Ask DadCentric: Do You Act Your Age?
Welcome to another installment in our venerable Ask DadCentric! series. This week's question comes from me, who has been dealing with his own (I turn 40 in nine days - yippee skippy!) and his loved ones' mortality as of late. I came across a post by our old friend MetroDad; following a trip to The Hamptons, he realized how much he hates Twitter (understandable if one does not use it as a marketing tool to help drive traffic to one's various writing endeavors so that one's kids can eat) and declares that "forty year old dads should just not be on Twitter" (which is a relief - I can Tweet away for a few more days, then join MetroDad in The Hamptons, where we can both yell at the damn kids who keep playing on Alec Baldwin's lawn.) Twitter aside, as an almost 40-year-old, I've become painfully aware of the chorus of voices, peers and friends and total strangers, who repeat the same tired refrain: "Act your age...act your age..." Yes, despite my long-haired tattooed backwards-baseball-cap wearing appearance, I do the grown-up stuff ("retiring" from a 10-year career as a well-paid technical recruiter to build a new career as a writer and social media consultant while raising two great kids). I also own (and regularly make use of) 4 surfboards and a skateboard, decided to start playing rugby at 37 (of course, my right knee decided to quit playing rugby at 37.25), and never fail to laugh at shit like this.
Clearly I don't act my age. (And yes, I'm absolutely OK with that. I fully intend to go Into That Good Night riding fakie and giving the goat.) So I posed the question to my fellow DadCentricians: do you feel the need to "act your age"? If so, why? If not, why not? Here are their answers...
KEVIN: You haven't met the team. Most of them can't read yet. Now, you need to address my "old lady" side.
MRS. KEVIN: You're not very adventurous...
KEVIN: Outside the bedroom.
MRS. KEVIN: See what I mean? Anyway, he regularly thinks he's having heart attacks even though he's had an EKG, an MRI and all sorts of test that show he's completely healthy. He wigs out about certain things and I think it holds him back personally, but it doesn't stop him with the kids, though, especially when he almost killed himself trying to show them how to use the Slip N' Slide last summer. He even bought our son a skateboard for his birthday and I'm sure he tested it out before the boy did.
KEVIN: The kids make me not want to act my age. Except when they don't listen. Then, I really turn into a cranky old man. As for the rest, I blame my overprotective suburban upbringing. I get panic attacks, you know that. We could fix that with a little Xanax. Apparently, I'm one of the few bloggers not on it at the moment."
Ryan: "I remember sitting alone in my downtown apt. It was pretty empty, almost no furniture. I was sleeping on a couch. I was soaked in the sweat from a hangover and had just stopped drinking with the guys at 7AM and stumbled home from down the street. I remember sitting there being upset with myself that I had lived so strictly as a Peter Pan and had just flat refused to settle anywhere for too long. This was awhile after (yet another) failed relationship that I had sworn I put my heart into but had ended, and then I coasted around trying to “date.” I was lonely, in between production gigs, working at a bar, and so tired of the downtown scene of staying up all night and playing poker and being a jackass with my buddies. I was loaded with “cool” stories about shit I had done. I was so afraid I would just end up being a guy that became a handful of stories but wasn’t really doing anything anymore, but telling them to his younger friends. I was just physically exhausted and could actually feel my body not recovering like it used to. The hangovers were brutal. I was spending money on pointless crap. I was completely alone and answered to nobody. I was fully convinced that this is exactly what I had always wanted my whole life until I had finally found it. I was a 32 year old boy. I did whatever I wanted. I hated my life.
I could remember a time when I would actually feel angry if I thought someone was loving me into staying in one place. I would run off from one adventure to the next, and that was exactly how I ran my youth. From the early days of play when I was first allowed to go off by myself in my neighborhood, to the first couple years into my thirties still running off, it was always about where can I go next, and how I could get into some crazy adventure, and lets stay up all night because fuck tomorrow we are all about “right now.” For me it was just a lifestyle I got locked into. Movie sets and tour vans were a perfect recipe, and then I would return home and have my “normal” relationships and life; until I would fill with wanderlust and kick off again. And just like the fairy tale, it took a woman to settle me down, and I wrote this letter to myself after I had met my future wife, and fallen in love almost immediately and was determined to live my life in a way that would make her feel safe and secure so that I could be around her and her son, and so she would give me a chance.
