The Gift that Makes Writer Dayna Evans Feel Like a Grown Up
We’ve been in love with Dayna Evans since we discovered her thanks to the Madewell microfiction she wrote while at New York magazine. In our opinion they’re the perfect way to talk about fashion: hilarious, evocative and a little absurd. But Dayna writes perfectly about lots of stuff, from Phish fans to Tom Brady to sourdough bread bros (it’s a thing). Her Haystack Story is about the time in your life when you have to convince everyone (but mostly yourself) that you’re an adult. And yeah, it’s pretty perfect.
What’s the star of your Haystack Story?
It's a custom desk nameplate that reads "Dayna Evans: Adult."
Do you still have it?
Tell us about it!
It's a brown, traditional-looking desk nameplate, like the kind you'd see at corporate offices in the 80s (and maybe still now, I'm a freelancer so I don't know what corporate offices look like!!) with my name on it in white and underneath a very formal declaration that I am an adult.
Why is it so perfect?
My dear friend Mandy bought the nameplate for me when we were around twenty-five. We had just spent a year together teaching at a women's university in Bangladesh, and it was one of the craziest years of our lives. Mandy, myself, and a few of our now beloved lifelong friends were living completely out of our elements. But it was a perfect thing do when you're twenty-four and not really sure what your next move is. While we were there, we felt really adult in that we were living far away from home, teaching women who were often our age, and generally thriving in any way we could, but occasionally the universe would remind us that we were still, uh, 24. We did not at all have a handle on the world in the way that we thought. When these reminders would pop up, I'd always shout indignantly, "I'm an adult!" Reader: I was not an adult.
How does it make you feel?
I love it because it reminds me that, even now at age 31, I still don't feel like an adult. I'm definitely a lot more mature than I used to be, and have learned a lot since that time, but I am still constantly trying to figure out how to navigate the world in a way that feels authentic to me. I love the nameplate because it's simultaneously extremely formal and declarative while also being so tongue-in-cheek. If you have to display a nameplate that announces your adultness, you're probably not as much of an adult as you'd like to believe.
If it could talk what would it say?
"Fake it till ya make it, baby!"
When did you get it?
In around 2012, I wanna say.
Who did you have a crush on back then?
No one! After we got back from Bangladesh, and right around the time Mandy got me the gift, I had moved back home to figure out what to do with my life. Both the most adult and least adult decision I've ever made. I ended up figuring it out! But it took a while.
What did your Friday nights look like?
I'd go up to New York to see friends pretty frequently (my parents live in South Jersey), so I'd either be up in the city pretending that I had my life together, or at my parents' house hanging out with them. It was a weird interim time, which is why this nameplate was so significant. I've subsequently brought it to every single apartment I've lived in since, just in case I get too big for my britches.
If someone gave you $20 to spend, what would you have bought?
A bus ticket to New York to visit friends, definitely.
What show did you rush home to watch?
My parents and I would watch a lot of Jeopardy! together.
What was your favorite snack?
In Bangladesh, we would go crazy over a traditional sweet called pantua, which are deep-fried balls of semolina flour and sugar syrup. They are both so good and so bad for you, but I would eat them every single day if I could. When I got back from Bangladesh, I deeply felt their absence, but in rural South Jersey, they were nowhere to be found.
How are you the same as you were back then, and how are you different?
Back then, I was definitely more down for whatever when it came to travel. Our finances at the time did not allow us to travel luxuriously, but even if they had, we were pretty content with really just going with the flow. Any insane thing that happened when we traveled around the world always made for a good story. I think now I'm a little more interested in hotel amenities and sleeping.
I'm still the same, though, in that I love to do new things, no matter what that thing is. I love seeing new places, trying new foods, experiencing new cultures, and just generally feeling completely out of my element. I used to have an Instagram series called Dayna in Weird Places where I'd catalog all the unlikely places I'd end up, sometimes because I was writing a story about it and sometimes because some series of events led me there. Even as I get older, I feel most at home when I'm uncomfortable.
Illustration by Hannah Burch