"I can't wait 'til I grow up! I'm gonna do whatever I want!" --Every Kid Ever, at some point
I'm reasonably sure that I'm 28 years old. I don't have a copy of my birth certificate, though, so for all I know I may have been born in Kenya and only told I was born in Scranton. For the sake of this post, we'll say that I am, in fact, 28 years of age. That's 10 years as a full-fledged adult by legal standards. (By other standards I'm not sure if I'm a full-fledged adult yet.)
I can remember plenty of times from my childhood when I got angry about being 'mistreated'. How dare my mom only allow me to eat five cookies instead of the whole package! What gives my dad the right to call me a lazy slob just because I haven't cleaned my room in six months? Why shouldn't I be able to take 45 minute showers? I'm an American citizen! This is an outrage! I have rights!!
So many times as a kid I swore the whole world was against me. It seemed like my parents could do 'whatever they wanted' because I wasn't there with them when they worked 8 or 10 or 12 hours a day. I didn't notice them cringing as they opened bill after bill they had received in the mail. I was ignorant to the reality that some schemer had figured out a way to yank every dollar and cent you earned away from you. Through student loans, credit card interest, taxes, etc. etc. The list is endless. For all intents and purposes, let's just say that our society and the wonderful handful of CEOs who run it extract the money directly from your soul, by putting on a metal gauntlet and reaching up your anus for it.
Here's a (relatively) short list of some of my childhood expectations of what adulthood would be like and the soul-crushing, headache-inducing, metal-gauntlet-anal-fisting truth I've discovered now that I'm all growed up:
Misbelief #1: Having a car will be rad!
Cool people have cars. Sometimes cool people get away with having vans, if the van is used for solving mysteries or transporting your mutant-turtle brothers into battle with The Foot Clan. Heck, even my mom and dad have cars, and if you look up "not cool" in the dictionary I bet there's a picture of my parents there.
It'll be so radical when I have a car, dude!! I'm going to drive all over the country and maybe talk to girls. I can go wherever I want, whenever I want, with whoever I want! My life will be an early-period Beach Boys song!
Shitty Truth #1: Car ownership sucks!
And I mean that literally. So much time and money gets sucked away when you own a car. For starters, how 'bout them gas prices? I was at the pump a few weeks ago and I said to myself, "3.49? That's a good price!" Immediately I found myself wishing I could create a shadow clone of myself using dark magic, so I could command my shadow-self to beat the crap out of me for thinking idiotic thoughts.
Even if you're like me, and you drive a teeny car that looks like a doll sneaker, you're still shelling out piles of cash to afford to be able to drive the thing. If you drive a large vehicle because you have a job that requires one, you wanted something that was arguably safer, or you just have to have a giant truck (because you ain't no faggot godammit!), you might be donating plasma or secretly harvesting and selling organs just to put gas in your ride.
Once you factor in all of the other expenses, such as routine maintenance (which most likely includes an alignment every year or two if you have the misfortune of driving in NEPA regularly), car insurance (which is a bogus scam of scams that perhaps requires its own post), and air fresheners to hang on the mirror because you fart in there a lot, we're looking at big effin' bucks you have to spend just to afford the luxury of being able to drive to a job.
Most cities, even the small ones, used to have viable public transportation, but once upon a time the car manufacturers of America conspired to buy up and destroy all of the railroads. In the sequel to that story, after practically creating a transportation monopoly, these companies failed big time but were 'bailed out' thanks to your tax dollars. Because life is fair. If you're a CEO.
Misbelief #2: I can eat whatever I want!
Man oh man, when I'm grown up I'm going to eat a bowl of cookies with milk-shake poured over it instead of cereal in the morning! I'm going to eat a whole canister of Slim Jims (or like five of the little boxes) for lunch! And pizza will be the only dinner, except maybe hamburgers every now and then. But yeah, mostly just pizza. I'll be so happy because I'm eating awesome food, and I won't be fat because I don't get fat from eating junk now, and that will never change because I am genetic perfection!
Shitty Truth #2: You can eat whatever you want, but you'll look like Jabba the Hutt, and you'll feel like that little guy who lives in Jabba's fat-crevices
Pizza was once magic. My ears perked up when I heard my mom say, "I'm too tired to cook dinner tonight" on the occasional Friday night. I knew that, most likely, it meant we were having pizza for dinner. Yes!! And as a child I was certain that I would just order pizza every night of the week. Why would anybody want to waste time making dinner when somebody else can make you stacks and stacks of pizza? Man, my parents are uncool and kinda dumb.
When I landed my first job as a teenager, I worked in a grocery store in a plaza that also had a pizza place. So for a while I got to live out my childhood fantasy. I worked four or five nights a week and I ate pizza on most of those nights. Alright, all of those nights. Then I noticed the correlation between my pizza intake and my sudden need to go poop like eight times a day. Whoops!
