Raised on Seinfeld
You know, if you take everything I’ve accomplished in my entire life and condense it down into one day, it looks decent.
— George Costanza
Entering your thirties SUCKS. Ok, that was dramatic. Not EVERYTHING about it sucks. You’re finally in charge of your own life and can do all the things your parents told you not to do, like have popcorn and wine for dinner, or stay up for hours watching shitty reality TV shows while ordering useless products on Amazon Prime. (I was desperate to try an LED rainbow showerhead precisely because my parents refused to buy me one when I was younger. As it turns out, they were right for saying no. It was a complete waste of money, and now I shower underneath a dull, red flashing light.)
As entertaining as these snack-induced comas, Bachelor binges, and tipsy online purchases can be, hitting your thirties is far tougher than any guilty pleasure or useless purchase can mend. The minute you turn thirty, everything starts to change. The bills on your desk get higher, your metabolism gets slower, and your friends get married and have babies. Now, don’t get me wrong—I love my friends. I want the best for them, including a wedding with an open bar and little humans I can give back when they start to cry. However, these sudden surges of change sent my brain into a marathon of questioning. If they are settling down and having kids, am I supposed to? Do I want to? If I do, do I have to do it now? I was just about to finally start Game of Thrones!
This thought cycle usually leads to a period of binge drinking and sleeping with random dudes as a “fuck you” to living life the “right way,” followed by a sob session with a therapist who I’m certain counts the minutes till we’re done, topped off by a plate of fries with a side of “I should try to be like everybody else. Right?” Shit, I’m exhausted and we’ve only just begun. Welcome to your thirties.
There are plenty of books out there to help see you through your “quarter-life crisis”— see Chicken Soup for Your 25‑Year-Old Soul Who Is Still Living Off Top Ramen and Trying to Figure Out Which Minimum-Wage Job to Stick Out, aka The Holy Bible for Student Loan Victims and Soon‑to‑Be Struggling Artists—but no one warns you about the thirty-life crisis, when the microwaved noodles and cater waiter jobs of your twenties start to feel like a quaint walk in the park and when the proverbial umbilical cord to a noncommittal life of partying and dreaming gets cut off by wedding invites and 401(k)s. Sadly, the dream boards made with the assistance of that epic joint are thrown into the trashcan as your friends succumb to the once proclaimed enemy, “the man.” Not to mention the “where are we going to eat” conversations turn into “where is this going” in the blink of an eye. In just one decade, inquiring about your relationship status shifts from being perceived as clingy and even crazy because you have “so much time” ahead of you to being the norm and even a societal expectation because you’re “running out of time,” you old hag. Holy hell, where is the book for that?
Don’t freak out—I promise it gets better. If you’ve ever experienced the feeling of your age wearing you down, or have felt like you were on a different path than the people around you, I got your back. It took me thirty-five years to accept the fact that I can’t do life like everyone else, even if it would be easier for me to just climb the corporate ladder, settle down, and pop out a kid or two. Every other moron is capable of doing it; why can’t I? The answer: Seinfeld.
Seriously. Every Thursday night, my family and I turned our dining room chairs toward the TV and watched Seinfeld intently. It didn’t occur to me until just now that I was far more influenced by this show than I ever realized. Think about it. The four main characters were single, independent misfits in their thirties. They lived alone, overthought everything, and made love look tedious. Seinfeld laid my life out before me— I just didn’t know it yet.
One time someone told me I reminded them of George Costanza. At first, I was totally insulted. I look way better posing in my underwear on a couch. But then I realized they were right. I’m a tiny neurotic Jew with a knack for doing things the wrong way, and I have been known on several occasions to dig a dessert out of the trashcan.
