middle age

On Turning 38

I’m very fond a line in a Sex And The City episode where the depressed male love interest of Carrie Bradshaw, in response to her encouraging him to get outside and meet up with some friends, stoically replies, “I’m a middle aged man, I don’t have friends.” It’s a line that I like to use every so often whenever I explain my social life, or lack of one.

Over the last year or so, the things I that have become my personal necessities – my books, my writing, my PS3 (weekends only!) – are all coincidentally things are very jealous regarding my attention.

But why have such things became priorities far and above that of meeting face to face with fellow human beings? The first reason that comes to mind is that I can partake in these activities without wearing pants. If you are puzzled by this reason, then I have to assume that you either a) have a roommate or b) live with your parents and therefore have no idea what it’s like to lounge around your kitchen and living room in just your undergarments. The ability to walk around pantless is the single biggest reason why people end up either buying or renting homes for themselves. Of course homeowners/renters will never publically admit to that, but there it is. Once you adopt the lifestyle of domestic pantlessness, the chances of you going out for anything other than work or Chicken Massala diminish greatly.

For those of you who still choose to wear constrictive legwear around the living room, going out is actually a reasonable and viable option. For you, all that is required is to simply pop on some deodorant and some make-up and march your tightly bound legs out the front door. For people like me, it’s a whole arduous process of putting down the book, finding my pants, putting on my pants, synching my belt, looking for the sock that came off when I took of my pants….even thinking about it makes me feel exasperated and completely unsocial.

I jokingly try to address this general unwillingness to get outside and converse with my fellow man. Yet this circumstance has diminished my greater circle of friends. I suppose if I were a younger man, this ever-shrinking list of social contacts would have worried me. But why not now, in my 38th year? Especially when I can count names of people who would pick me up from the airport or bale me out of jail on one hand. Of course, there are exceptions; those restless Saturday nights when I’m a little tipsy and sentimental, but overall, there is no great feeling of loss regarding the slow death of social events in my life.

Perhaps it’s the job that I have chosen teaching adults ESL students, where I exhaust my social energy managing conversations. It could also be the hours I spend writing poetry – straining to be introspective, wracking my brains for a sliver of profundity – which leave me spent, with no greater desire than to spend a night blowing away aliens in a first-person shooter video game. It could be that when I do venture out to social gathering, prior to at least three glasses of wine, I often find myself looking at other people deep in discussion, and wonder, a little enviously: What could they possibly have to say to one another? I read. I watch the news. And yet, how can they have so much to say?

Or – and think I’m getting close here – it could just very well be that I’ve reached a point where I have to save my verbal energy for practicalities. Discussions, debates and discourse take energy, but when we all end up walking away believing what we want to believe anyway, is there any point to me opening my mouth? In essence, we are ALL George W. Bush, cherry-picking the facts to fit our worldview and going with our gut on life decisions. Verbal pragmatism doesn’t fit into the equation.

Mind you, there are many things I’ll stand for. For instance I plan on making an appearance at the Counter-Rally against CLCY’s rally to De-Fund Abortion tomorrow at Queen’s Park. But for many things, I’ve learned that that simply living through a mistake is the best way – and usually the only way – to change one’s mind. Sometimes it’s just better to let the world outside come to its senses on its own. In the meantime, I’ll be here – a pantless curmudgeon with a dwindling number of friends – waiting to pick it up at the airport or, god forbid, bale it out of jail.

On Turning 37

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.