I knew I had to grow up. So I wrote this letter just before my 33rd birthday.
“It is that one day of the year when Time stands right in your face, locks eyes with you and says, ”fucking deal with it asshole, you’re not getting out of this.” There is no mercy in this reminder. It curls its fingers, and rakes that nasty hand across your skin, and tears new scars to wear as burdens of another year ticked by. It places new pain into your body, slobs your walk by robbing another step from you. It places it in a rotten aging bag, slung loose, hanging off its shoulder, just enough in reach as you follow behind that you long for it everyday. It is a slow chase… where Time all of the sudden manages to stay just a little ahead of you, no matter what you do.
When did this happen?
Reflect. Look back. There I am. Growing up. Standing still. Just waiting for the build up. The growth spurts, and the new needed mass, the little badges of age were welcomed and met with smiles. I used to love it. I was always so far ahead, looking back just waiting for it to catch up to me. I wanted that touch of Time so I could do all the things that we were told was really living. The duplicity of Time to build you, and grow you, just to turn one day, for no real reason and begin to tear at you until it completely dismantles you. With the final and inevitable responsibility and duty to revert you back to a mindless pile of weak bones, that can barely sleep and shit and smile without help from love.
On Dec 6th right at Midnight on the first tick of that 6th day I am going to give birth to myself. Push myself back out into the world and open my eyes and cry. I have decided that this will be the first day of my adult life. I am going to fold up that silly Peter Pan complex and place it neatly in a wooden box and put it up on a shelf and cherish it with the other knick-knacks of travels and special goodbyes. I have done about as much as I can do as a knucklehead. I think I should give way to some new responsibilities and apply some new rules to these knees and elbows. It is going to take a bit more to motor and I have a taste for the good life. I need to make sure I get myself sharp enough to cut that slice of life I want in my belly. Who wants to fall in love with the asshole waiting to win the lottery?
It is time to earn. Not just the dollars. It is time to earn the life I have always wanted. I have a heap of stories that will be fun for the fires. I love that. I will never give them over to regret. I am terrified of course. I am standing right here. The opportunities that I have right now, this minute, are all enormous. On the eve of the first day of my new life I am going thru the brochures and the pamphlets absorbing the literature of adulthood, scratching my head, trying to figure out how I got myself here. I really did a great job. I really did. Despite being a boy for so long.
The smile that is right here hiding at the corners of my mouth waiting to take over, will be the same silly child that had refused to grow up. I will never lose him. I am not putting anything to death or saying goodbye to memories or friends. I am just going to be busy building a life, and making sure that I never lose love for lame inexcusable reasons. It certainly takes a walk thru the rubble and the carnage of mistakes to actually take it in, smell it, taste it, take notice so that you do not destroy your Eden. This is the only way to ever learn from life, and not repeat my youth. When all of that pain from self-discovery settles into a hum and I come clean with myself, the person that is still standing is going to be my best foot forward.
I am so ready life. This is going to be great.”
I woke up on Dec 7th and just started living my life completely different. I made a choice to be a different kind of man. I am sure to keep the promise to stay silly hearted, and keep my youthful passions and boyhood dreams. I still laugh like I’m 8 on a sugar high. I just chose to ignore the whims and impulses that leave others behind for my own selfishness. I think that the biggest responsibility of a man or a woman, is when they decide to live their life to ensure the comfort of someone else. When you start doing that and you do it with responsibility, and heart, and effort, then you are acting your “age.” Pile on all the youthful pleasures and distractions that you can handle, as long as you can still wake up everyday, and get your shit done so that your family functions and thrives.
By the way, my wife and I were married roughly 5 months later after I wrote that letter to myself, and it has been the first time in my life that I can actually say that I feel calm and happy. She didn’t know how long I had been waiting for that feeling, and on our wedding day she put that ring on my finger; on the inside of my ring she had inscribed the word: “calm.” She totally got it."