February 2000
s m u g
by Joe Procopio

Fight the Youth

One of the commandments of social living is making the distinction between the awful secrets to keep out of the public microscope and the awful secrets to adapt into tell-all bestsellers and made-for-TV screenplays. However, the particular awful secret I'd like to share with you is neither. Rather, it's an anomaly in the fact that, although it's a component of my life and my story, it is also somehow inexplicably trivial.

Despite the lack of tawdriness in my awful secret, I'm going to build a column around it. Mostly because of the deep desire I have to open my life to you, the reader, as both guide and support mechanism. That and the fact that my original idea for this month, "Who's Left: Social Climbing in the Post-Y2K-Armageddon Era," kind of fizzled out.

Here it is: I'm old.

Not old in the physical sense, or the historical sense, or even the chronological sense, and I didn't so much get old as old got me. During the course of this month, I will come face to face with my thirtieth birthday. J3D, if you will, and sad to say, in this accelerated age, I'm staring down the barrel of being tagged ancient.

I don't feel thirty, but then I've also come to realize that the only people who do feel thirty are those that are forty or older, and are using that proclamation to fend off the bleak prognosis of an impending mid-life crisis. I'm pretty sure I had my first mid-life crisis at twenty-three, and not much came of it except I now have a subscription to Maxim that I can't seem to get rid of.

I don't look thirty, for whatever that's worth. In fact, I'm quite aware that I'm at that precious age in life where I can pass for twenty-three or, with a shave and maybe a haircut, thirty-three. But who cares? Hot, eighteenish coeds think twenty-three is still too old and vamp-sexy, richer-than-Gates heiresses usually consider a man of thirty-three far too green.

I don't act thirty, but what does "acting thirty" really mean anyway? It's an awkward time, a phase wherein one is expected to be either faux-successful corporate sheep or heyday-hanger-on for whom everyone has a subtle pang of "isn't that sad" sympathy. Blech.

Age hasn't spoiled me yet, but the signs are all there. The nagging cough, the muscle aches, the complete lack of desire to be around other people. Odd how much the aging process resembles a bout with the flu. I've also noticed a measured increase in my tolerance to alcohol, a noticeable drop-off in the number of fart and dick jokes in my personal repertoire, and a penchant for asking myself questions like "Does that light really need to be on?" I'm honestly speculating that it's only a matter of time before I buy a rocking chair and a heating pad.

There's no roadmap for getting old, although if there were then that'd be pretty cool. I could use my fingers, spread an inch apart (1 inch = approx. 1.5 years), to figure out when I'm going to kick it. Then I could spend my vast fortune accordingly.

Alas, no map. No manual. No guidelines. And most of my research has gone like this:

Me: Excuse me, old timer. Could you tell me how to best handle getting old? Old timer: Why sure, young fella! The secret is to keep from gittin' old in the first place, by cracky! (cackling)

Apparently they love that joke as much as I enjoy using insulting affectations to get my point across.

Speaking of insulting, I'm also sure I've already jilted almost every reader beyond the age of thirty, and not in a why-I'll-fix-that-young-punk way (see, there I go again), but more in an even-the-premise-is-unreasonable way.

You're absolutely right, mind you. Considering thirty old is like considering disco dead. Or is it? I'll say it again; we live in the accelerated age, whence the average Gen-Yer probably already has more angst, money, and street-cred than I did way back when I was a twenty-something. Advertisers are falling all over themselves trying to connect with the 12-to-17 demographic, and this is one of the primary reasons why all television, movies, and music have sucked recently.

Why, I remember the days when the kids had their little Nickelodeon deal and they were happy with it. Then we gave them TGIF and then suddenly the Friends couldn't have sex anymore. We let one boy-band slip in and now they've cloned themselves like wet evil gremlins. By the way, I blame the whole boy-band thing on my contemporaries who bought New Kids records way too far into their post-teen years. Yeah, it was cute, wasn't it? Now look what you've done. Way to go.

The driving force behind the marketing blitz is all the money these kids have. It's not like when we were young and bagged a couple of quarters for shoveling three or four blocks worth of snow. Today, the average teen/pre-teen nets around $20 a week just to stay off crack. A kid with that much cash, no concept of the value of said cash, and no crack habit is in desperate need of a cell-phones, Rios, Dreamcasts, and all the CDs and DVDs they can cram into their Pokemon lunchboxes. Furthermore, they no longer need Mom to cart them to the mall, they're more internet-savvy than most of our dot-com CEOs.

Remember when we just used to smoke behind the arcade? What kind of irony prompts me to long for that as an example of innocence lost?

So here I am again, stuck in the middle between MTV and VH1, laughing at the utterly unnecessary melodrama of Behind the Music but not quite able to muster a chuckle at those textbook commercials with Tom Green. Still worrying about turning into my dad, but not quite so sure of why that's bad anymore. It's a puzzler, figuring out the strategy of getting older in the digital age. It makes me want to find a Lazy-Boy and a tumbler of scotch, maybe catch some golf on my 19-inch, non-digital, non-stereo TV, by cracky.

Holy shit. Maybe I am old.


in the junk drawer:

feature car
ac/dc gun
decomposing dice
compulsion vise
posedown cheese
and such
and such
blab fan

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