Of course, a TV show can’t be the only explanation for an aversion to the norm. Personally, I like to blame my parents. (That’s what they’re there for, right?) The reality is mine are actually delightful humans. But they are just that—human. Without knowing it, their innate fears and overt neuroses rubbed off on me at a very young age. For example, thanks to them, I will NEVER check my bags at the airport curb, I will ALWAYS have an “out” for every social event, and I will NEVER be fully comfortable in large crowds. I’m a real good time. On top of all that, my parents’ divorce inadvertently hindered my shot at ever trusting in true love. Because I saw firsthand that a beautiful couple, with a good family, steady incomes, and great senses of humor, were capable of falling out of love, I was left incapable of believing in eternal love. At least my skepticism justifies my three-dates-and-quit rule.
I know I sound like a millennial (if only I still looked like one), complaining and blaming everyone else. I am. But I also take full responsibility for my relentless desire to overanalyze life, all for the sake of figuring out what the fuck we are expected to be doing here. The impetus of my thirty-life crisis.
Through my various awkward experiences, which I’m probably going to regret sharing, I hope that I can give comfort to those going through this less-documented rite of passage. The neurotic ones trying to take the unconventional path while still questioning themselves along the way. The ones who have had to parent a parent, unprepared, as they lay sobbing in your arms. The ones who have finally accepted they need help because leaving the house has become increasingly more difficult. The ones who relate to being called crazy on a first date, or who have had to explain to a grandparent, time and again, why they’re still single. The ones who talk to their pets, dance to the music playing in their heads, and can’t wait to get home to rip off their Spanx. And especially to the ones who are exhausted by the tears and are desperate for the giggles. In the end, the only way to deal with the toughest shit life throws at you is to laugh.
Even though my thirties have been one hell of an emotional roller coaster, at least I can share with you what I’ve learned so far and chalk my many failures up to research. You’re welcome. Also, thank you. My breakdowns now have a purpose.
Finally, a warning: This book will be unfiltered and often unladylike. It has to be; it’s real. It’s funny at times, sad at others, and humiliating, to say the least. I’m not holding back, because humans need to know that other humans are just as fucked up as they are, and that’s ok. In fact, sometimes it’s downright awesome. After all, why do you think Seinfeld is still so popular? I’ll always find solace in George Costanza. For I am Lisa Schwartz, “Lord of the Idiots.” Let’s do this.
Gender-Reveal Party—Yes, It’s a Fucking Thing
You gotta see the baby!
— Jerry Seinfeld as every annoying baby-crazed person
Change is hard. I’ve never been good at it, no matter how many pillows with inspirational quotes I buy. Intellectually, I know that change is inevitable and usually leads to the next awesome chapter in your life. Yet, even knowing this, any shift in my routine throws me for a huge emotional loop.
Growing up, all I wanted was a dog. I would beg my parents, daily, to let us have one. After a couple of years of incessant begging, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I was ten at this point, and being in double digits meant getting shit done. I did extensive research on the breed I wanted and made a list of all the things I would personally do to help take care of it. Funny how that list magically disappeared when the dog arrived. Nevertheless, my parents fell for my master plan. To seal the deal, I had found an ad in the PennySaver for a litter of the cutest miniature schnauzers. For the record, I endorse rescuing dogs, but at that time that wasn’t as common. Plus, we’re Jewish and allergic to everything, so finding a hypoallergenic dog was a box on the list I needed to check to ensure victory. It worked! Within hours, we were in the car, headed down to the middle of nowhere to meet the puppy of my dreams. Everything was going just as I had planned.
We had tickets to see a play on the night we finally brought the puppy home. Being the Schwartzes, we weren’t going to waste money and not attend. So, we set the pup up in his new crate and headed out. In the car, I started to cry. Then, I panicked. Before I knew it, I was basically hyperventilating. It wasn’t that I was upset we had left the puppy at home; instead I was having a full-blown anxiety attack over the fact that we got the dog in the first place.
“What if everything changes? What if everything is different? What if it was a bad idea? What if . . . what if . . . ?” I shouted with boogers and tears sprinting down my face.
