On being 29.

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.

27 responses to “On being 29.

  1. Five months ’til my 29th… There are whispers of all of this all around me already. Love your writing, as always.

    I loved 28. It was a good year for me. I can only hope the same for 29—for you and for me. :)

  2. I was literally just having one of those “holy shit I’m going to be 29 this year” moments when I opened this. For some reason, 29 feels even more daunting than 30. Thanks for a view from the “other side” ;-) It doesn’t look so bad.

    Good timing, I’d say! 29 isn’t so bad. I promise.

  3. Other than the cigarette stuff, I really love this blog post. I love that by 29, you’re able to be truthful with yourself and with others. It’s such a liberating feeling, to not have to be perfect, to not have to lie to yourself or others about where or how you are, to know you can be pretty darn remarkable without the pretenses that were your earlier 20s. Hello, my friend.

    Yes, I know, the cigarette stuff certainly won’t resonate with some. Most, maybe. But, at 29, we stop apologizing. At least a little bit. :) You are so supportive—and I so appreciate that, Nilsa.

  4. There’s treatments for around the eyes? It’s probably a good thing I don’t apply them since I look like I’m 19 (yes, this 30 year old STILL gets IDed AND even denied drinks sometimes).

    Oh and I know people have already bothered you about this, but please don’t smoke. Take it from a person who’s had to grow up with both parents who smoke heavily, so so bad (and really ages a person faster).

    Ohhh, Marie. Don’t you worry. About the smoking or the eye treatments. I’m a 29-year-old who doesn’t need either. Thankfully.

  5. 29 wasn’t so bad when I look at it just a couple months away from turning 30, still, it hasn’t been my favorite age.

    Great post.

    Thanks, Ronda. It’s tough for any age to be a favorite—so many incredible things happen each year, no?

  6. 29 is a good age. And yes, the way you’ve written it, it sounds a lot like 35, too.

    Well, what I failed to mention is that I firmly believe age is relative. So, yes, I have no doubt that at 35, I’ll still be finishing bottles of red wine and the like all by myself. :)

  7. this is completely perfect, right down to the smoky frame i sometimes find my face in.

    Aww, thank you, lady.

  8. I will totally smoke a cigarette with you :)

    Ha. Let’s go to yoga instead… :)

  9. I would never call myself a smoker…but god knows I let friends light them for me.

    This was wonderful.

    To a wonderful 29. For both of us.

  10. I just stumbled onto your blog by way of Lexa and may I just say, how did you get in my head? I swear, if I had enough talent to put thought into words with such eloquence, I would have written this exact post. I just turned 29 and the past few years have been the most intriguing of my life. I don’t believe in bests either, but I believe in getting better and stopping the apologies. Brilliant post and please don’t be surprised if I too share it very soon!

    Thank you! It’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one with these thoughts, random as they may be. I’ll be sure to wander over to your corner of the world soon!

  11. I know there’s still so much road ahead. I know. But still, this was somehow so complete.

    Yes… Complete at least for now anyway.

  12. This is so beautiful. You are so beautiful inside and out. xoxo

    You’re the inspiration. And I say that with heart, not with Chicago chords in the background!

  13. This was really rather wonderful – in both the writing and the sentiment. As a 28 year-old I must confess that while I feel torn about finishing off my 20s, I’m really excited about looking forward and seeing what’s next.

    Godspeed and thank you.

    Thank YOU, Berto! I think it’s natural to feel torn as we approach “finishing off” our 20s. We lived so much in these years.

  14. Aging isn’t all bad! I could do without the wrinkles but I really haven’t minded anything else,yet. Oh, and I am waaaaaaay ahead of you!
    This was a beautiful post. I so enjoy your writing.

    I rather like aging. Which is a funny statement to see in writing, but it’s true. I don’t even mind the first few wrinkles! :)

  15. i’m so glad my friends shared this post because at a proud 29 and a half this is SO damn true.

    i’m going to share it with all my girlfriends!

    You gotta be proud of your 29-ness, right??! Thanks for stopping by, Alexa!

  16. imgonnabreakyourheart

    This is lovely. And so you know, I think my life started at 29.

    Thank you! I’m quite certain an entirely new phase of my life has started this year, at 29.

  17. I meant to comment on this beautiful post yesterday, but when I read it I was on the shuttle with 80,000 undergrads and it felt sacrilege.

    I’m glad you didn’t desecrate this page by commenting when surrounded by 80,000 undergrads. Yech. :) I kid, my dear. I kid.

  18. I like this post! Finding the right words to describe 29 can be kind of like figuring out how best to say 2010.

    Ha! Indeed. I’m still not quite sure I’ve figured either out…

  19. Am I crazy to say that I read this going “Yes. Yes this is life. Yes this is what we do. Yes I have these friends.” and then realized that my friends and I are anywhere between 24 and 36?

    I think this is a beautiful illustration of people who are settled into who they are, still striving for who they want to be, and incredibly lucky to be surrounded by the people they need and the quiet they crave – regardless of age. Beautifully written, truly.

    Ooo, such a wonderful comment. Thank you! And I totally agree—I think what you’re saying is age is relative. As in, you could experience most if not all of these statements/sentiments at any age. Well, okay, maybe not at, say, 16 or 96…

  20. Ah, 29. Truth is, reading this post at 39….I still feel all of those things. Very nicely written!

    Eh, what’s 10 years? :)

  21. What lovely writing you have. I am finding 29 a very contemplative time, a time for consolidating what is important to us, and a time for mild panic that we’ve forgotten something very important, as 30 is suddenly in the very near future.

    My thoughts exactly, Anne. Who knew 29 would involve so much?!

  22. I turn 29 in 4 days! Fantastic post!!

  23. wow. I’m 29 anmd a male obviously(not that this should matter) but I really enjoyed this post.

    Since turning 24 each year has been regarded by my as a cause fo concern. In reality probably my best times have been in the last few years but I think once you reach the late twenties that feeling of immortality and the feeling of indefinite time to achieve everything you wanted to gradually evaporates. In its place is a pressure to live everyday like its your last because time is ticking away. This I suppose is not a bad thing but never the less it is difficult to accept and this feeling of finite time to achieve all I want in life as well as having to fight that wee bit harder for to keep that burning ambition going is something I’m still struggling to accept.

    However I feel the best days are ahead.

    Best Regards,


    The best days are DEFINITELY ahead. Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment, Rodney!

  24. Pingback: I am here. « Hannah, just breathe…

  25. I just came back here by way of you…and remembered this may be one of my favorite posts of all time!

    So sweet—thank you, April!

  26. Two weeks and counting, for me. Is it so wrong if I return to this post to see if I’m on track? :)

    Ha, no not at all! :)

  27. growing up vs growing old….at 29 is when it really hits you. I appreciate your writing, and it speaks to me, ill be thirty in a month and its good to know there are others with similar feelings of confusion and anxiousness.

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