Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Tales of Rebelry

No matter how you slice it, some of us were just born old. Whatever your cup of tea - fundamentalism, pantheism, transcendentalism, Marianne Williamsonism, whatever - you've likely met, and probably know, at least one person who was born old. You might call them "old souls" if you're a Hindu; "old codgers" if you're an existentialist; "old dirty bastards" if you're a rap musicologist, or just not call them at all if you're a Trappist. The point is, everyone (including English majors, who annoyingly turn their noses up at single-syllable adjectives like "old," preferring the fancier "anachronistic," instead) knows someone, or is someone, who was born old.

But does everyone know someone who started out generically enough, someone who, as Freud would've observed, cooed in all the right places, delighted in all the wrong body parts, believed hers were the only feelings that got hurt, etc., then, wham! Suddenly got old when everyone else her age was getting braces and/or their first French kiss?

If not, permit me to introduce myself, a gal who was too dumb to do anything dumb when she should've, i.e., when she could've gotten away with it.

This isn't to say colossally or dangerously dumb, no sir. Nothing on the order of joining the SLA ; I was, in fact, offended by several of my fellow junior high school students' "Right On, Patty/Tanya" T-shirts, seeing as how I'd already decided Ms. Hearst was sorely misguided BEFORE photos of the Hibernia Bank job surfaced. And nothing so stupid as drag racing, either; cool as all those rebels without a cause looked, it was their era, what with its "I like Ike" buttons, roller-skating carhops and picture-perfect TV families I longed for, not their Porsche Spyders-cum-coffins.

Nope, I mean the regular dumb things that are the province of minors. Like questioning authority. Indeed, youth are expected to question authority, even if it's just for the sake of it (what we old codgers refer to as "mouthing off.") And the best part is, no matter how serious the consequences are for doing so, they're never all that serious. I mean, how permanent is that almighty "permanent record" when you're under 18?

But try questioning it when you're a bona fide grownup. Worse, a grownup who'd spent most of her childhood nostalgic for an age she'd never known and all of her adolescence repelled by disco, the advent of the "A Twinkie made me do it" defense, and words like "herstory." A grownup who then spent some 20 irascible years wishing people would go back to keeping their problems in the closet where they belong, and who is only just lately, at the halfway-to-old mark, no less, trying to recover from a fairly staid, largely misspent, youth. On second thought, don't try it.

The IRS doesn't care how upstanding a citizen you've always been; attaching a photocopy of your middle finger to your tax return will earn you a lifetime of consequences, er, audits. And telling the Jury Commissioner that you won't report for duty until Leonard Peltier is freed all but guarantees you two days' lockup and at least four frivolous, "he said, she said" trials in the bargain

Trust me, no one sympathizes, much less empathizes, with your condition. "Curmudgeonly before your time? Never heard of such a thing. But even I had, it seems to me there'd be better ways to treat it than pressing one's aging buttocks against the window of our office." (There were, of course, but I, alas, hadn't yet learned how to vent my frustrations by letter. Or subpoena.)

And if you're thinking of giving the highway patrolman who pulled you over that, "yes, I've got my current registration sticker right here; see? I just forgot to slap it on the old bogus license plate before going off on this here crime spree. It's a good thing you stopped me, though, Officer. If you hadn't, I'd probably still be right behind those two drunks up the road, and that was sort of scary, tell the truth," speech, well, I've two words for you: think again.

So what's an extremely late bloomer - okay, okay, immature clod - to do?

Anything that doesn't come with any serious consequences, that's what. For instance, I'm planning on tee-peeing my friend's house this weekend. She shouldn't have told me she's going out of town.

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