September 29th: A picturesque evening in gentrified Atlanta
I recently saw this meme online, which adequately describes our situation. I thought I’d share it with you guys:
EARLY 30s LIFE SIMULATOR:
YOU ARE DOWN TO 6 FRIENDS. ONE NO LONGER DRINKS DUE TO A BREASTFEEDING THING. EVERYONE’S TIRED. YOU ALL WORK TOMORROW.
When we arrived at Emily’s new apartment that night, the quartet reunited, the four of us hadn’t been together in nearly three months. Granted, that was probably on me. I wasn’t able to attend Felicia’s baby naming ceremony a few weeks before because DeMarcus was in town and we’d made plans. Other weekends had been deemed unavailable by one or another of us due to nannying, mommy duties, dating and mini vacations. So, with the gang all back together, wine was in order. Well, really, when is wine not in order, right?
I was the second to arrive at Emily’s place, and she was busy neatly wrapping watercress in bacon and jamming little toothpicks through them. It seemed the absolute most fitting snack on the planet there in that setting, on the second floor of a trendy new apartment building smack dab in the middle of newly gentrified suburban Atlanta. Watercress just seemed to me like the epitome of yuppie finger food. Then, when Felicia, our fourth, arrived, we pulled out the brie and crackers and poured up the wine (we’d each made sure to contribute a bottle). Emily was proud of her watercress treats—and she should have been; they were delicious and all gobbled up by us girls—and huffed indignantly when I asked what she’d smothered them in.
“Is this barbeque sauce?”
“Huh? No. It’s brown sugar, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.”
“So,” I said with a laugh and an eye roll. “Barbeque sauce. You made your own barbeque sauce.”
Et voilà. Hipster hors d’oeuvres in Yuppieville—not your mother’s Betty Crocker recipe.
Teachers do, indeed, need more than apples to survive their tales of service! 😊
Our get together was to celebrate Emily’s new apartment. More accurately, it was to celebrate the fact that she’d sold her house, heaving a tremendous amount of responsibility and stifling weight from her shoulders. You see, contrary to popular belief and oft-quoted statistics, we’re not all living at home in our parents’ basements or in the bedrooms we grew up in. We’re not all mooching from our relatives or stewing in our own personal dramas while frantically paying off student loans from the confines of our childhood bedrooms. Oh, don’t get me wrong—we ARE stewing in personal dramas and frantically paying off student loans, some of us well north of six figures’ worth—but I only even know a handful of people living the “stay-at-home Millennial” experience, and we’ll get to them another time. Most of us that I know are toughing it out on our own.
And Emily is a true product of our generation in that she did everything “right,” just like our upbringings ingrained in us from first steps. From start to finish (we’re ever the go-getters, the list checkers, this generation) she accomplished it all, thinking that she’d get her fairy tale ending too, as promised.
Finished high school and went on to college. Check.
Graduated college on time at 22. Check.
Started working in her field, as a school teacher no less. Check.
Bought a house at 26. Check.
Now, at this moment in our lives, she’s in her mid-thirties and has survived years of “crying on my kitchen floor” from the pressures of her job—
Emily: Two generations ago, when a kid messed up in school, the parents pointed to the child. Now, they point to the teacher. How messed up is that? Like, where’s the personal accountability? These people just do not get that it’s my job to educate their child, not raise them!
—and her disappointments in dating. She felt stifled—or, she did before she sold the house—and was looking for a way out, a way to live again. To do the living she felt she should have done while she was trying so hard to reach perfection.
She once told us, “I did it all right. I thought if I had my shit together, I’d meet a guy who also had his shit together and we’d settle down and combine our shit like you’re supposed to.” Until, that is, she realized that she was counting the years at her job mostly to say she’d gotten to ten—pension!—and kissing far more frogs than princes. Or, sleeping with far more frogs than princes, if we’re being accurate. She has quite the collection of stories and dick pics, many of which have shocked us delightfully! Yet the house was just too much for a single person and she was too far away from the city, from nightlife and people our age. So, she shirked it off, put the house on the market and sold at least half of her stuff to downsize into a one-bedroom apartment, all in preparation to haul ass out of the continental U.S. once she hits her ten years at the end of this school year in favor of a study abroad teaching program that’ll allow her to see more of the world. Prince Charming be damned! If he wasn’t to be found in the States, there are still plenty of other places to find him, without the weight and worry of home-ownership burdens to boot. It was in this spirit that we gathered over her watercress wraps and brie to celebrate.
Home, also known as the new-age Golden Handcuffs—that thing we yearn for, are told we should go for, but then find that it can keep us on the hamster wheel of corporate America, weighing us down and shackling on more than just debt, another circumstance we didn’t see coming as we were checking off our generational checklist of “supposed to do’s.” Home ownership has been both a blessing and a curse to my friends, both a friend and a foe. So, it’s ironic that it was in an apartment that we had our watercress hors d’oeuvres, brie and wine. But isn’t that how life always is—ironic?
Special Note: My mother, whom I love dearly and had an exceptionally close relationship with my entire life—my advisor, my mentor, my shoulder to lean on—passed away between the time of my last post and this one. In my anxiety and devastation, I did no writing, and I ate no food for 5 days.
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