(Illustration: Helen Jane Hearn/TueNight)

Karen’s Note: The Beginning of Adulthood

In 1996, we officially became adults.

We went to friends’ weddings where we reluctantly did the Macarena. We watched Ross and Rachel FINALLY get together. We talked about how all the things in Ironic by Alanis Morrissette weren’t really ironic. We fell in love with Frances McDormand in Fargo and Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire. We started hearing about this new musical phenomenon called Rent and the tragic story of its creator Jonathan Larson, who died the morning of its first off-Broadway preview.

That was my 1996 — and probably yours too. The idea of 1996 as a theme came up during the blizzard in January. Remember the blizzard of 1996? That was 20 years ago. Ugh, we’re so fucking old.

It got us thinking about that year and realizing it was a time when our lives, careers and relationships started to take shape. Early onset adulting.

A look back at my own trajectory:

January: My husband and I had recently moved to New York from D.C. for real big city jobs in advertising and publishing with exciting perks like business trips (for my husband) and free books (for me). We made it through a blizzard that paralyzed the Northeast for days. At the time, we were living with my parents in New Jersey until we found a place of our own. Okay, let’s be honest, we’d been there since August and we hadn’t even started looking for apartments, because twenty-somethings saving money! I love my parents, but there was something about being stuck in the house for three days, watching on the news as all the New Yorkers had fun in the empty streets in Manhattan that finally lit the fire under us to find our own place.

March: We looked at a few places in Manhattan in our price range, which seemed shockingly small compared to the now ginormous-seeming one-bedroom with two walk-in closets we had in D.C. I’d heard some publishing colleagues talk about this far off land of Park Slope in Brooklyn, where you could find a decent-sized apartment that none of your friends from Manhattan would ever come visit. We moved into the top floor of Brownstone on Garfield Place between 5th and 6th Avenue despite warnings from friends that anywhere below 7th was pretty sketchy.

October: We lost one of my closest childhood friends, Jeff, to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Jeff said one of the seven blessings at my wedding. He was my junior prom date. He took me to see Beatlemania when we were 12. In 4th grade, I made my dad take me to Two Guys to buy him a Valentine’s Day card and slipped it into his desk at school. In 3rd grade, he pushed me out of my chair to prove to Alison Smiley that he didn’t like me. And at 27, we lost him.

November: We saw the original cast of Rent on Broadway, and I cried my eyes out during “One Song,” thinking of my beautiful friend the whole time.

With this issue of TueNight, we look back at 1996 and try to measure a year in the life.

Fun fact: For a short time, our downstairs neighbors on Garfield Place were Soledad O’Brien and her husband, who had just moved to NYC from San Francisco for her job as the 4 a.m. anchor on MSNBC. She once had to come upstairs and tell me to turn the music down, which I blasted as I got ready in the morning, probably just as she was trying to go back to sleep. Sorry, Soledad!

Where were you in 1996? Share your stories in the comments.



(Illustration: Helen Jane Hearn/TueNight)

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