Because BuzzFeed is dead set on reminding you that life is slipping by–Nickelodeon’s Roundhouse premiered two decades ago and, oh shit, Uncle Jesse’s little twins aren’t jail bait anymore–it’s easy to forget that there is joy in maturing. But no matter how long it has been since you munched on Brach’s Rocks, there are still plenty of happy twenty-something moments.
A few weeks ago, my husband had the opportunity to get Courtney Love tickets for free through his employer. Having once owned two Hole albums, I was excited, albeit slightly concerned that Courtney might, horror of horrors, do an acoustic set. And then it dawned on me: I had nothing to wear.
My closet is full of adorable dresses for summer, all preppy and feminine and ideal for the humid D.C. climate, a career, and motherhood. But they all lacked something totally necessary for a rock concert: edge. I didn’t want to buy something I’d never wear again–after all, the whole point was that the tickets were free. As someone who prides herself as always looking right for the occasion, it stung to think I could only look wrong.
It was also weird because, circa 1998, I hoped all my clothes looked appropriate for dancing to “Miss World.” Since I was in middle school, I’m sure they didn’t, but I had been so intent on looking badass. I assumed adult me would have black hair, wear fishnets all year, and channel Chrissie Hynde. Now I’m blonde, prone to wearing pearls, and constantly being told how “cute” I am. The last album I bought was Herman’s Hermits’ Greatest Hits. My former self would not approve. Had I sold out? Should Avril Lavigne chastise me through song? How had I become so J.Crew-cified?
Then it hit me: we assume our truest self is our most offbeat because we like to think we are unconventional, unique. But I was not the least bit authentic in my Hot Topic days. I felt weighed down by an unlovely figure and mousy hair and was forced to dress within the confines of juniors’ apparel. I was miserable, confused, and unaware of what to do with my talents, if I had any at all. In my twenties, I feel like I’ve made it. Without the pressure of adolescence, I’ve cultivated myself into a person I liked. I’ve selected a hair color that makes me happy. The adult world puts little stock in gym class performance and sneaker brands, but being responsible, respectful, and amiable can get you a job, affection, and self-respect. Fuck Lena Dunham. The real world is kinda great. You can get a sense of accomplishment from your day at work, even if it’s not what you planned for in junior high, and go home and eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch for dinner. You don’t have to rebel with clothes when there isn’t so much to rebel against.
I ended up buying a clearance rack dress channeling Marilyn Monroe, but that would be suitable for date nights with my grown-up partner. It turned out everyone else seemed equally confused about what to wear. Awkward throwbacks to grunge abounded, including a woman unfortunately costumed as Courtney, but we all looked okay because some goth-looking fifty year-old brought her kid and that was just too weird. Courtney played her greatest hits and we all shrieked along, even though it’s D.C. and we’re too hopelessly privileged to be so enraged. From far away, she looked the same as she did in the 1990s, tethered to a time when she was relevant and, why not? She still sounded great.
In the early ’90s, I wanted to marry Axl Rose, so I’m grateful for the march of time.