Terrible Twenties

Trials and tribulations of the modern twenty-something because no matter what adults say, your twenties are f*cking hard.
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Asker Anonymous Asks:
How tall are you?
terribletwenties terribletwenties Said:

I don’t know why I am answering this but, 5’3”.

All too often I look at old photos and, aside from oohing and ahhing over how my face has morphed into its adult shape, I can’t help but look at the clothes I am wearing. Shirts, tank tops, designer jeans, and hoop earrings that meant so much to me, long forgotten, get to live in these photographic memories for me to forever find when I am cleaning out my closet.

Growing up, becoming an adult specifically, is so intensely expressed through our clothing, hair, makeup and, for me body art. Who we are is defined by how we look.  What we choose to buy, wear, and wear again and again is both how we see ourselves and how we want to be seen — usually like a grown up.

As confident adult individuals, we come to understand that it’s really what you do that defines you, not the clothes you wear.

I am about to embark on a self-indulgent/explorative/expressive journey through my wardrobe from the past decade to see what hindsight has taught me about myself both in a past moment and the present day.

From Abercrombie to Emo, let’s dive into 2004 shall we?


This was taken in another room on the floor of my freshman dorm. I chose this photo to highlight these exquisite Seven brand jeans, which meant SO MUCH to me in the year leading up the college, and during my freshman year. Seven brand jeans were a status symbol. At $200 a pop, wearing that wave butt pocket design meant something. I had two pair at the time — both of which I saved up my own money to buy — a darker pair that I usually reserved for “going out,” and a lighter more casual pair for every day wear. The ones I am wearing in the photo were my fancy denim.


QUAD LIFE, amirite? On the weekends, my dorm friends and I would treat the main lawn area on campus as our own personal tanning central. I was pretty in love with this Lucky Brand bathing suit and these Abercrombie shorts. 

I had worked at Abercrombie for a couple weeks in the summer before college as a nighttime clothing folder because I assumed I was not cute enough to work in broad daylight. Whatever! I used my discount to stock up on clothes that I felt were perfect for college, even a not pictured tan corduroy messenger bag that hurt my shoulder and made me wish for a backpack. I was pretty excited that even my loungewear was from Abercrombie. Again, status symbols.


Freshman year was all about letters. From my sorority letters to my school’s acronym,  I was all about pride. I was part of organizations and I wanted everyone to know it. To be fair, everyone else was too. Being 18/19 meant we were all on the cusp of being individuals, but still stuck in that high school group mentality.

With this sweatshirt in particular, I remembering having a hard time choosing my overpriced $50 USC pullover. I knew I didn’t want the black one or the cardinal one, and the heather grey was definitely in the running but, ultimately, I went with white. I think, being a pragmatic dresser, I thought it would go with more “outfits,” which I use loosely because every day was a combo of jeans and an Abercrombie top. I had also had a favorite white pullover sweatshirt from a local surf shop (super trendy at my Orange County high school), so I figured it would serve the same purpose.

Fun with Clorox wipes. What an important and memorable moment to capture on a disposable camera. I LOVED this green top from Abercrombie. Again, snagged it with my employee discount before I got to school. I loved how it looked with denim, and it struck the right amount of casual effort for me. You can’t tell but it was sheer, and had tiny little embroidered dots that I loved. I always wore a white B.P. tank top underneath. (In fact, I wore a white tank top under most of my tops for all of college.) Also, my hair was super long so I loved putting it in braids, and I loved that god awful enamel Hawaiian flower on a rope I wore around my neck ALL THE TIME.

Not my shirt! My roommates tank top. But I was all about the boobs hanging out, and goddamn that dumbass necklace!! Please also note the straps of the mini Coach purse we all HAD to have. 

Both of the tops I was wearing in these two photos were purchased at Anthropologie, which I had just discovered and appropriated as “adult” wear. I could barely afford anything, so I only had a few pieces, mostly tops, but I thought I was SO grown up for wearing them. I remember choosing to wear them on special nights going out. 