I still binge on junk food every now and again, just because I'm an adult and I can. But I always suffer the consequences. If I go overboard too often I start to look like I'm totally preggars. That coupled with working in an office (which always had birthday cake and cookies, it seemed) and I had to start an exercise regime just to keep my basic human shape. I wasn't in great shape to begin with, so I was essentially spending a good chunk of my free time doing enough exercise just to keep my somewhat-lousy form intact. Yikes!
And the pooping! By god, the pooping! As an adult with children, I consider time in the bathroom an enjoyable little quantity of quiet, personal time. I do most of my reading in there. When I don't feel like reading, sometimes I play a game on my cell phone. And if any small person is bold enough to knock on the door while I'm taking care of business, they get a curt "I'M IN THE BATHROOM!!!" as a reply. The sound of little feet pitter-pattering in retreat is the sound of victory.
But when I start consuming junk food in excess, my "me time" becomes an itchy, uncomfortable reading of a Kurt Vonnegut novel instead of a relaxing, enjoyable reading of a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Sure, the reading part is still great. But not even excellent fiction can distract one from an irritated butthole.
Misbelief #3: I'm gonna be a party dude, dude!
The coolest dudes are the party dudes. All I will need is a Hawaiian shirt and some sunglasses. And a rad attitude! Maybe I'll learn to break dance. I'll definitely own a boom box so I can take the party with me wherever I go. Society will not be able to hold me back from being a mondo party animal!
Shitty Truth #3: All parties come to an end, and a lot of them are lame to begin with
The Berenstain Bears tried to warn me about overdoing it in Too Much Birthday. But those were just foolish bears. They're not conditioned to be party machines like humans. Who could ever party too much?
By the time I was a college-age lad I was wise to this one. I wasn't much the drinker at the time, so attending parties wasn't all that much fun. There was always at least one girl who didn't drink at the party, but I almost always found her to be one of those preachy types who just wants to rag on everyone else because they need to drink to have a good time. Because nothing says "good time" like sitting around discussing how much fun everyone else is having.
Even when I got a little older and started partaking in the consumption of more grown-up party substances, I still preferred to avoid the whole party scene. Mostly because I often found myself surrounded by what seemed like extras from every party scene in every college-life movie ever. These people had nothing to talk about, no personality, besides getting "totally fucked up" and then falling asleep on ratty couches while gazing up at posters of Jimi Hendrix. Also, the parties never actually had Jimi Hendrix music. Never. Not one time.
Sure, I've been to some really fun parties that I enjoyed the hell out of. But there's unfortunately no way to know in advance if a party is going to be 'off the hook' or... 'on the hook(?)'. The good events I can probably tally just using my fingers. The bad ones, where I either left after an hour of boredom or suffered through the whole crappy night because I was with a friend who was definitely finally going to talk to that girl he liked, are far more numerous. The most fun I've had at (what you could call) parties any time in the past few years are the times when I got together with a bunch of old friends. Whether there was drinking (or what have you) or not, it didn't matter, because I was with a group of people that I knew I already liked going in.
But say you live in an area with mad, mad parties. Or you just know all the right people, so you always know 'where the party at'. The problem with trying to still be a party dude (or dudette) when you're an adult is the money situation. It's always money. If you don't want to live in your parents' garage, don't want to have to borrow their car or ask for rides from friends, and/or if you want to own more clothes than just your Hawaiian shirt and a stained pair of sad sweatpants, you'll need a job.
In order to maintain this job, you'll have to show up and be able to perform it reasonably well (unless you're a CEO of a major corporation). This means less partying and more sleeping, because falling asleep at the wheel and driving into a gulley on your way to work is not usually fun. And a lot of the money you'd spend on booze (to make it a real party) and pizza (if you want your party to be awesome) is unfortunately going to be spent on the costly maintenance of your car, your utility bills, your rent, and the late payments and interest charges on the credit cards you got to help finance the whole mess in the first place.
Yeah, it sucks. The only thing that lived up to the expectations I had (as a teenager in this case) is sex. But as you get older sometimes the stars have to align just the right way for that to happen. You and your partner both need to not have a tummy ache that night (unless you're a poop fetish person), your kids need to be soundly asleep or at a friend's house (because they all have an alarm that goes off the instant your skin touches your lover's skin), and you need to have taken care of that awful, awful rash. Definitely take care of the rash. GOOD LORD, WHAT IS THIS RASH!?!?
Upon a bit of reflection, I guess the moral here is "all things in moderation". Meat lovers pizza is fine, but don't scarf too much of it. You can bust out your boom box and backwards baseball cap (those things are still cool, right?) when you feel the urge, but you can't be like Eddie Murphy's girl and party all the time, party all the time.
Okay, so I'll enjoy those things in moderation...
Now, how the hell can I get away with paying my car insurance and buying gas in moderation?