The Second Awkward Stage For Adults

The Second Awkward Stage For Adults

Last night, I achieved what I thought was a small, mildly venerable, personal feat. In an organized line I went from the office, to a substantial gym work out, to a party, to home at a decent hour.

Fairfax>Tyson’s Corner>Arlington>Capitol Hill

Beep beep, boop. Perfect harmony of timing and things lining up to be “on the way.” A good pastiche of work, wellness, and play–a very responsible plan of attack for a Wednesday night after a late night return from a wedding in California the previous evening.

Or so I thought.

As I left the office, driving down 66-East, I had a decision to make.

Do I let exhaustion reign and skip the exit for Tyson’s continuing home in brutal traffic to head to the grocery store, make a simple dinner for Aaron and I then PASS THE EFF OUT by 8:30 p.m.? This means I’d also miss my friend’s going away/birthday which was OH SO conveniently on the way home—- but did not start until 8 p.m.

Skipping a workout two days in a row felt as icky as sitting in 66-East traffic at 6 p.m.– so that was a firm a no. I also really wanted to see my friend before his departure and socialize with our mutual friends.

Do I go to the gym knowing full well I will feel better, not worse, after this work out, and once the traffic has cleared, depart the gym around 7:30, hit the party briefly on the way home (albeit in Lululemon), and be back at a decent time to my husband?

Option two sounded infinitely more fulfilling. I went for it and took exit 64B to Tyson’s Corner.

Four, three, or even two years ago, there would have been a third option. Stay at work too late, blow off the gym, drive home through the maddening traffic, and pull off a NASCAR pit crew style change from work clothes to a hot and/or interesting dress, touch up, hair, and makeup (all while having a warm-up cocktail), wait for a minimum of two other friends to be ready so we can roll together (more drinking while waiting), summon an Uber (pre UberX days) and ignore the cost, walk in looking fly and have myself a black-out Wednesday.

That kind of social pin-balling defined my life for several years. Racing home in between Happy Hour and “meet later for drinks” date to change into my A-game outfit and eat a microwave Perdue chicken breast over the sink was not uncommon. I probably grocery shopped ten times from 2008-2012, always finding food somehow, some way at a networking event, party, or date. Oh, and always finding booze.

I look back on those times amused. They were fun and made me who I am today. I truly did feel like I was the queen of the world in summer of 2012. But fuck I am glad they are over.

I finish up my gym workout and head to Arlington. Thankfully, the Anastasia Light-Medium Contour kit stays put, even during an interval workout. My sport clothes are sleek for what they are– dark leggings and oversized sweater to top my neon sports bra. I think the strap looks quite jaunty poking out of my off-the-shoulder sweater. I also do not smell.

I leave knowing I will be somewhat underdressed, but feeling confident. These are friends I have known and loved for a long time, and I am not really trying to impress anyone. All young professionals understand squeezing in the gym on the way home, and I didn’t feel compelled to drag a party dress and curling iron with me in my gym bag, which I am sure will be NBD.

I arrive to the party address at 7:50 p.m. It’s rude to show up early, so I piddle on my phone a bit. I do a quick Periscope and answer a couple emails. A couple minutes past 8 p.m., I decide to walk in.

I am early because I have other, responsible things to do. This is how timelines lined up after the gym. I have a husband to get home to, and I want to go to bed early. I am very confident in my arrival time and reasoning.

And then I walk in. Everyone is still decorating, caterers are still setting up. And I am the only non-resident or family member guest to arrive yet.

I am also the only one not in cocktail attire.

Record scratch.

Designer, bespoke crickets.

I explain my attire, but feel no less comfortable in spite of myself. I am also uncool levels of early.

The lady of the house, a warm and beautiful blonde woman asks me my shoe size. When finding we are the same size, she exclaims a pair of heels will “work” with my outfit and “make all the difference!”

I politely decline.

I text my friend Quin and let her know the party is fancy AF. However, she hardly needs the warning. The one time she wore jeans, I spotted her denim-clad figured trying to open our front door amid an armful of packages, a site that was so unfamiliar I thought she had an evil twin staging a break in.

Quin replies, “Wear my fur when I get there, it will be like a dress on you! So cute!”

She arrives in said fur and an LBD with our friend Tania who is wearing a chic updo with an elaborately tied silk scarf around her neck- like a perfect 1960s air hostess.

More guests arrive. Among them are his three darling young nieces. They are wearing coordinated dresses, headbands, tights, Mary Janes, and dresses like a miniature Destiny’s Child reboot.

I swear the littlest one (who is maybe four) gives me the side eye.

Ok, maybe I deserved that.

Staying responsible to my health, safety, and commitment to my husband to be home at a decent time, I limit myself to nursing my one Cabernet. When it’s three-quarters of the way gone, I text Aaron that I will be home in thirty minutes and begin my goodbyes. This takes longer than it should, as new people I am excited to see arrive.

I get in the car and head the twenty minutes back to Capitol Hill. Someone has been rear-ended on 395, so naturally, everyone slows down significantly to look which adds time to my journey.

By the time I am home, it is exactly one hour from the time I said I would be home, meaning thirty minutes late. Aaron has been waiting on me to eat the dinner he has prepared and is not enthused by my tardiness.

As we settle on the couch with our dinner and Nathan For You (highly recommend), he is over it, but I am not.

I go to bed that night thinking of the insufferable tween anthem that predates the term “tween” itself.

2001’s “In the Middle” by Jimmy Eat World.

“It just takes some time / Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride / Everything, everything will be just fine / Everything, everything will be all right.”

First of all, eff off Jim Adkins, you don’t know my life. And secondly, maybe you’re right.

I have been married for a little over a year. I moved in with Aaron a month before we got married. I’m 29 years old.

I am still learning. Still learning to be a wife, a responsible adult, to be respectful to someone else above all, to share a home and to prioritize health. This sometimes can be at odds with my ingrained former (yet still enjoyed) behaviors of freely party hopping, spontaneity, weeknight drinking, constantly meeting new people, and spending a lot of time deciding what to wear.

Last night I tried to do everything. I felt like I was earning an A for myself—doing it all! However, I feel like I more so ended up with a C as a party guest (for my attire and coming and leaving lamely early) and a C as a wife (forgetting to tell Aaron I was going somewhere after the gym, and setting an unrealistic timetable which I then did not update).

So I find that refrain oddly applicable once again after “Bleed American” came out when I was 14 years old. This may be my second awkward stage.

And I am okay with it.

Having your own awkward stage, awkward moment, or just plain in a bind or rut? I want to hear about. I am starting a weekly advice column on PGP and would love to help you. I don’t know everything, but I can help you listen to yourself better. Get at me here. All submissions will be kept anonymous.

Image via Shutterstock

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Caroline Gould is a personal branding expert and career consultant based in Washington, D.C. Her signature program is called Self Discovery School. She also writes a weekly advice column on Post Grad Problems. Submit your question or find out more on

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