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From Milk to Martinis: How I was shoved face first into the world of blind dating, hailing taxis, and adulthood

Six years ago, when I got my Driver’s Permit, I made the naïve assumption that I had officially become an adult. I was fifteen, and my mom made me drive all the way home from the DMV with my hazard lights on.
When I turned twenty-one, I made the same assumption. I would stop crashing at my parents’ house when I ran out of frozen pizzas, I thought. I would go out to fancy bars with my friends. I’d stop wearing ripped shirts and start wearing the watch my grandma gave me for my eighteenth birthday. Hazard lights off, adulthood full speed ahead.

I spent my twenty first birthday at a grimy bar with my friends, who glued a pink, fuzzy crown to my head and shoved neon colored shooters down my throat till my blood glowed in the dark. That night, I used the fuzzy pink crown as a pillow while I slept like a fetal baby on the bathroom floor.

So I figured maybe twenty-one wasn’t the age to grow up. But that got me worried, when do we become adults, if not on our twenty-first birthday? I knew plenty of adults. My mom was an adult, I was sure. And my dad, who set the coffee timer every night before he went to bed so it was ready in the morning. If my parents somehow managed to grow up, then it only made sense genetically that I would, too. I would just wait patiently until the day I woke up to find my own pot of coffee waiting for me just outside my bedroom door.

But still, I found myself most mornings on the couch, in my underwear, watching Friends and drinking chocolate milk, slowly coasting through my twenty first year with my hazard lights flashing like neon warning signs for a girl stuck chin-deep in girlhood.

The other day, I got a text from an unknown number. “Hey Sydney, it’s Tom. This might be bold, but would you like to grab drinks with me on Thursday night? Kendall keeps telling me I should meet you.”
I didn’t know Tom, but I’d heard a lot about him from my aunt, Kendall. He was some Georgetown graduate who’d landed a job on Wall Street before having a nervous breakdown and moving back in with his mom. He was twenty-four now, and had a job, and a house, and a life. I must have stared at that text for an hour before realizing that I – the girl drinking chocolate milk through a straw – was the person on the other end of the question.

So I did the only thing I knew how to do. I called my mom. When she didn’t answer, I texted her.

Some silly blind date may not constitute a formal nervous breakdown for most people. But for me, the idea of getting drinks with a stranger was terrifying. I’d been on dates before. I had a boyfriend in high school who liked to take me to the neighborhood pizza place turned liquor store. Our dates always consisted of two slices of buffalo chicken pizza and a case of cheap beer.

Ten minutes later, after much knee shaking and foot tapping and knuckle cracking, this was my mother’s response:
“Sweet Pea, grow up.”

I don’t want this story to sound like some fairytale about a girl who became a woman when a guy asked her out. That’s not what this was for me. I like to think of it as a story about a girl who decided to grow up when that was what the world – or at least, my world – expected of her. It wasn’t something that would hit me like a cup of hot coffee. It was a decision I had to make when I realized that everyone around me was waiting for an answer.

So I did it. I answered the call – or the text, in my case. Sure, I said. Drinks would be nice. As if I hadn’t just had an entire nervous breakdown, then picked up all the pieces of myself and put them back together in the form of an adult in less than an hour.

That Thursday, I met Tom at a bar in downtown Baltimore. We drank martinis and vodka tonics and talked about our favorite music. Two hours and 10 drinks later, Tom showed me his fancy apartment across the street– just before tripping over a chair and passing out facedown on the couch. I called a taxi home. I guess we all grow up at our own pace.

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