My birthday is this month. But as I muddle through my middle 40’s the big day is more pfft than a party. Not that I’m particularly stressed out about getting older. It happens. There is essentially no difference between my friends that are five years older than me and those who are five years younger. But how we all compartmentalize mid-life may depend upon whether we have kids and if so, how harsh a lens they cast on us.
Lately, my kids have taken to age bashing with some vigor and I don’t really see this phase being short-lived. Elliott has a gentle touch at least. He’ll say things in the presence of his friends like “Dad, you used to be good at basketball, right?” He means it as a compliment, I think. It’s a way of conveying to his friend that even though he doesn’t have much in the way of firsthand knowledge, I wasn’t always quite this fossilized.
Margo doesn’t approach the topic quite as tenderly though. I had the Sirius XM tuned to the 80’s alternative station 1st Wave. From the back seat I hear, “Daddy, change the channel! 1st Wave means these are like, the first songs EVER.” And because I am old yet not wise enough I walked right into it “What do you mean? These are the songs I listened to when I was in high school.” “Exactly! The first songs EVER!”
Again, Margo: “Daddy, why do you bother using styling gel when you barely have any hair?” It’s like Clyde Drexler asking why anyone who couldn’t dunk would even bother wearing sneakers. (And yes, I just referenced a basketball player who has been retired for a very long time. Dammit, maybe I AM old…). Last week she encouraged Kristen to get rollerblades so they could do it together. I asked what about me? Her way too quick retort was, “Not you daddy. You’ll break your back.”
I applaud the kids for taking note of small details. It may make them decent writers someday or maybe even an FBI Director (or both). Sometimes I just wish I wasn’t their favorite subject to study. Margo said to me the other day “You know how I know you’re old? Because you wear t-shirts with no words on them.” And it struck me because I had the same theory about my father when I was a kid. I thought dads must get to an age that wearing cool t-shirts just doesn’t matter anymore. That they must think, I’m only going to the hardware store, this shirt is fine.
So I got myself a few t-shirts with words on them. If you see me around town I may be wearing my Atlanta United tee (unique, I know). Then I may have jumped the shark by attempting to up my cool factor even further. I was scrolling through Facebook and an ad for a pair of shoes popped up for $39. Stylish genuine leather shoes looking nice! I was at work, quickly eating lunch before a meeting and it seemed like a great deal so I forgave the questionable grammar and just clicked the Buy button. Impulsive! On the interweb! Just like the young folks do!
The shoes are hideous. The stylish, brown shoes I thought I had purchased turned out to be a pair of orange Merkmaks (that is the brand name—my apologies to any brand devotees out there). They have breathing holes all over the top like you might find on a pair of running sneakers. I tried them on and Margo let out a spirited cackle conveying that of all my dorky dad anecdotes, these shoes may take top honors. So this month I am no younger nor any cooler than I was before and unless Kristen is throwing me a Miami Mambo themed birthday party, I may have a pair of shoes for sale.
Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at email@example.com.