|LIFE AS A LOSER #88: "SUPERIORITY COMPLEX."|
|By Will Leitch|
For as much as everyone seems to complain about getting older, it’s amazing how often they seem so proud of themselves for it.
A friend called me the other day. He’s my age, a little younger, successful, smart, hardly an ugly guy, but - and I speak as someone in the same boat - he’s absolutely helpless with women. In life, he’s a gifted schmoozer who knows all the right people and goes to all the right parties. But put him alone with a girl and he suddenly starts speaking in Klingon. He’s got this nasty habit of completely neutering himself within 30 seconds of meeting a woman he’s interested in. It’s an amusing, if sad, spectacle to observe. You can just watch women wipe him off their mental dry-erase board before the ice in his drink has even started to melt.
That said, he’s a sweet guy, and if he ever figures out that, in the grownup world, women don’t think it’s cool that you own Depeche Mode CDs, he’ll make someone out there happy enough. Until then, though, it appears he’s going to get fucked over for a while.
There was this girl he was interested in, and mind you, I’m in no position to talk, but the chick is nuts. I won’t get into the sordid details, because it’s not my story, but let’s just say his courtship of her has been, uh, rocky. In the span of one evening, she canceled an evening with him - whom she considers, all together now, a friend - because (deep breath) she decided to have a brief flirtation with lesbianism at a famous New York lady’s hotspot, then brought the girl with her to a party where she was supposed to meet him, made out with the girl in front of all his friends, told him she really wanted to be with him but needed to be with the girl tonight, left with the girl, called him from her cell phone, said she was sorry, called him back 15 minutes later, said she put the girl in a cab and wanted to come by, met up with him, said he would do for the evening, then bolted early the next morning. (OK, maybe I did get into the sordid details.)
He hung in through all this chaos, presumably because sex is difficult to come by when you own Depeche Mode CDs, and, inexplicably, later asked her Where They Stood. (The boy will never learn.) Her response was classic: “Oh, I don’t know. I mean, I’m almost 30 years old. If only you were five years older ...” This is akin to Danny DeVito leaving Rhea Perlman because she’s too short.
We hate the aging process. Our waistlines are already beginning to expand, our breasts are starting to sag, our hairlines are making rapidly for the backs of our necks. Our lives aren’t so carefree anymore, and trying to pick up sex partners at a bar segues from cool to pathetic and sad. We panic when we see old friends getting married when we can’t even score a second date. Our careers are not where they thought they’d be, and we carefully store our dreams in the back of our underwear drawer while we worry about paying rent, checking every couple of months or so to make sure the rats haven’t ran off with them. We’re depressed that even though we’re growing more ancient each second, we don’t appear to be becoming much smarter. We can all agree that it sucks.
But we have a recourse. We have a way that makes it a little bit better, easier to deal with. There comes a point when we take advantage of getting older, which, after all, is one of the few things we improve at every day.
We look down on everyone else. Anyone fortunate enough to have been born after us is suddenly less worldwise, less intelligent, less ... experienced.
We do it on every level. If you’ve just graduated from college, undergrads don’t know shit. If you’re a few years removed, those recent grads, jeez, they have no idea how The Real World works. As we creep closer to 30 than 20, we mock those who are younger. Hell, you kids can’t even rent a car yet. You have no idea how the world works. When I was whining to a friend of mine about how difficult my life was going recently, she told me to buck up. “I went through the same thing when I was your age.” She is exactly 21 months, 10 days older than I am. Whatever happened to her between January 27, 1974 and October 10, 1975 must have been significant.
(Funny story. I was flipping through Reader’s Digest the other day - um, I, er, couldn’t find my copy of The Atlantic Monthly, you see - and I came across one of those pithy little “This American Life” sections. It told the story of a 24-year-old woman justifying her age to her grandfather. “I mean, I’m closer to 20 than I am to 30. I still have six years until I turn 30.” The grandfather presumably flashed the smug grin of the about-to-die and asked her, “And how many years is it, again, until you turn 20?” That’s right, folks; this column has resorted to quoting Reader’s Digest.)
Even though we miss all the fun stuff those younger than us are doing, we pretend we don’t. We devalue the whole experience. Don’t you get it, kids? We’ve been there. We were doing all that before it was cool to do it. Shit, we remember when Johnny Carson was on, Ronald Reagan was president and MTV actually played videos. We’ve seen things you’ll never comprehend.
These kids today, they don’t know how good they got it. If we were their age, we’d appreciate it. We wouldn’t fritter away our time like they do. Somehow, to make ourselves feel better, we’ve become the geezers on the porch, threatening to grab our shotgun if those hooligans don’t get off our property.
It’s bollocks, of course. As my Uncle Dave put it in a recent letter to me, “you think your sister is a kid, your mom thinks you’re a kid, we think she’s a kid, your grandmother thinks your mom’s a kid, and on, and on, and on.” The fact is, we are just as stupid right now as we were when we were younger; we’ve just been stupid more often now. Maturity is maturity, and just because you had your prom in the 80s doesn’t suddenly mean you have any better idea how life is lived than you ever did. But we say it anyway. ’Cause, shit, what else can we do?
Last weekend, I accompanied a New Jersey native to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to see a band fronted by the younger brother of one of her old high school pals. The name of the bar was The Rail, easily recognizable as a college bar by its total lack of personality. Same pinball machines, dartboards, dirty bathrooms and free-spirited clientele they had at the University of Illinois, though, admittedly, there were more Italians here.
We did a few meet-and-greets, then headed to the bar. They had a special. Buck-fifty kamikaze shots, three-dollar domestic pitchers. We scoffed, marveled at the unsophisticated taste buds of the proletariat and ordered a Skyy-and-club soda and a pint of Newcastle.
The band came on. They were kind of a Phish knockoff, with keyboards and extended “jams” and occasional covers. Not bad, nothing special. But the crowd ... it was a hot crowd. While we sat in the corner, nursing our drinks and checking our watches, lest we stay out too late and sleep through Meet the Press, the kids were rolling. It was joyous. Before we knew it, hordes of kids, so happy to be anywhere but home this summer, were doing incredible dances of rapture. They hopped and cavorted and smiled and beamed and were happy happy happy, finding something wonderful that the music couldn’t provide on its own, no way; they saw some kind of wonderful, something reckless, careless, without worry, just prancing around, bopping to the rhythm, not a moment of apprehension even daring to peek its head over the horizon. They damned near floated above the floor. Their heads lolled everywhere, eyes focusing on nothing and everything, dancing, dancing, dancing, dance dance dance motherfucker dance. You watched them let themselves go, forget who they were, and just be. It was something glorious to behold. We saw a couple kiss in the corner, then look at each other, smile, then hit the floor again.
We watched this while nursing our drinks. We took it all in. We enjoyed it. Then, 30 minutes passed, without a single change in the vibe the jig the dope the scene the feel, man, and we, capturing the pure joy of the moment, decided we were tired and needed to go home. We cast one last look at the kids, who wouldn’t have noticed us if we’d been dressed like the Phillie Phanatic, and said our goodbyes.
On the drive home, I spoke: “Boy, those kids ... aren’t they cute?”
“They sure are.”
“They have no idea how life’s going to kick them in the ass.”
I’m right. I know I’m right. But I don’t have to like it. Whatever it was I lost ... I want it back.