In the season one finale of Insecure, “Broken as Fuck”, there’s a scene in which Issa shows up late for a wine tasting with her friends Molly and Tiffany. She looks on as the two women speak about a 2013 zinfandel like true connoisseurs.
“I think I taste stone fruit,” one says.
“And a little bit of pepper,” the other adds.
What does Issa think? “I taste wine,” she says. Me too, girl.
I remember having a similar experience when my husband and I attended a class about New World wines at New York Vintners. The instructor was great. She didn’t assume there was already a certain level of knowledge and thoroughly explained every concept while checking for understanding. She was wonderful. But the woman across from me? She was like a fucking sommelier. I was baffled as to why she even signed up for the class.
What does the viscosity of wine indicate? Teacher’s pet raises her hand and shares that a wine’s viscosity indicates its alcohol level. Does anyone detect a slight floral note in this wine? You bet your ass she did. How can you tell that a wine was made in a cool region? Her hand shoots up once more—wines from cool regions are less acidic.
I sat there scowling at her. Mainly because she booked that wine class as an ego booster. And partly because she was sorta kinda making eyes at my husband. Also, part of me was disappointed I knew so little about wine. I’d tasted plenty. I’ve had more glasses of Pinot Grigio at dinner than I can count. In my single days, I was liable to down a whole bottle of Barefoot anything in one sitting. Even in college, there was white zinfandel in the barrel of hunch punch.
But there I was at 31. I could tell you more about basketball than wine, and considering sports aren’t exactly “my thing”, that’s saying something.
The Insecure scene made me think back on that experience in the wine class. Then, my mind wandered off to other things. What else was I supposed to have some familiarity with by the time I turned 30? I’m holding onto some stock from a previous employer that I’m dying to get rid of, but I have no idea how to sell it. My parallel parking skills leave much to be desired. Thanks to online banking, the last time I balanced a checkbook was at the turn of the century. And I quit the Boy Scouts before I learned how to start a fire with just two sticks.
If I go by this Yahoo article about the 30 things I should’ve known by 30, I’m a total failure. Though I’m not sure there’s still a universal list of things to learn before you kiss your twenties goodbye.
When I was a kid, I thought I’d have life completely figured out. Forget grilling the perfect steak or suggesting the best wine pairing for roasted chicken. I just knew I’d be settling into my media empire and giving Oprah a run for her money. And then at 30, when I found myself folding sweaters and setting up 40% off sale signage until midnight, I realized I hadn’t figured it all out. I wasn’t even close. I was working and earning a great salary and living in my own apartment. But I hadn’t achieved the life I envisioned, and I wasn’t 100% sure of what the updated vision was. Was I a failure? Was 30 the finish line, the last chance for me to do something great before I was forced to accept a life of mediocrity?
At the time, that’s what I thought. Looking back on that period of my life, I realize I was being ridiculous. If I could go back and talk to my 30-year-old self, first I’d slap him. Then I’d tell him to chill out and refold that sweater. And I’d share that the number 30 means nothing. At 30 years old, you’ve barely lived. Give it a couple years and things will start to come together.
I think it’s dangerous to have a checklist of things to achieve by a certain age. These universal lists make us all homogenous. They force us to focus on the same skill sets, and we have less time to study the things that will set us apart from everyone else. And when we can’t check off everything on the list by the cutoff, we feel like failures. Success shouldn’t be determined by a list of things that everyone else is doing.
I might not remember what a wine’s viscosity indicates about a particular brand of Cabernet. But then again, I don’t spend time with anyone who cares. When wine hits the table, most of us are just concerned with how quickly it’ll make our stress go away.
And there are a lot of things I learned by 30 that I’m proud of. I can share how to start an LLC and trademark a business name. I can teach someone how to write a great blog post. I can show you how to develop a brand voice for social media. I don’t have universal knowledge per se. But I have knowledge that provides value to people. I possess knowledge that’s unique to me.
I think that’s what the purpose is. Not to race everyone else to the finish line so you win the scavenger hunt when you turn 30. It’s about amassing a set of skills that suit your lifestyle and make you feel good about your life. That’s something I can get behind.
As for homegirl in the wine glass, her knowledge of vino may have been superior. But I could offer her a master class in side eye.