips, because, already, some of us fear getting older.
We gossip, but only just a bit, because, at 29, we don’t want to be “those women.”
We stretch our legs, feel a cramped but lovely soreness in the calf, the thigh, up into the curves of hip and ass, and we thank our yoga, our runs, our long walks, our hours of darting around the office or dashing up the stairs at day’s end or dodging slow-footed pedestrians on our journey home, all for this strong and sensual and sexy awareness of our strong, sensual, sexy bodies.
We discuss marriage, children, mothers, fathers, friendships gone awry. We debate politics and foreign policy. We compliment clothing and accessories. We share book recommendations and restaurant reviews.
At 29, we ask one another why.
We cry, just a little.
We laugh, a lot. Until it hurts and we’re hoarse.
We hug tightly, fiercely, pressed breast to breast against one another. Because, at 29, we’ll have none of those weak, only-shoulders-and-arms-touching kind of hugs. We love too much, too deeply, for such emptiness.
We shake our heads and wonder, “What did I do before I met you, my friend?”
And we pour another glass. And we light another cigarette. The soup, lovingly homemade, simmers on the stove. The music shuffles to the next quiet song.
Because, at 29, life is loud enough already.
And we settle.
We settle in, rather, together, for the long haul.
Because, let’s face it, at 29, there’s still quite a bit of road ahead.