Young people don’t know anything, especially that they’re young

My birthday was Saturday. I turned 22 and no longer feel young.

“Pshaw.”

No, you’re right to say it. But I always did feel older than I was. Not more mature. I stopped maturing sometime in the seventh-grade (unless maturity is the ability to better-stifle your laughter at fart jokes), but I always could see what was up ahead and fear it.

Twenty-one is the last birthday that means anything for a very long time except that continuing to get them is better than the alternative. When you’re a child, they’re all important, and when you’re a teenager, you look forward to the new things you get to do, but after 22, what is there? My dad couldn’t wait for his senior discount, but that’s quite a ways from here.

Then again, life comes at you fast.

The other day I ran into an old friend from high school. The same age as I, maybe even younger, but an old friend, to be sure. I saw him out shopping – with his wife and two children. He had a job, a career even, and was paying his way on a house.

“My God!” I cried. “You poor creature.” And by that I mean an adult.

Another other day, I woke up around noon at the home of a friend of a friend and walked into the kitchen to find someone who hadn’t been there when I’d gone to sleep, a friend of friend’s-friend’s brother.

Ah ha! Such is the magic of this town that he was the same young man who’d helped me lose a summer back in junior high, who I hadn’t seen but once in five years, and after we got over the mutual shock of such a chance meeting, we caught up and reminisced for two hours before I had to leave (and go to work).

He was single, jobless, homeless – a Bohemian through and through. In short, he made my heart swell with gladness. In fact, he spat in the face of inevitability and responsibility. In other words, he was living that dream and proving waking up is unnecessary.

If only.

A Peter Pan fan, I am, I am, but we don’t live in Neverland. Lost Boys are found or stay lost, but none may ever stay boys. Alas, I am a lad no more. Isn’t it a pity?

Grow older or die, grow up or deny that you’ve gotten older and childish things are inappropriate to hold onto. You can be 28 or 32 or  46, with two children and a spouse and still live as you did at 16. You can. You can also wear a diaper indefinitely.

This is what makes me no longer feel young, although by any definition, I should be and am.

Memory revives what time destroys, but there is life behind me that can’t be relived, future paths forever closed off, and a present rapidly becoming inappropriate to the point of embarrassment.

In the immortal words of Wooderson: “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man: I get older, they stay the same age.”

Yes they do.

In a way, we’re lucky when it comes to old age. It’s the only disease you don’t look forward to being cured of, but at least you know when it’s done. Youth slips away slowly, subtly, especially in modern society. There’s no coming-of-age ritual that means anything. Adolescence stretches out indefinitely, even, sometimes, into the childhoods of others. As Anthony Burgess defined it, you’re no longer young when young people don’t accept you anymore. And I can’t stand these dang kids and their music and their universal embrace of girl’s jeans.

Whatever. My youth isn’t gone, I just feel it slipping away, and the only thing worse than letting it go is trying to hold on too long.

At least I can still laugh at fart jokes.

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