I’ve been stretching the concept of “young adult” for some time, but the birthday coming up next month makes it pretty difficult to maintain the pretense any longer. Sure, age is just a number, but this number has me rattled.
It’s not like anything is changing — my life is a lively stream of magical experiences and mind-boggling adventures. I hit the gym several times a week, make great memories with Simone whenever possible, and can still out-carouse just about everyone I know.
My best friends — all of whom are younger — have taken potshots at me for years now, leveraging any opportunity to have people guess how old I am or using my age as a foil for their own romantic pursuits; but it’s all done in fun, with just a trace of jealousy over my kick-ass genes.
A few weeks ago, a pal of mine and I were roped into going to a singles event in the suburbs. The organizer said she had way more women than men signed up, and asked if we’d please help even out the distribution. How could we say no?
As we stepped into the elevator in the parking structure, I held the door for three women who were hustling to catch up. One was small and pretty, with kinky brown hair and freckles on her nose. They thanked us as we all walked into the bar, and then disappeared into the crowd.
What a crowd it was. We almost turned around and left, but were spotted by the woman who’d invited us, which meant we were stuck.
It was that douchey, overdone crowd you only find in certain bars — the men were as done up as the women, and everyone wore a facade of jocularity and affluence: the tell-tale bronze of a fake tan, hair carefully coiffed to look messy and unkempt, the faux-casual mix of high-end clothing matched with shitty footwear (on the men). Everyone seemed to be on high alert; any sense of genuine humor and authenticity was undetectable.
My friend and I agreed that we’d put on our game faces and see what kind of trouble we could stir up.
I ended up talking to the pretty, kinky-haired woman (continuing my new regime of talking to strangers), who looked a little more weathered outside on the patio, the last rays of sunlight picking out her eye crinkles and smile lines. Honestly, I found that charming — like there was more to her than her studied coolness. But when she told me I was too young for her, and that I should go back to the bar and find someone more appropriate, I almost laughed out loud.
I thanked her for her honesty, and told her I was probably older than she thought. But even after I told her my age, which surprised her, she said, “Well, you’re still too young for me. I only date older men.” I smiled, thanked her again for being open with me about what she was looking for, and I went to find my pal...
...who’d just scored the phone number of the hot, young bartender who’d taken a shine to him.
We left the gathering a little while later, each with a few sets of digits we’d never follow up on.
But I was pensive as I drove us back to the city, thinking about the other men in that bar — the targets of the kinky haired woman. “Older men.” Late forties on up, with waxy expressions, ass-less in their designer chinos and untucked shirts, sweating desperation, Old Spice, and vodka. Were they future versions of what my friend and I would become?
Please, I thought, don’t let me turn into one of those jokebags.
How do I avoid the slide into the starched sleaziness those single older men have made their home?
Finding the right girl would be the most obvious solution, halting invitations to “mixers” and events aimed at well-heeled single middle agers, while shifting the energy of boys’ nights out in a significant way. That one right girl wouldn’t be interested in a stale domesticity that made me feel like I was giving up on the active, ridiculous, full-throttle life I find so dear. No, she’d be equally energetic, socially active, and spontaneous. She’d fight by my side, taking big bites out of life every day.
The good news is that this is not a mid-life crisis (though lately I have been coveting a motorcycle to ride around town). I’ve been living the anti-mid-life life for almost ten years. The question is whether I could really give that up, or if I should have to. My therapist says I’ll do what I’m doing until it doesn’t work anymore (or someone comes along and my priorities change), and then I’ll do something else.
But phuck if I’m going to age gracefully. I am going to fight it every step of the way.
I’m going to stay out too late on weeknights, closing the bars with my best friends, then get up and hit the gym in the morning, or make it to that 8 a.m. client meeting fresh and alert.
I’m going to travel as often as possible, taking last-minute weekend escapes, impractical getaways, and long vacations.
I’m going to maintain the status of kick-ass dad — concerts and adventures, structure and learning, delicious packed lunches with a notes in every one, world travel, laughter and magic everyday.
And I’m going to go snowboarding, SCUBA diving, camping, surfing. I’m going to drive too fast with music playing way too loud and all the windows open. Maybe I’ll pick up lacrosse again. Or join a crossfit deal.
I don’t know if all that stuff is going to save me from becoming one of those older, single men who just seem creepy and out of place, cruising the bars with their slick smiles and stupid facial hair.
But at least I’ll be fighting the good fight.