I honestly don’t remember my parents’ response. I was too worked up to listen, with my brain was going a million miles a minute. It was totally absurd because I wanted the dog so badly, but once I got him, I freaked out and immediately thought we should give him back. That, my friends, is what my OCD looks like (diagnosed, unfortunately not a hyperbole). A spiral of thoughts, loss of emotional control, full-blown panic, a complete aversion to change. I ended up loving that dog. Max Farfel Schwartz. A gray miniature schnauzer with a terrible disposition and giant balls. Guessing the former had something to do with the latter. Max was my best friend and a huge part of my teenage life. He died when I was in college. Apparently, he went blind and kept walking into the pool. There was always a cover on, though, so he never fell in. He just stood there in terror, like Jesus walking on water, but the neurotic version. Eventually my parents had to put him down. Shortly afterward, they had to put down their marriage too. I don’t think the former had anything to do with the latter, but I’d have to ask. All these years later, my brother and I still sign Max’s name on cards. Always accompanied by a little paw print and an “RIP.” I’m not sure if we do it as a joke or as a serious in memoriam. Probably both.
I use this story a lot when trying to explain my reactions to change. Most people are able to go with the flow, or at least try to. To see someone, like me, freak out over the smallest and often most unexciting things is hard for many to understand. As absurd as the dog story is, it paints a picture of how I operate.
When I turned thirty, change started coming faster and more often. With that, my panic attacks came stronger and lasted longer. It wasn’t that I was upset that I was getting older; I was upset that everything was shifting. My friends were getting married and having babies, and the dynamics of the friendships were evolving. It was all freaking me the fuck out.
Randi, Jessica, and I had been friends since we were in middle school. We met doing children’s theater and spent our summers having slumber parties and rehearsing our jazz squares. We stayed loosely in touch during high school and college, and then reunited once we all moved back to Los Angeles. When we did, it was like we had never left. In fact, our bond became even stronger. Ever since then we have been like the Three Amigos, Charlie’s Angels, the Powerpuff Girls, or some other cute trio reference.
I’ve always done better in a group of three. Growing up it was Caitlin, Kit, and me. Now Randi, Jess, and me. I think there is some sort of buffer with three. One‑on‑one, you have no choice but to reveal everything about yourself. With three, sometimes you can go a whole hangout without ever really focusing on you. It’s a nice escape from the antagonistic self-analysis I do on a daily basis.
The three of us spend copious amounts of time together. We travel together, laugh together, cry together, and eat unhealthy amounts of French fries together. We’re like the cast of Now and Then. Except there are only three of us, and I call dibs on not being Rosie O’Donnell. These ladies are my heart, my soul, and my one constant amongst all the change.
Randi is a preschool administrator, and a very good one at that. She is tremendously patient, humbly brilliant, and she has a heart of gold. I don’t exactly know what that means, but it seems appropriate. She is subtle and thoughtful, but give her a glass of wine and the performer in her arrives. With Randi, I am comforted by our parallel anxieties and our need to please others. I can confide in her when I’m feeling overwhelmed or upset. Most of the time, we just have a silent understanding that we are on the same page. We appreciate the art of shopping, decorating, and hermitting. We have an ongoing battle over who uses WebMD the most. Now we have a secret book club, mostly because we don’t want to deal with other people. Randi, this book better be next month’s pick.
Jessica is like no one I have ever met before. She enters a room, and everyone knows she’s there. She’s eccentric and hysterical. Crazy but stable. She is the life of the party but half the time would prefer to be home in her sweatpants, cutting her cuticles obsessively. When I’m with her, I don’t have to worry about holding a conversation, or keeping things interesting. She takes me out of my comfort zone and gives me permission to let loose. A good time is built in anytime Jess is around. What I really love about Jessica is what’s underneath all that. She’s authentic and unapologetic. She’s the least judgmental person I know. She’s constantly just trying to figure out what we are all doing here and why. Also, whether or not a parallel universe exists, which we’ve spent hours on the couch talking about. Our conclusion: abso-fucking-lutely.
I feel like I land somewhere in between the two of them. I think on the outside I’m more of a Jessica, but inside I’m a Randi. When I’m with both of them, though, I finally feel like myself. For a socially anxious oddball, this is the greatest gift I could ever receive. These women have made me the woman I am today, and I am beyond grateful for our friendship. Except for when Jessica doesn’t have coffee in the morning. It’s not pretty, and I don’t want any part of it.
