Pushing 30

Pushing 30

by Whitney Gaskell


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“The one thing you should know about me is this: I’m the consummate Good Girl. . .”

Ellie Winters is dependable and loyal and has a near-phobic aversion to conflict. But as her thirtieth birthday looms ever closer, she starts to feel like she’s lost the instruction manual to her life. She has just broken up with her boring boyfriend, despises her job, and is the last of her high school friends to remain single. Worse, her dysfunctional family is driving her nuts, and she’s somehow become enslaved to her demanding pet pug Sally, who she suspects is the reincarnation of Pol Pot.

One night, after a botched attempt to color her hair at home, Ellie rushes to the drugstore for emergency bleach, Sally in tow. Sally is accosted by a smitten canine admirer . . . but it’s the dog’s owner who captures Ellie’s attention. Television news anchor Ted Langston is witty, intriguing, and sexy. The only catch? He’s twice her age--and the only man on the planet who isn’t interested in dating a younger woman. And no one, from Ellie’s best friends to Ted’s ex-wife, wants to see them get together.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553382242
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/30/2003
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.21(w) x 8.22(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

Whitney Gaskell grew up in Syracuse, New York. A graduate of Tulane Law School, she worked for several years as a reluctant lawyer before writing her first novel, Pushing 30, followed by True Love (and Other Lies), She, Myself & I, and Testing Kate. She lives in Stuart, Florida, with her husband and son, and is at work on her next novel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The one thing you should know about me is this: I’m the consummate Good Girl. I wash my makeup off every night, no matter how tired I am. I mail out my Christmas cards every Thanksgiving weekend without fail, and thank-you notes are written and posted within three days of receipt of any gift. I’ve only called into work sick once when it wasn’t really true, and even then I spent the entire day too racked with guilt to enjoy it. I’m an extremely loyal and dependable friend, and have never cheated on a boyfriend or tried to steal a man away from another woman. And I never, ever say yes when a friend asks me if she looks fat, particularly if in the throes of a heartbreak she’s been hitting the Häagen-Dazs pretty hard, because girlfriends should stick together and not make each other feel self-conscious about their weight. But the problem with being a Good Girl is this—I’m terrible at conflict. Absolutely hate it, am terrified of it, will do anything to avoid it. When it comes to the fight-or-flight phenomenon, my fight is nonexistent, as wimpy as Popeye pre-spinach. Luckily, I am a world-class sprinter when it comes to running away from everything having to do with anything that even remotely resembles strife.

Which is why, as I sat in the wood-paneled bar of McCormick & Schmick’s on K Street nursing a glass of merlot, I was dreading the arrival of my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, Eric Leahy. After weeks of dodging his phone calls, I was resolved to finally end the relationship. And unlike every other breakup I had ever muddled with my pathetic timidity, this time I had a plan: I would tell Eric gently, but firmly, that it was over, and at all costs preserve our dignity. I was a career woman, an attorney (a career you might—as my friends do—find amusing for me to have stumbled into, considering my above-mentioned aversion to conflict), and there was no reason why I couldn’t end this relationship gracefully. No matter what, there would not be a messy emotional scene, nor would I allow myself to be guilted into giving it a second chance or entering into couples counseling. I had let this relationship drag on for far too long, and just like with a Band-Aid, it’s better to rip it off all at once. Of course, as I sat there, hunched up on a hard wooden chair that was putting my butt to sleep, while dipping pieces of pita into a pot of lemony hummus, I didn’t feel cool or dignified; I felt sick to my stomach.

I’d come to the bar directly from the office, and I had that end-of-the-workday feel—grimy and sweaty, my feet tired from walking the five blocks to the bar from my office in my three-inch stacked loafers, the waistband of my favorite black pantsuit digging into my skin. It was August, and far too hot to be wearing a suit, even one made out of lightweight wool crepe that was supposed to be “seasonless,” but which felt as heavy as a mink coat in the city heat. I’d tried to perk up the otherwise dull, buttoned-up look with a hot-pink shell which I had thought looked great that morning, but as soon as I got to my office I dribbled some iced mochacchino on it, leaving brown spots splattered all over my top, and was forced to button my jacket up over the stain. I hadn’t sweltered in my office, which was kept year-round at just above freezing, but as soon as I ventured back out into the damp heat of Washington, D.C., in August, I began to melt. My foundation dripped from my face, my mascara was smeared around my eyes, and my wavy hair, normally beaten into submission with a vast battery of anti-frizz products, had rebelled, and began wisping up into a Brillo-pad mess. I didn’t feel elegant and composed; I was sticky and weary, and dreading what was sure to be an unavoidably messy scene.

Eric arrived. I caught sight of his affable, smiling face as he waved at me and headed toward the table I claimed, cutting through the after-work crowd of yuppies gathered in the bar. He collapsed in the empty chair I’d been fighting to keep for him, and kissed me on the cheek.

“Ellie,” he said. “You look beautiful.” Considering how grubby I both looked and felt, I knew he was lying. But as far as lies go, it was a sweet one. And Eric was always saying things like that—heaping compliments on me, telling me how wonderful he thought I was. It was a very appealing trait in a man, one that had kept me from breaking up with him before.

