42 is the new 32
Yesterday, I woke up and was 42. During the course of the day, this seemed sometimes okay, sometimes great and sometimes awful. Which describes an average day, if I'm not mistaken.
I put myself in a strange position: I both want my birthday to be ignored and celebrated. Celebrated by accident. Kind of like I want my constant and occasionally interesting otherworldliness to be ignored, but then noticed as an afterthought. Like it's something I can't control.
My 42nd birthday began at 6:00 when, unannounced, the Jawa burst into the bedroom, attached himself to my shoulder, and said, "Happy birthday, Dad!"
Now. If nothing else were to happen during the day, that would be enough.
Especially since he was a Jawa preparing for his first school overnight trip. Two nights and three days in gold country. S. Bullock would drive him to school at 6:15, he'd get on a bus, and then we'd see him three days later. Strange, and perhaps not the best way to celebrate an insignificant birthday, but there you go.
The next thing I heard was barking. Lots of barking. Shack, though very thoughtful to buy me a $15 iTunes music card to go with the hot rod iPod I got from the non-canine members of my family, decided that protecting me from the guys working on the house behind us was of paramount importance. At 8:05 he began barking. By the time I left the house, at 8:40, he was still barking. The workers seemed unaffected, but I did notice that our house stayed free of attacks by crazed contractors, so I guess the barking worked. Haven't been bitten by a vampire in 42 years. Is that because I am careful to always take a drink of water before turning off the light at night? There is no way to prove it isn't so.
All I really wanted for my birthday was a milkshake. Maybe it wasn't he milkshake I wanted, it was the idea that, it being my birthday, I was free to blow off whatever limits I have on my regular, present-day life.
Of course, many of you will look at a 42-year-old guy who sleeps until 8:05, then goes to the gym, comes home and writes some stuff, reads, plays with his dog, then meets his family for dinner as a person with few limits on his everyday life. Not so!
Most of my limits are based on health issues, though some are also based on keeping myself from spinning into an endless cycle of non-productive days. The first time I dropped out of the working world, I promised myself I would wear shoes every day. This way I would stay a couple of steps clear of the Michael Keaton "Mr. Mom" plaid shirt of shame, I thought. I now wear slippers most of the time.
On my birthday, however, I figured I'd blow everything off. I'd get up late, go to a coffee shop, read the paper, and at some point get that milkshake.
No. I got up at 8:05, which in my world isn't late. This left me with enough time to go workout, which would take care of the milkshake calories. Even on my birthday, I can't let it go completely. It's like the difference between coming home drunk when you're 23 and doing it when you're 40. At 40, your vices are limited to eating a bunch of low-fat pretzels and watching TV.
At 42, a good workout actually feels pretty good. I finished up at 10:45, feeling slim, focused and extremely pleased with the huge new red Adidas shorts I'd bought for $4.97 last weekend.
Now it was time for the milkshake.
But it was only 10:45. Who has a milkshake at 10:45? It was a beautiful day, so I thought I'd walk down to Fisherman's Wharf, look at the tourists for awhile, and then get my milkshake.
Should I really get a milkshake? I thought. Maybe if I had a Jamba Juice, that would take the place of a milkshake. Or maybe some frozen yogurt. This way, I could approximate the hedonism of my milkshake and still not kill myself in the process. But no! It's my birthday. If I want a milkshake, I'll have a milkshake. And I WILL NOT send my usual four little things I write for this one outfit every Tuesday. THAT will happen WEDNESDAY and they will just have to accept it.
This all took place as I walked the three blocks from the gym to Fisherman's Wharf. Then I arrived at the corner of Mason and Jefferson, looked both ways and turned back around. Who wants to spend their 42nd birthday at Fisherman's Wharf? Maybe if you're turning 10 the allure of the Rainforest Cafe, a really good deal on some sweatshirts and a guy who dresses up as a tree, then jumps out and scares endless mobs of European tourists is inescapable. Not at 42.
Besides, though it is my birthday, and though I am eager to shed what little adult responsibility I have, I also know that Shack, he of the $15 iTunes gift certificate and endless though well-intended barking, is at home, bored out of his skull on an 80 degree day.
So I drive home, formulating a plan: I will take Shack to Crissy Field, where he will run wild with other dogs while I bask in the sun, displaying the semi-in shape body of a man at least 5 years younger than 42, though with the diminishing scalp coverage of a man at least 5 years older. That's why God made baseball caps look so cool.
How carefree I must appear! 42 years old, in oversized brown shorts and a cool t-shirt that says "NASHVILLE GUITARS." How I must appear to be successful at something that doesn't require I go to an office every day. To be like me, walking an irresistable dog down Chestnut Street, and yes, finally, with a MILKSHAKE in my hand.
Months I had waited. My desire for a milkshake had waxed and waned. Ever earlier on this day I'd thought, "Do I really want a lousy milkshake from Johnny Rockets? Maybe a simple cone from Mitchells instead."
And then: FORGET IT. IT'S MY BIRTHDAY. THOUGH I AM LESS THAN STELLAR IN THE CAREER DEPT., I DO DESERVE AT LEAST THIS.
Plus an iPod.
Props to the slightly scary-looking woman I saw at the beach later. As I chased Shack back and forth, she noted that I seemed uncomfortable with the small dog/no leash/bay access situation. "I've never taken him here before," I said, as Shack darted the length of the beach.
"Oh, is he your girlfriend's dog?"
Thank you, mohawked and tattooed woman. Thank you for looking at this 42-year-old guy in shorts and a baseball cap and assuming that he was at the stage in life where you have a girlfriend. Thank you, perhaps, for assuming that I am at the beach at 2 pm on a Tuesday because I am a grad student, ready to start a fine career in something, the law, maybe, because great artists generally don't wear gigantic shorts, t-shirts and baseball caps. I completely forgive your assumption that I am with a borrowed dog, which would explain my incompetence at handling him, as well.
"Worse," I said. "It's my son's dog."
In the end, the milkshake was a mistake. It was an overrated dream, and it made me feel huge and gross the minute it was gone. After drinking (eating?) it, I returned to the realm of middle-aged guys who have to consciously hold in their stomachs. Bummer.
Shack and I came home and fell asleep. Both of us. We woke up in time for Sandra Bullock, enjoying the one month a year that she gets to pretend she is an entire year younger than me, blew into the house, ready to sample some top-shelf margaritas at Tres Agaves downtown.
This is how childless people celebrate a Tuesday birthday, we thought, as we sat in the bar, waiting for our table, peppering the young (yet receding. Hooray!) bartender with questions about Tequila brands.
And I'll bet you that childless people are home by 8:30, so they can catch the second half of "American Idol," because how would it look if your Jawa returned home from his school overnight and you couldn't tell him who got kicked off this week?
Happy birthday to me.