Being 26 is a curious thing. And by curious, I mean bewildering, soul-destroying and occasionally absolutely terrifying. It’s a ‘nothing’ age. You’re neither young nor old. You’re like an awkward fringe you can’t quite grow out.
When I was younger, I thought that people in their twenties were adults, they had their shit together, they were O-L-D. But now I realise that they weren’t old at all. They were like me. A child trapped in an adult’s body, squeaking desperately for someone to come and rescue them.
Over time, I have learnt that life isn’t like one of those Goosebumps books where you can sneakily flick to the alternative endings and pick the one where you don’t get eaten by a mutant sponge. It’s scary and unpredictable, and you just have to roll with it.
So here is a list of 7 things I thought I would have going for me in my mid-20s that I seriously, seriously don’t:
1.I thought I would be married with at least one kid by now.
I used to think that people who were still single in their late twenties had some kind of icky, gross malady that prevented suitors from wanting to put a ring on it. But sometimes relationships just don’t pan out the way you hope they will. And sometimes it’s for the best. Plus I am definitely not ready for offspring. I had to hold a baby at a wedding last month and I hated every second of it. Between trying to look maternal, all I could think was ‘why won’t it blink?’ and ‘why does it not cry when people pick it up by its armpits when I cry if I catch my bingo wing on a door frame?’
2. I thought I would be a sex goddess by now.
I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing. It’s like trying to assemble an IKEA wardrobe. WHERE DOES THIS BIT GO? WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS WEIRD LITTLE LEFTOVER THING?! My predicament is not helped by frantically reading bizarre sex tips in women’s magazines. Instead, I am left with further performance anxiety after discovering that I can’t quite pull off rubbing cocoa beans over my lover’s scrotum while in the Grab Your Coat You’ve Pulled a Cheeky Flamenco position.
3. I thought I would understand bills and general life crap by now.
I do not understand bills and general life crap.
4. I thought I would be a stunnah by now.
The one thing I clung to when I was a teenager and my hair was greasy and I had no boobs and developed a moustache was that one day I would be peng. One day, puberty would wave her magic wand, release me from this sarcophagus of 4-out-of-10-ness and rebirth me as a beautiful butterfly. But if anything, I am grosser now than ever. I have fat in places I didn’t even know you could have fat. I am spottier. I am hairier. I am scalier. I am basically turning into an armadillo.
5. I thought I would be on the property ladder by now.
One of the many perks of being a journalist is that I earn way below the average graduate salary. Like if the graduate salary was a bus, I would be running after it panting. If the graduate salary was Leonardo DiCaprio, I would be being restrained by a security guard after trying to stroke its face. If the graduate salary was a Snitch, I would be chasing it on a mop. So unless I immediately marry a Russian oil tycoon, I shan’t be owning my own house anytime soon.
6. I thought I would stop getting ID’d by now.
When I got the A Level results I needed to get into university but couldn’t celebrate with my two friends at Ko-Ko’s in Rochdale town centre because I didn’t have ID and had the face of a Cabbage Patch Kid, I was fuming. “You will pay for this,” I vowed, as thunderstorms cracked in the midnight sky. I considered writing to Parliament. I considered a dirty protest. I considered launching my own charity to help other victims. But now, it’s the opposite. As I inch closer to 30, looking young is a compliment. In fact, I am offended if people don’t ID me. “Wait, don’t you want to verify my age?” I want to cry indignantly. “Don’t you think I’m too young-looking to be purchasing this alcoholic beverage?” I reach into my bag. “I have ID. Check my ID. Please,” I beg, before slamming my driving licence, passport, birth certificate and 22-week ultrasound scan onto the counter.
7. I thought I would have outgrown my ‘awkward phase’ by now.
Chink chink. The sound of glass tinkling, a champagne cork popping. Laughter. Schmoozing. Another glamorous cocktail party organised by yours truly. So, this one didn’t pan out. Mainly because I don’t live in the 1980s, but also because I am still super awkward.