It wasn’t that Eric was unattractive—he had glossy black hair, ruddy cheeks, and bright blue eyes, and looked sort of like a pudgy J.Crew model. And while he was a little chunky, and dressed in stodgy three-piece suits and shirts with cufflinks (both of which looked pretentious on a thirty-two-year-old man), he was gentle and thoughtful. Not funny exactly—well, no, not funny at all. He tried to crack jokes now and again, but they were always the kind that had obvious punch lines, and he usually mangled the telling of the joke so badly you couldn’t even laugh at the sheer silliness of it. But he was a good man. A kind man. Exactly the kind of boyfriend the Good Girl aspires to, and nearly identical in appearance and personality to my last four boyfriends. We even had cutsie, matching names—Ellie and Eric, E & E.

But, just like my previous four boyfriends—Alec, Peter, Winston, and Jeremy—Eric bored me to tears. All he wanted to talk about was his job—something having to do with international finance (although I still wasn’t exactly sure what, even though he’d explained it to me more times than I cared to recount)—or whatever football/basketball/ baseball/cricket game ESPN had broadcast the night before. I’m not one of those women who pretend to like sports in order to snag a guy; in fact, I’m pretty up-front about how I couldn’t care less about grown men cavorting around on fake grass in short pants with a ball tucked under one arm. But despite explaining my lack of interest to Eric pretty much every time he started a conversation with “You wouldn’t believe what happened in the game last night,” he persisted in boring me to tears with a play-by-play analysis. Spending dinner with him was pleasant as long as I could coax him into talking about something else, and the sex was tolerable, if not predictable. But just the idea of something more permanent, of lying beside him in bed every night and waking up to his face every morning, made me feel like I was being buried alive.

And besides, Eric just didn’t smell right. It wasn’t that he had b.o., or that funky ripe odor some men get when they’re sweaty. He was very clean and deodorized, but there was something about the way he smelled when I wrapped my arms around him and breathed in deeply that was just . . . off. And his cologne—Polo, just as Winston and Alec had worn (Peter wore Drakkar Noir, and Jeremy, who had spent a semester studying in Paris, wore Hermès)—which he practically showered in, was overpowering and artificial smelling. Surely the man I was meant to spend my life with would smell sexy and good and safe, and not like a cheesy club promoter.

“I’m so glad you called,” Eric said, after ordering a martini.

Why is everyone in my generation always ordering martinis? Is it a desperate attempt to try to return the world to the days before the Boomers came along and wrecked everything with their self-indulgent Me Generation crap? As though a single cocktail can undo the sixties, I thought, forgetting about the impending breakup just long enough to get annoyed by Eric, who had a tendency to be pompous, and then promptly feeling a flood of guilt when I remembered what I was there to do.

“I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something,” he said, stirring his drink, and spearing the olive on a toothpick.

Oh, good, I thought, relieved. He’s probably sick of the way I’ve been acting—ducking his phone calls, avoiding sex, snapping at him when he launches into one of his insufferably long diatribes about the yen—and wants to dump me. It will make this so much easier. He’ll try to let me down easy, and I’ll try to look a little stricken, but say of course, I understand, I’ve been so caught up at work (ha ha!) that I haven’t devoted enough time to the relationship. A dignified, understanding split, and I’d be mercifully spared from having to do it myself.

“Oh?” I said, and smiled at him encouragingly. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you, too.”

“Okay. What about?”

“No, you go first.”

“Well . . .” Eric said, and then ducked his head shyly, a nervous smile playing on his thin lips. “I want you to move in with me.”

What? Move in. With him. As in not breaking up. As in living together. I thought I was going to be sick. No, no, no, this can’t be happening, I thought. This is the part where he’s supposed to say something like “I never meant to hurt you,” or “We’ve been growing apart for a long time.”

Eric—obviously misreading my hesitation—said, “I don’t mean without other plans. We could get engaged first. Maybe over Labor Day weekend we could take the train to Manhattan, go ring shopping, maybe see The Lion King—” and then, seeing my stricken face, “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“It’s just . . . um . . . is the air conditioner working in here?” I asked.

The bar had become so hot and stuffy I could barely breathe, much less think clearly. Eric’s words—“engagement,” “plans,” “move in together”—were jumbling around my brain. A minute ago I thought we were nicely on our way to a collegial breakup, and now all of a sudden he wanted to live together forever, buy a house in the suburbs and have babies and minivans. What was it with men, anyway? Why is it that when the woman wants a commitment, they panic and flee the jurisdiction, but grow a little distant and suddenly they’re out shopping for diamond solitaires and monogrammed guest towels?

“What were you going to say?” he asked.

“God, it’s hot in here. Do you think it’s hot in here? I’m burning up,” I blathered, and chugged a glass of ice water.

“No, it feels fine to me. Are you okay?”

“Oh. Yes, yes. Just hot,” I said gaily, shrugging off my jacket, no longer caring about the stain on my top.

