I had a funny exchange with my friend Ian on Twitter this afternoon. At least, I hope he thought it was funny, because I sure did.
See, he made this entirely valid, if somewhat negative, observation about one of my people:
Hey 50-year-old dude at the bank in the skinny jeans and Chuck Taylors, you and your bluetooth make me sad.
— Ian B. (@iboudreau) January 31, 2013
To which I responded:
@iboudreau GODDAMMIT, BOUDREAU, IT AIN’T EASY BEING 50!
— Dave (@D_v_E) January 31, 2013
I wrote in all-caps because I’m hard of hearing. Of course.
Anyway, Ian had a point, didn’t he? A fifty year old guy in a skinny jeans and Chuck Taylors? Unless you’re Joey Ramone and it’s 2001, that’s a big dude, naw.
But I feel the guy’s pain, you know? Especially if he has kids.
Because the fact is, when you’re a parent you become a human time capsule. You become frozen in time, and you don’t really realize it until you find yourself making some wildly out-of-date cultural reference in some social setting, when you finally get out of the house and into a social setting, and the whole conversation you’re in the middle of comes to a screeching halt, and in that awkward silence you realize you haven’t bought a current record – see, I call them records – or seen a current movie that wasn’t rated G, or maybe a mild PG, in many, many, many years, and the whole image you created for yourself in your 20s and 30s – that image of you, being witty and upwardly mobile and knowing all the current music and seeing all the latest movies – that image crashes, man. I mean it crashes to the fucking ground.
For me, it went like this: Pearl Jam released Vitalogy, and the next thing I knew Barack Obama was president. And in between, Pixar and Spongebob Squarepants happened.
Boom. You’re old.
So you can fight it, like the dude in the skinny jeans and Chuck Taylors. And lord knows, there’s always a powerful desire to fight it. Not like some 1980s made-for-teevee midlife crisis where you buy a little red sports car and snort cocaine (that’s what people did in the ’80s) and you lose your job and your house and your wife … No, not like that. You can fight it by buying your clothes where the twentysomethings shop and growing a goatee and wearing a porkpie hat; and you can fight it by cleaving scrupulously to whatever cultural trends are happening right now, watching whatever teevee shows everybody’s tweeting about and knowing every internet meme and buying – sorry, downloading – whatever the cool kids are downloading (which is easy, because NPR tells you exactly what the cool kids are listening to, which is all kinds of ironic), and by eating at all the right restaurants and pretending you like the food.
You can do that. Or, you can not fight it. You can let cranky middle age wash over you like, I don’t know, fill in some old-timey movie reference here. From Here To Eternity? Whatever.
You can refuse to fight it and embrace it. Because, let me tell you, there’s nothing quite as liberating as realizing you’ve gotten to the point in your life where you’ve run out of fucks to give. See this barrel that says “Fucks”? Yeah, it’s empty. We’re fresh out.
Seriously, to not have to care what’s hip and trendy; to like the music you liked when you were hip and trendy, and not care that it’s (ahem) classic rock; to look at the Top 40 (or whatever they call it these days) and not recognize a single artist – unless, pathetically, the Rolling Stones have released a new single – and to not care. That’s freedom, baby.
Trust me. I’ve lived it. I’m old and fat and slow. I’m a runner, if you can call it that, not because I think I’m an athlete but because I’m scared of dying. I don’t mean scared of mortality; I accept that. I mean scared of being that guy who dies hunched over at his desk in the middle of the afternoon so they have to take you out by the freight elevator. That kind of dying.
I haven’t bought a record by a current artist since Midnight Oil was current, and I’ve never seen a zombie-themed television show. Ever.
And, yes, I have literally yelled at kids to get off my lawn. But those bastards had it coming.
Look, if you’re a middle aged father, you’ve already become Willy Loman. Your family’s already laughing at you, not with you, and it’s a laugh with a high discomfort-to-mirth ratio. This is what you’ve become.
It’s better to accept it, in my book; to relish it. There’s a lot less pressure and a lot more venting, and I can’t fit into skinny jeans anyways.