When did I get so grown up? Not all that long ago I was winning a game of four square and rolling out the cardboard so I could breakdance to some Zapp and Roger, worrying about what my mom is going to do to me after she sees that I’ve got grass stains on my school clothes. Reagan was President and I still wanted to be a Transformer when I grew up. Now I would probably lose at four square, the red rubber ball is deflated and Zapp and Roger is playing on 92.5 Jammin’ Oldies.
Did you catch that – Oldies. So maybe it’s not a classic but it’s still on the same station that plays Bel Biv DeVoe and Bobbie Brown. My little sister makes fun of them now. The haircuts, the Cross Colors, the pegged pants.
I remember when the Playboy centerfolds were always some exotic, older woman. Now it’s that girl who was a grade behind me in High School. The one with the nice legs but bad grades. It’s not so much that it’s depressing as it is weird. Weird because I’m actually older than I feel. When did all the hot girls become younger than me? Frank Sinatra’s Young at Heart is starting to apply.
But it’s not all bad because I still remember all the things that I wanted to do when I was a little kid and every time I’m at the grocery store I buy only the sugar cereal. I relish in the stares from all the booger-eaters holding their parent’s hand as Mom throws some Bran-Chunks™ into the cart. It’s the little victories. I can stay up as late as I like but I go to bed earlier than I ever did.
I remember thinking when I get older I’m going to buy whatever kind of cereal I want. What I didn’t count on was the health risks, the soymilk, the tofu, the hummus, the chai tea. What year did fun become so dangerous?
Girls used to just hit me and take my last piece of gum, now they take Paxil® and carry pepper spray. The crinkly tissue became silicone but the make-up application is less comical. A stolen kiss behind the swings became trying not to wake up her kid in the next room.
The college that promised success is now more of a lost opportunity and all the kids that didn’t go are millionaires of some dot.com company with relaxed dress codes except for me. They’re taking three hour lunch breaks and driving to Vail in their Range Rover. I had to cash out my 401(k) to replace the gravel nicks in my windshield. I just got accepted into the closest community college that would take me. When I get out I’ll be older than my parents were when I was born.
What happened to the world I was promised? I thought I’d be a Rock Star by now or the star of my own sitcom. Every time I stand in a friend’s wedding I go home and start playing guitar or applying for careers (not jobs) because I should have been done with this years ago. And it’s not that I’m all that old or that all my chances have passed but it seems like I’ve done so much stuff that didn’t count.
Apparently knowing the code to Contra for 30 extra guys or knowing how to keep Gizmo from becoming a Gremlin isn’t going to secure my place in the workforce. I can sing the song from Knight Rider and I have all the Hardy Boys books but I’ve yet to see this kind of stuff on a job application. My real job skills aren’t as valued as they should be. I know how to look busy, I can talk on the phone (work related) while playing Free Cell, I can downgrade the content control on my work computer so I can freely surf the internet and I know how to clean up the history so the System Administrator won’t catch me. I always refill the coffee and I take minimal smoke breaks. These skills of my generation are coveted by the bosses everywhere but they just don’t know it.
On TV, everyone my age is an Ad Exec or something and has a swanky, downtown New York flat. They have their whole lives ahead of them and it seems like it’s just the beginning. I take the train downtown from my middle-of-nowhere housing development to a job that pays me just enough to cover bills and buy a Lotto ticket. It seems like I’ve already missed my chance and the best parts have already happened. And, once again, it’s not that I’m that old.
In the immortal words of a historical figure of my time, Indiana Jones, “…it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.”