When we entered our thirties, we started to collectively feel the changes around us. With every baby shower invite, we held on to each other a little tighter. We also started drinking a little heavier. As our friends started getting pregnant and our social circle starting changing, we noticed we were no longer the center of the party. In fact, we were the annoying girls that needed to put down the champagne and invest in a cardigan set. We knew it, but we weren’t about to do it. Instead, we would sit in the back of the room at every baby shower and roll our eyes as we pounded the drinks we’d snuck in. We weren’t ready.
No matter how much we wanted to slow everything down, these ridiculous events were being thrown at us left and right. We had no choice—we had to suck it up, put on our floral-print dresses, and show up with some bullshit gift we got off some bullshit registry. Which, by the way, I don’t think is very fair. You had an engagement party, a bridal shower, a bachelorette weekend, and a fucking wedding. Now you’re having two baby showers, a baby naming, and then a birthday for every year that kid is alive. What next? Am I going to have to celebrate your vagina snapping back into place after you push that third child out? FUCK YOU. I’m broke, with an unjustifiably loose vagina, and I haven’t received a real gift since my fucking Bat Mitzvah, where I mostly received weird coins that are still sitting, dusty, in some cabinet at my dad’s house. You know what? I’m going to get me a registry and make you buy me shit if you keep inviting me to these ridiculous parties where all you serve is iced tea and little sandwiches. Give me a full-size sandwich and a glass of wine or I will go insane.
Which, I admittedly did more often than I’d like to admit (but do in this book). I would like to point out that this time was absolutely valid. This time exceeded all the other times, and then some. This time pushed the celebration limits to such an extreme that I nearly lost my mind. I certainly lost my pride.
It was a perfect summer day. The kind of day you want to spend drinking with your two best friends by the pool, laughing about the shitty date you went on last night with the guy who dropped the “I live on my ex‑girlfriend’s couch” bomb, and planning the next time the three of you can ditch town and drink your body weight in wine. Oh, glorious summer—the sun was bright, the energy was electric, and the three of us . . . were stuck going to a gender-reveal party. Yes, insert that record scratch. I did, in fact, say GENDER-REVEAL PARTY. As if the two baby showers we had attended for this fetus wasn’t enough, we had to pretend to care whether it was coming out with a penis or a vagina. Let me tell you, there are very few things I actually care about. Teeny-tiny private parts are certainly not one of them.
In recent years, I have come to realize the power of saying no. If I don’t want to do something, I don’t have to. I’m an adult and I owe that decision to myself. The power of no is a strong and an empowering thing. The power of obligation and guilt due to years of friendship, however, is stronger. So, we pulled ourselves together and went to the damn party.
We were supposed to dress in the color that represented the sex we thought the baby would come out as. Really, we all just wanted to wear black, but Randi wore pink, I wore blue, and Jessica wore yellow. She claims it was because she’s against gender identification, but I’m pretty sure she just didn’t read the invite.
All three of us walked up to the front door, which was obnoxiously covered in those plastic IT'S A BOY and IT'S A GIRL signs. My instinct was to vandalize them with “It’s financial suicide with endless diarrhea,” but I refrained. We all took one giant breath and opened the door into what was to become very similar to what I imagine an acid trip feels like.
The home was small, but it was an actual house. A grown‑up house, in the suburbs, with a real-life white picket fence. My apartment in the city suddenly felt amateur and embarrassing in comparison. We walked in to find the home was packed with balloons, screaming babies, giant wedding rings, toys scattered on the floor doubling as little mini death traps, and the oddly familiar faces of high school classmates who had warped into humans pretending to be adults pretending to have a handle on their monsters pretending to be babies. My heart began to race. What would I say to these now strangers? How would I avoid conversations where I would inevitably reveal my clear disdain for love, marriage, and childbirth? I mean, seriously, do you know you shit yourself when you push that baby out? Your vagina rips and you SHIT yourself! I began to sweat. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t prepared. I couldn’t handle the accusing stares from these sexually frustrated parents. THEY knew I knew they hadn’t had sex in months. I knew THEY knew I’d had sex the night before with that guy who lives on his ex‑girlfriend’s couch. Don’t judge me—he was kind of cute, and she was out of town. Oh man, this wasn’t going to end well. This couldn’t end well. Was this ever going to end? And then, like the glorious light at the end of the tunnel that you read about in those weird hippie articles on Facebook where the guy comes back from the dead to tell us that he “SAW. THE. LIGHT,” my eyes finally focused in on the most stunning sight I had ever seen . . . a fully stocked bar.