Eric had a strange look on his face. “What were you going to say?” he asked again.

“I was going to say . . . well, I don’t think we should move in together,” I said weakly.

Customer Reviews

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Pushing 30 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It took me three days to devour this book. I worked two ten hour shifts at work and did a full day of school... In between I was reading (and a little during...)... This story about an unlikely love is both sarcastic and romantic... The author portrays a realistic picture of the hardships relationships go through. I just recently broke up with my boyfriend and this was a wonderful anicdote... THANK YOU WHITNEY!! Now ladies and gentlemen... GO BUY IT!!! It is totally a worthy purchase!!!
harstan More than 1 year ago
A legal associate in the DC area, Ellie Winters does all the right things especially if it enables her to avoid a confrontation. Now turning thirty, Ellie adheres by the rules, a classic example of integrity, even if no one but she is aware of her actions. However, she detests her job finding it boring even when the rare experience is positive. Her boyfriend Eric Leahy is dependable, but even more tedious than her job. Since she cannot afford to quit her job, she decides to quit her boyfriend. When she starts to inform Eric it is over, he asks her to move in with him. That is typical of life for Ellie, but she still tells him that it is over between them.

After turning her hair pink by accident, Ellie goes out to repair the damage and meets TV anchor Ted Langston and his trusty dog Oscar. She finds him exciting and nice, but he is twice her age. When they meet again at a party, Ted tries to persuade Ellie to defy the rules of seeing an older man and take a chance on him. Though it is out of character for her Ellie feels the attraction is worth the risk.

PUSHING 30 is an enjoyable chick-lit tale starring a delightful lead female character. The story line focuses on squeaky clean Ellie¿s struggle with her own sense of morality when her heart tells her steppin¿ out with the man she loves is the right thing regardless of his age. Fans will appreciate this amusing look at the ¿suffering¿ of an about to be thirty person.

Harriet Klausner

yonitdm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fun chick lit with all the right ingredients. Girlfriends, guys, and work problems. But the author puts a fun spin on the usual formula and creates characters we can relate to, for good and bad!
jdy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not my favorite book by Ms. Gaskell, and took me awhile to push through it. Was hoping for more, but had some redeeming qualites. Still a fan though!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Approaching 30 is an interesting time in life, maybe you are settled and married and just enjoying a happy time or maybe like Ellie you are trying to get things settled and it isn't working, either way turning 30 can be rough!  I may have picked this book specifically to review this week as my 30th birthday may be tomorrow! I loved how Ellie was trying to put the pieces together, it combusts and most of it comes together in the end!  The characters were fantastic, they felt real, but each had great stories.  I loved Ellie's friends almost as much as I loved her.  I completely felt the angst of her upcoming birthday and how the expectation of where your life should be when you are entering your 30s.   No matter your age, this sweet throw back book from 2003, is a perfect addition to your late summer beach bag!
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DMC07 More than 1 year ago
I literally just finished this book and coudn't wait to write a review. This was my first read by the author and I cannot wait to read another. "Pushing 30" is the first book that made me laugh out loud, fall in love with the characters and story since the Shopaholic series. I couldn't put this book down from the moment I stared reading it. Ellie is such a relatable funny character and the things that she goes through will have you rooting for her the whole time. Such a great romantic comedy, I would recommend this to anyone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maggie_H More than 1 year ago
Whitney Gaskell is one of my favorite writers of all times. Her books are gripping from the first page and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Every story has great characters, heartwarming plots, and hilarious dialoged. You'll fall in love with the characters from the beginning and want to read every book she has ever written. You won't regret this buy!!!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed by this book. Since I enjoyed True Love (and other lies) I thought this book would be good as well. I was wrong. It was difficult to finish because reading about Ellie obsess over & over about Ted was very annoying. It would be better if the book focused a little more on characters other than Ted. I enjoyed the couple of chapters with her family & friends, the rest was just plain boring.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the first page the book drew me in and I read it in one sitting. The characters were well written and came to life on the pages. I loved Ellie & Ted¿s first date, it was laugh out loud funny and so well written. Add the dysfunctional family, friends & enemies, and a pug named Sally and you have a fabulous book that has me searching out Whitney Gaskell¿s other books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great read! Light, loving and funny. You really connect with the characters. I can totally see Barry Bostwick playing the part of Ted!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gaskell makes the character so likeable, charming and hilarious, I couldn't help but root for her even though her situation would not be one I *think* I'd be interested in. LOL You won't be dissapointed. I couldn't put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is catchy and I finished it in two days while I was at work (I'm a student intern so I have a lot of free time). Although I still have awhile til I'm 30 it was enjoyable and funny.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book shortly after turning 29. Basically, I'm a few short months from 'Pushing 30' myself! I loved the comedy and whit in depicted in this book. I totally identified with Ellie's situation. I think all of us women, who are nearing 30, are in some way...going through the motion of things and questioning ourselves or the decisions we've made. I highly recommend this book. It made me laugh, cry and just feel good about the fact that I'm not alone.