Recently, I found myself sitting pretty at a very "adult" sit-down dinner party in a little suburb, sleepily nestled in Southern Connecticut. One of those charming northeastern towns that peer out over the royal-blue waters of the pristine Long Island Sound.
I felt like a wildly out-of-place endangered girl creature caught in a dangerous riptide. The party was a blustering sea of young investment bankers, Pilates-perfect "new moms" (all under 35), real-estate-tycoons-in-training and nondescript, white-picket-fence prototypes sporting pleated pants spanning the entire pastel color scheme.
I'm an actress and a writer. I live in a six-story walkup in the sweetly sinful city of New York.
I'm almost 30 and not even close to walking down the wedding aisle clothed in a virginal white lace dress. I do passionately want children of my own one day, but I'm nowhere near ready to begin the breeding process.
To say I stuck out at this dinner party would be the understatement of the year.
I was draped in one of my favorite outfits: distressed lace stockings, a silver strapless dress paired with chic-yet-rockerish cream-colored Doc Martens boots and the new Tom Ford oxblood-colored lipstick.
I felt like Betsey Johnson in a room full of Lilly Pulitzers.
We were all seated around a large egg-shaped banquet table. My keen eyes couldn't help but be privy to the fact that I was the only girl in the room without a sparkly diamond adhered to my ring finger.
My fingers suddenly looked naked and vulnerable and small.
Now don't get me wrong, sweet kittens; I earnestly believe every individual is entitled to follow his or her unique life path totally and completely free from the shackles of judgment.
My aesthetic and lifestyle might have madly clashed with my company at the time, but hey -- that's okay. At the end of the day, isn't it all just window dressing anyway?
Nonetheless, I made an earnest effort to engage in conversation with every entity at the party, regardless of our obvious differences.
I clinked glasses and dutifully released polite pearls of manufactured laughter every time an unfortunate man attempted an embarrassingly un-funny, clichéd joke.
Cut to 9 pm: The booze had been steadily flowing for two solid hours. I was three glasses of white wine deep and beginning to feel inevitable pangs of irrepressible discontent penetrating through my body.
I was discreetly checking my cell phone to see how much longer I had to suffer through this increasingly tired dinner party (until I could sneak back to the city and join my partners in crime for a night of champagne and reckless dancing in the West Village), when I felt a light tap on my shoulder from a 40-something, white, heterosexual male.
His hair was thinning, and the flickering candlelight seemed to highlight the large pores holding court in the center of his face. "It's so great to have you at this dinner party" he said, his whiskey breath tickling the back of my neck.
"You know, you're, like, so different, so deliberately wild. When are you going to get married and calm down like the rest of us?"
"Yeah, Zara, you're such a rebel!" shouted his wife, who had remained stone-cold silent up until this very moment.
She was an attractive-but-stiff-looking woman with a severe bob and lipliner three shades darker than her lipstick (a makeup choice I will never understand).
Before I knew it, "Zara, you're SO CRAZY!" was echoing at a rapid-fire speed across the table.
What. The. F*ck.
I was starting to find it hard to breathe. I became ferociously self-conscious about my outfit. Why were they looking at me like I was some sort of trainwreck they couldn't avert their eyes away from?
I began to feel the white, windowless walls closing in around me. I began to feel that wickedly familiar rush of claustrophobia. My dress suddenly felt too tight around my hips and thighs.
I was on a one-hour train ride back to my city, and as I took in the comforting vision of the poetic Manhattan lights, I finally exhaled.
The city looked stunning that particular evening. She seemed to ethereally glow with endless promise and relentless possibility and beautiful open-mindedness.
And in my awe, it hit me: I'm not a f*cking trainwreck. I'm not a wild animal trapped in a zoo being gawked at by khaki-wearing tourists.
Not at all.
I might not be married, baby en route, residing in a cute suburb -- but that doesn't mean I don't have my sh*t together. My life is thriving, and I'm fabulously in control of every aspect of it.
I'm not a trainwreck; those people are just f*cking boring.
Just because I'm not living by their rigid standards of how life is supposed to look doesn't mean I'm nothing but a feral kitten lost in the city streets.
I’m not misguided; I’m paving my own way.
If you dare to choose a career that is slightly off the beaten path, people often confuse you for being "lost."
In the eyes of the ignorant, you're a poor little thing who desperately needs a semblance of guidance.
PSA: We don't need your guidance. We love our creative lives and are happy with the unique path we've manifested for ourselves.
It might look very different from your path, but that doesn't mean we are lost and lingering in a dusky no man’s land, waiting for you to sweep in and score us that "internship" at a big-girl job.
I’m not unfocused; I’m just exploring my options.
Please allow me to kindly dispel this tired, dangerous notion: You are not -- I repeat, are NOT -- "unfocused" if you don't know what you want to do with your life.
Society bestows wildly unrealistic expectations onto us, filling us with pressure that we are supposed to know exactly what we want to do the moment we set foot on a college campus.
How are you supposed to know what you want before you've had the opportunity to explore?
If you're an interesting, dynamic and intelligent person, you're going to want time to examine the plethora of routes your life can take before you commit to one.
It’s not a hobby; it's a career.
There seems to be this great myth that unless you're bitingly miserable, you can't possibly be a hard worker.
I will never forget a self-satisfied little bitch in high school blabbing to me: "FYI, Zara, you will never make money in a creative field."
UM FYI, self-satisfied little bitch from high school, I've supported myself for a decade with my creative talents.
Misery doesn't have to be synonymous with a career. We can have real careers that we love with every fiber of our being.
I’ve not naïve; I’m just not jaded.
People think if you're sweetly innocent and haven't been exposed to the "real world," if you're, God forbid, happy, you’re naïve.
I'm in no way a naïve entity. I've seen a lot in my 29 years of existence. I've taken in the beauty and the pain.
And rather than drowning in the darkness, I'm actively choosing to focus my energy on the incredible positivity in the world.
I’m not reckless; I’m willing to take risks.
When I told my school guidance counselor I wanted to forgo traditional college and go to a theater conservatory, she looked at me like I was a reckless derelict.
Was diving into acting school riskier than getting a four-year degree? Abso-f*cking-lutely. But it plunged me into the wonderful, fulfilling existence I have now. If we want to attain big things in this world, we must be willing to take risks.
It's okay to fall to the floor and taste the pavement once in awhile. Nothing can break us. There is no such thing as failure.
If you believe in yourself, you have to be willing to bet on yourself.
I’m not unlovable; I just refuse to settle for less than what I deserve.
Just because I don't have a big, sparkling diamond ring around my finger at the ripe old age of 29 doesn't mean I'm incapable of being loved.
I want to make sure when I choose to get married, it's because I'm in the throes of true, honest, wonderful, mind-blowing, deeply respectful love -- not just because I'm afraid to be a spinster or because I'm overcome with societal pressure.
Plus, when we live authentic lives that make us genuinely happy -- we don't need another person to complete us.
The people we choose to spend the rest of our lives with are the people we love. Not the people we need.
And that is pure love -- the only kind of love I'm interested in.