As fast as a teenager snapchats her frenemy giving the weird acne kid a hand job in the theater rafters at the Sadie Hawkins dance, Randi, Jess, and I raced to the bar. We filled our unusually large cups unusually high with unusually disproportionate amounts of vodka and downed them at an unusually fast pace. Ok, that last part was a lie. We pretty much always drink vodka at the speed of light. But finally . . . aah . . . that sweet booze relief. Just like that, with color in our cheeks, warmth in our hearts, and numbness in our heads, we finally felt like we could conquer this absurd gender-reveal celebration. We threw our arms in the middle of a huddle, like a team of . . . some sports reference. “One . . . two . . . three! Act like we care!” We tossed our hands up in the air with confidence and went our separate ways.
The next hour was filled with saturated small talk that ended in me making some inappropriate dick jokes, as I looked over at Randi, who was having a deep conversation with the dog in the corner. Jessica was spending her time drinking gin straight from the bottle with Grandma Jean, the only other reasonable human here. At some point, after my fifth time saying, “We just realized the only thing we really have in common is that we both like boys,” the three of us found ourselves sitting crisscross applesauce in front of a two-year-old demon-child. She glared at us with hatred as we “goo-gooed” and “gah-gahed” because we didn’t know how to do the baby thing. Her mom chuckled at us as she pointed out how smart her little angel was. I assumed she was implying that the little chunk was smarter than the three of us combined. At this point in our vodka marathon, I couldn’t really disagree with her. The three of us stood up to go fill our cups one more time, and like any natural disaster that sneaks up on an innocent community just trying to live their single beautiful lives, that blob of a child PROJECTILE VOMITED right past us and ALL OVER the gender-reveal cake. It was like a horror movie in my head, played in slow motion. The orange-yellow-brown mixture clad with pieces of her soul arched up through the air while jaws dropped, hands shot out, and screams ensued.
I realize this was disheartening for everyone involved, especially the soon‑to‑be parents who were dying to know what genitalia their kid was going to dangle around for the rest of their life. I certainly don’t want to take away from the legit distress the mother of that kid blowing chunks probably felt in that moment. And I am sure everyone else at the party was freaked out too, praying their kid doesn’t get whatever fucked‑up kid sickness that was. (Seriously, kid sicknesses are insane. They get worms in their butts. Legit WORMS IN THEIR BUTTS.) I just felt these unavoidable feelings I couldn’t properly process or maturely handle in that very moment. This party was a crash course in what the future held for me, and it threw me for a far bigger loop than I was prepared for. It’s as if all my fears associated with change had been purposely placed right in front of me, in this gender party hell house, packed with judgmental peers, swirled together in a haze of vodka, topped with an explosion of baby barf. I know, the party wasn’t about me, but my anxiety was rearing and there was no stopping it.
My stomach dropped. My palms were wet. My head began to spin. I COULDN’T DO IT ANY LONGER! Then, a switch flipped. With no regret, thought, or goodbyes, I BOLTED. I literally ran out of the house. Surely everyone saw me, but I couldn’t help it. My body took over. I ran, Forrest Gump style, out of the house, down the long driveway, and then full speed down the street with tears in my eyes. It was all too much. Growing up. Changing paths. Feeling behind. It was too much, and all I could do was run. And run. And run. Halfway down the street, I stopped for a second to take a breather, because I’m not a damn runner; I’m a drinker. I could hardly breathe. Then, like music to my ears, I heard loud footsteps, crunching leaves, and heavy breathing behind me. I did a slo‑mo turn, like they do in the movies, to reveal the loves of my life running toward me. Randi and Jessica, looking like professional drunken athletes, were sprinting my way. Quickly the tears in my eyes were overthrown by uncontrollable laughter as we all came together, huddled with hands on our knees, winded breaths, and smiles that filled our whole faces. Without words, we put our arms around each other, took a deep group breath, and walked down the street into the sunset. In that moment, we knew no matter how much life changed, we’d always have each other. We’d always be us.
