Why it’s Good to be Old.
Unless the Mayans were right (but their calculations were just a bit off), I will turn 40 this year. There was a time when ‘40’ = ‘OLD,’ and not just because I was a child…because 40-year-olds were grownups. They had careers, families, responsibilities, they talked about their cars and their mortgages and their lawns, they worked late and went to bed early. They wore fedoras, too, and not ironically. In fact, they dressed up a lot, and not just for funerals. They drank grownup-sounding drinks like Old Grandads, Rob Roys, Gin Gimlets, and Osteopolitans. They entertained themselves with “cocktail parties” and watched exotic shows like Laugh-In and Kojak. In short, they were mysterious, wizened creatures who did god-knows-what when 9:00 came and we were in bed.
But even though I’ve got the years, I’m not one of those creatures. I’m not 40 – I’m in my 23rd year of being 17. Seriously – have I really changed since then? Have any of us? I have the same fears and insecurities, the same interests, the same – well, I was going to say “wardrobe,” but that would be misleading, since my 1987 closet wasn’t exactly acid-wash or leather-tie free. But my taste in clothes is essentially the same – jeans, t’s and sweaters, the occasional crumply sport shirt or flannel. Maybe that’s symptomatic of my own personal Peter Pan Syndrome, but honestly, I don’t think it’s just me. Most of my friends-of-a-certain-age are simply aged teenagers, struggling to reconcile their grownupy responsibilities with their overwhelming urge to go play.
With that in mind, there are definitely advantages to being a crone, and they don’t just involve liquor. So here are a few great things about being a fogey.
Stay off my lawn.
1. I am never bored. Seriously – if I have a few hours to myself with nothing to do, I am blessed. I will browse the cooking shows, re-read Entertainment Weekly, or even sit silently. And I will treasure that break from my to-do list. Seriously, I pee on your boredom, son. (As long as my prostate isn’t acting up.)
2. I don’t need plans. Much of my teenage weekday energy was spent making sure I had something to do on Friday & Saturday night. That speaks more to my social status than my age, maybe, but still…the geeze in me has zero problem with a weekend on the couch.
3. I can do shit. Vague? Yeah, but still true. I can do shit right now, right away. Tattoo? Yep, I can go get one right now. New speakers? Done. I don’t have the money? I’ll wrack up debt (you know that line the grownups told you about how you’ll have to pay those credit cards eventually? It’s a lie, child! Buy tons & buy often). It’s not that I have no one to answer to, or no responsibilities. It’s that at some point, you realize you might not be quite as invincible as you once thought, and you stop thinking about doing stuff and you just…do it.
4. This IS my future. We’re always preparing for something. Preparing for the next school day, for your family, for your job, for your retirement. But again…it’s not until you’re in the middle of your life that you realize what you’ve been preparing for is RIGHT NOW. This might be a crushing disappointment to some, but still, the pressure of living day-to-day actually living isn’t nearly as daunting as the pressure of planning, of preparing, of trying to cover your bases.
5. I don’t care. That’s a little misleading, but it’s catchier than the truth – I get to choose what I care about. In theory, I suppose we all do, but you youngins are constantly reminded that you must care about this, about that, about the world, the nation, disease & death, college, parents, friends, lovers, work, money money money…it’s tough, man. And the sad truth is, we don’t always have that much care in us. And somewhere around the time when our doubled age is deep into grandpa territory we realize that some things just need to drop from our care list. We don’t sweat it, either – someone else will pick them up. Someone else will worry about global warming (we’re all doomed, kids), Yemen, that friend who never calls, that increasingly large crack in the ceiling. This doesn’t mean we don’t worry – worry is a grain of fear in all of us, no matter how many years we’ve packed away. But there are few things as liberating as actually deciding NOT to care about something that was taking up room in yer heart. It’s a good thing, friends – that extra care gets refocused on the good stuff. You’ll see.
That’s it for now…I’ve gotta go do grownup stuff now, like buy something and shave places that really shouldn’t have hair. Peace out, whippersnappers.