Ok soo… I get how this looks, but this was Spring Beak in Mexico. Again, both the top and denim mini skirt, which was a 2004 staple for ANY girl, are from Abercrombie. I am showing the amount of skin only a self-unaware 18 year old can show, and I thought I looked so HOT. I was also really digging the translucent pink hoop earrings I had found at a boutique I can’t remember the name of now.

Again, more Spring Beak. I’d like to highlight the off-the-shoulder top that EVERYONE had bought from Urban Outfitters that year, more denim mini, white tank top undershirt, and Rainbow sandals. Oh man, that stupid Coach purse too! Oh no, the necklace is hanging out too! I was such a little clone. We all were. It’s OK.

Just want to point out the very tight polo shirt (Yes! Abercrombie!) and super low waisted shorts. At least I had jumped on the black rimmed glasses already, my one tiny spark of alternativeness I let show.

Toward the end of 2004, I started to find my edge. I stopped shopping at Abercombie, and started getting into vintage t-shirts. I wore two black plastic bracelets — from Hot Topic — woven together because I was just learning about Death Cab for Cutie, Garden State, and everything emo. This particular vintage shirt was worn TO DEATH. I actually still have it and wear it as pajamas occasionally.

A guy I had been dating found it in his laundry room and gave it to me thinking it was mine. It wasn’t, but I took it anyway, and wore it ALL THE TIME because it was so soft, red, and alt. It had indiscernible Russian text on it that someone in one of my lit classes translated for me as, “I love being Russian.” I always, and still do, wished the original owner hadn’t cut a dumb keyhole into the neckline.

I was definitely settling into my alt/emo phase nicely. I started buying way more black clothing. I liked simple basics like this black tank top, and shifted to predominantly shopping at Urban Outfitters, which was definitely more alt than main stream at the time. I was all about the front pouf, a hairstyle I had played around with since high school, but really committed to in late 2004 because I didn’t have a car to get bang trims. I was also really into these cheap plastic black and white hoops I mostly likely found at Hot Topic.

Again, I should point out that I was also very committed to the white tank top undershirt. 

Stay tuned for 2005!! 

This scarf served its tour of duty in multiple seedy bars as my number one security blanket from 2010-2011. Thank you for your service.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hi Heather, Just wanted to send a note letting you know I LOVED your LA Affairs essay. I have read these religiously each week and yours, with the exception of maybe one other, is the absolute best, most enjoyable I've had the pleasure to read. I'm in my mid-40s, but it didn't matter. Your words spoke to me and had me hooked from the beginning. I do hope you're working on something bigger that I might read soon? Keep it up, such a promising future!
terribletwenties terribletwenties Said:

I choose to believe in the Internet.

Today was an important day for me, a milestone really. Having a piece of my writing featured in the LA Times was the first time I felt like a writer, like, a real writer. It was surreal to see my byline in newspaper print, and I know that I will never look at my work in the same way. I feel more serious, more grown up. 

Today is an important day for my ex boyfriend. He is getting married, or maybe he already did at the time I’m writing this. After today, he will never look at his life the same. He is more serious, and more grown up.

How serendipitous that today is so happy, memorable and meaningful for the two of us in such different ways. 

I’m where I want to be and my success today encourages me to keep going. I’m on the right track. He is where he wants to be and today brings him someone to always keep him on his chosen path.

Even though we aren’t meant to be in each other’s lives, it’s nice to think that the time we spent together still links us in small ways, hopefully the best ways. 

I’m glad today will always be special, for both of us.

It’s very important to have something to show for yourself at the end of the day.

New haircut. No blow dry. If only I could go back to 1998 and tell myself it gets better.

There is nothing scarier than a blank word doc. NOTHING.

I’m just going to stare at it masochistically until something profound over 140 characters appears. Or until I lay on the couch long enough for someone to give me a book deal.

Good plan!

This is how I roll.

I really used to light up the stage back then. Literally. There was tremendous glare from my glasses. #tbt