For those who feel left with a gender cliff-hanger, the baby came out a boy who looks like a girl. Jessica wearing yellow actually ended up making the most sense. She always has fantastic dumb luck.
Not too long after that day, Randi told us that she was pregnant. She was beaming when she announced the news. She had wanted a baby for as long as I can remember, and if anyone should have one, it’s her. She is the most educated on the subject; plus, the combination of her and her husband’s looks makes for angel children. I couldn’t have been happier for her, knowing this was her dream. I would be lying, though, if I said I didn’t have a good old-fashioned meltdown in the car, after hearing the wonderful news. I felt like ten-year-old me, crying in the backseat of the car, desperately wanting to give my dog back. I wanted my best friend to have everything she ever wanted, but I didn’t want things to be different. Our friendship was perfect—it was the one thing I could always rely on. Would Randi becoming a mom shift everything? Change had been happening all around us, but now it was happening to us. I wasn’t sure I could handle it. I know that sounds so selfish, but in that moment, it was my truth.
Throughout the nine months of her pregnancy, I continued to worry about the pending changes, but even with the little shifts in routine (we didn’t go out for drinks as much anymore, although Randi was a sober sport when we did), things felt just as great as they always had. I was learning to trust that regardless of the new additions or shifts we’d face, we would be ok.
Jessica and I were there the morning Randi gave birth to the most perfect son. The look of love in Randi’s eyes was palpable, and all my worries were eased. How could your best friend being in complete bliss make you anything but perfectly happy? I held him and fell instantly in love, and with that love came an all-new phase of our friendship. Suddenly our nights out turned into the most fun nights in, watching the little man grow and learn. So much so that it was all we wanted to do, to the point that Randi had to remind us that she needed to leave the house once in a while. Now we go over and help feed him before taking Mommy out, because he’s become part of our lives, and part of our friendship, and it’s perfect.
Change is scary and hard and brain jiggling. Change is also beautiful and exciting and elevating. It’s just how you attack it and who you have with you during the battle. Choose your team wisely. I know not everyone is lucky enough to have childhood friends who are still their best friends. But you do have the power to keep the friends who support and grow with you and to let go of the ones that bring you down or hold you back.
Remember being in high school and the pressure you felt to make friends with the cool kids? At the time, you thought it was crucial to your success. You believed that you had to be in that group of pretty girls who all the other girls wanted to be and who all the boys wanted to be inside. You would go to extremes, like ditching your middle school best friend, just to achieve this goal that society had somehow drilled into your head. Then in college you were swamped by the stress of joining the best sorority. Paying for a group of doe- eyed, overenthusiastic, matching-outfit friends, even if it meant leaving your real friends at the dorm. Then, after eight years of relationships based on status, you realized you didn’t have one true friend in the real world. What was the point?
My advice, if you want it, is stick with the friends you made in middle school, or the ones you befriended in the dorms, or anyone you have always been able to be your nerdy self around. Opt out of the popular route or the group you chose because you were afraid of not fitting in. Look for the friends with heart and loyalty. Humor and honesty. A willingness to communicate and grow. Friends who will come lie in bed with you when you are heartbroken. Friends who will be at the hospital in the wee hours of the morning to welcome your baby into the world. Friends who will hold your hand as you watch your relative go into the ground. Friends who will make any life change, like bringing home a new puppy, seamless. Or at least a hell of a lot easier. Most importantly—and I urge you to write this down—look for friends who will absolutely run out of a gender-reveal party after you when it all gets to be a little too much.