Yes, I am that old. I’m terrible at math, so it took me a minute to do the calculations, but yes, I’m turning thirty-seven in a few days. As a university buddy commented on Facebook, “18 years old, was 18 years ago”. Wait a sec….holy cow, I’m even older than THAT. Man, I am TERRIBLE at math (you wonder how I am the one who does the bills in our house).
I am always forgetting how old I am – and I think it’s because I hang around younger people who haven’t realized that I really don’t understand what the hell they are talking about, and that what I’m really thinking when they are going on and on about the environment and apartheid and baby seals is: get a job, hippie. My wife is their age, and I’ve come to realize that it’s often better to let her do the talking now. I usually have to defer to her when it comes to the new lingo. Apparently it’s no longer cool to say get jiggy with it or to even break dance, for that matter. Yep, all about irony these days…
My forgetfulness could have something to do with not children of my own. Not that I have anything against having kids; my wife and I are planning on having an ankle-biter or two in the near future. (It’s only a matter of time. I’m Italian, she is Chinese; can you ask for a more potent combo?) It’s just that watching friends survive for months at a time on power naps and car-crying, I am often witness to the mental and physical effects of pushing the limits of one’s mind and body. As one father of two pointed out to me the other day: There’s a bottom to this. You can only get so tired. To which I promptly responded: Dude! We went to this awesome Karaoke Bar last night and stayed up to watch the sun rise! It was awesome! Why didn’t you come? Thus learning that when you are around the newly-parented, never ever mention any place more exotic than Walmart.
(Speaking of which, profile pictures have been budding baby faces for some time now. It’s as if all of my high school and college friends have grown really really cute second heads, or they have chosen careers in ransoming children)
As you plainly see, for the most part, parenthood to me has remained abstract, viewed from a safe distance. My exposure to it has been kept strictly to the showroom level. When a child misbehaves in my company, he/she is taken to another room by one of the parents (this fills me with an extraordinary sense of importance, which is why I like visiting my friends in the burbs. I always leave feeling like Caesar)
At 37, I can’t say whether a childfree status is the average these days, or if it is evidence of MPPS, otherwise known as Male Peter Pan Syndrome, where the subject demonstrates a reluctance to sacrifice some of the benefits and freedoms of having no kids: going to bed and sleeping in late on weekends; going to bars and nightclubs; taking off at a moment’s notice on long road trips; watching racy movies at home; wearing only underwear around the house etc.
Then again, I am a cantankerous, straight-laced curmudgeon – as my wife calls me – and it’s not like I actually DO many of those things anyways. I’ve always hated nightclubs, or any place you have to line up for an hour to get into, then spend the rest of the night screaming across a miniature table. In fact I’ve never liked any place that plays live music, even. Well, why should I have to wait until the band takes a break before I can talk to my friends? The band should just play their music at a reasonable level, for god’s sake. Really, just give me a nice, quiet pub where I can bitch about the current state of affairs. Or better yet, give me a quiet porch or balcony where I can drink wine, smoke, and bitch about the clothing – or the lack thereof – of the youth these days. (And that’s what I usually do. When my regular drinking friends aren’t available, there’s nothing I like better than to attend parties of my wife’s light-drinking friends, where I pick a nice little corner, drink too much red wine, hold fascinating conversations with myself and eventually fall asleep) Hmmm…given this new information, it could very well be that I suffer from GOMS, or Grumpy Old Man Syndrome. Thinking about it, I AM very protective of my front lawn, I’m always losing and forgetting things, and I have a tendency to pull my pants up above my belly button.
Really though, at 37, it’s most likely that I am stuck somewhere between Adbusters and Old Miser’s Monthly: while I am dreadfully mistrustful of private enterprise and deregulation I think that everyone under thirty years old should be in the military or in prison, or until they realise that most people don’t want to share a doobie on the floor of a hippie commune in the Okanogan Valley. I’m at this place where a number of opposing fronts – rosy idealism Vs. grim reality, the delight of personal freedom Vs. the fulfillment that comes with responsibility – are colliding, and I can’t quite tell what the forecast will bring. What I do know is that, though there is always the temptation to glorify the past – college and high school days – nothing is a remotely interesting as what is happening now and what lies ahead.