Monday, May 02, 2005

Enter: Old Age

"Everybody knows it sucks to grow up, but everybody does."
Ben Folds

Getting old is a real drag, kids.

You probably already knew that, having grandparents or neighbors or lovers who have gotten brittle and gray, sent off to a nursing home, a bad-smelling bedroom, or the grave.

But it doesn't really suck until it starts to happen to you.

Last week, I went on a big, irresponsible trip to Indianapolis, Indiana, to attend the Star Wars Celebration III, a place where gr'ups pretend that they're still like Miri (how about that for crossing my Sci-Fi references?). It was an expensive, uncomfortable trip, and I found myself really cynical of the next and suspicious of the upcoming last "Star Wars" movie. And is it the last, when there's a hundred episode television series in the works?

Many children ran around, swinging lightsabers, and even more adults did the same. I found myself frowning, watching it all and feeling out of place, feeling grouchy about the lines, about the latest attempts of Lucasfilm Ltd. to get my hard-earned money. I was much more interested in the gorgeous model-type dressed as Leia than the guy with the working General Grievous costume or the dude with the anamatronic tauntaun. I was more amped to find a place that sold allergy medication than for seeing George Lucas in person. On the flight home, I was much more occupied in hoping someone hadn't broken into my apartment (again), than if Episode III would be a fitting end to the saga.

To make matters worse, I was more looking forward to being back at work than another day waiting in line for something.

When I got back to work on Monday and a coworker asked me about my vacation, I told her how nice it was to get a full night's sleep, away from allergies, snoring roommates, and a lumpy alien mattress. She told me, "You know what that means? You're getting old."

As Unca Vader suggested, I searched my feelings and I knew it to be true. It had finally happened to me.

A good friend of mine considers himself a sixty year old man in a twenty-one year old's body (with the libido of a 70 year old), but me, I've always been the opposite of that. Immature as hell, to the point where I was asked to play a middle school student at twenty-seven years old, I have prided myself in being much younger than my calendar age.

When my friends stopped playing with toys and began playing with themselves, I still tried to collect all the Predacons to make Predaking (was that really his name? Talk about lame). When my pals started dating on Friday nights, I used that time to get to know the inner workings of Charles Xavier's mansion for mutants. When my buddies were standing at altars, gazing at their soon-to-be-wives, I was discovering the joys of late-night computer gaming. When my amigos were popping out children, I was creating the world's worst DVD collection.

But now it has happened to me: I am old.

It's about time, really. When I first moved away from home, my father gave me the briefest of talks, something he only did when I was in the worst of trouble. During this two minute exchange, he told me it was time that I grew up "and put away childish dreams."

I dwelled (dwelt?) on that admonition for a good long time, half resenting him for saying it and half resenting myself for deserving it. I had played the Peter Pan game for longer than anyone I knew, daring to extend childhood not just a year or two, but well into my twenties. I played a good game for a long ole time, but here I am, ready now to settle down, to get married, ready to begin to really live.

It took the final Star Wars Celebration to show me that.* A clue should've been given me when I awoke the second day at six in the morning, and instead of leaving to get in line with my roommates, I stayed in bed until nine or so, preferring a chance to let my body recuperate rather than be the first to buy lightsaber replicas, Sandtrooper statuettes, and Naboo Royalty tampons. Another hint that I had grown old was when I wanted to ask the pretty babe at the Cincinnati airport for her number way more than I wanted the autograph of the chick who plays blue Twi'lek Jedi Aayla Secura. I guess I could go on and on (and it looks like I am).

My coworker was right. I got old.

How does it happen? I ask the calendar.

Though I don't expect an answer, it responds:
When you start to choose comfort over excitement. When you watch a show about children or teenagers and relate to the parents instead of them. When you think of the good times and the best days of your life as being behind you. When the things you used to do for fun, maybe for years, now seems like a waste of time.

"Thanks," I say to the calendar. Then grab a book of matches.

Rish Outfield

May 2nd, 2005

*There's talk of a fourth Celebration to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of Star Wars in a couple of years. I just don't know if I have it in me, though. It's like Admiral Kirk said, "Galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young."