I’m starting to wonder if anyone ever truly and fully grows up. I don’t know if adulthood ever completely takes in anyone because some of the neural pathways you set seem so irrevocable that you never change. Or perhaps it’s that the markers of adulthood are fixed generationally, so that once an older generation dies out, their version of adulthood no longer exists at all, and is replaced by whatever the next generation does.
But let’s start with a caveat. I’m 35 years-old, which I wrote about here. I have two kids, a mortgage, reasonable car insurance rates, an accountant whose work I absolutely ADORE, both a 401k and a Roth IRA that I regularly contribute to, am eligible to run for goddamn President, and, most importantly, I have A LAWN.
Nothing turns you into a crusty middle-aged guy like having a lawn. It’s awful. I think about the lawn. I fret about the lawn. I get irrationally pissed off by the presence of weeds in the lawn and turn into a grumpy asshole when I think about how much the lawn cost to install and how much upkeep it requires. I buy turf builder and weed killer at Home Depot and since it’s Spring, have started thinking about how I’m going to keep the lawn healthy in what appears to be a dry summer. I hate the lawn. The lawn is an albatross around my neck, and lives in a ghastly amount of space in my head rent-free.
Yet, I love the lawn because it means my girls have a place to play outside and serves as a garish marker of success. You can’t have a nice house with a dirt patch littered with weeds and crabgrass. You can. But you also just can’t. I became a father when I had my children. I became a fully-formed dad when I got the lawn.
Young people don’t care about the lawn. I know, because when I was a young person, the lawn was probably the very last thing I could ever think about. My first house had no lawn maintenance whatsoever, and that was part of the reason I was attracted to buying it. Now firmly in my mid-30s, the lawn is a primary preoccupation of mine. So I recognize fully my adultness in some ways.
Yet, there are other aspects of adulthood I wonder about that seems to be things I’ll never grasp. Like, when am I supposed to get really into the Civil War? Digging into wars from the past seems to be an old guy pursuit.
Or, when will technology stop making sense to me? My poor father was mystified by the blog interface of WordPress, which, to me, seems like the most intuitive platform ever designed. Then again, Snapchat already doesn’t make sense to me. Like, I can use its basic functionality, but what’s the fucking point? It seems geared exclusively for the purpose of taking a shitload of selfies, putting silly digital makeup and costumes on your face, and cataloging your life in a way that doesn’t actually catalog anything. I don’t fucking get it, but maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe I’m falling ass backwards into old guy territory in a way I don’t fully notice.
Then again, am I supposed to start listening to talk radio in the car? Because I don’t want to. My parents almost always listened to talk radio in the car, as did nearly every other parent I ever rode around with as a kid. It’s a very adult thing to do, and thinking about forcing myself to do it makes me want to run screaming into the hills never to return.
I have friends who listen to NPR in the morning on the way to work. My own wife frequently listens to MSNBC on SiriusXM. The very idea of having to do this makes me want to keel over from boredom, which is at least partially ludicrous because I host a damn weekly podcast. I should probably want to have a feel for how other radio programs are structured and presented.
Sports talk is even worse and populated by aggressively lazy and stupid people like Mike Francesa, race-baiting blowhards like Colin Cowherd, or, locally, people who can somehow talk for four hours every single day about the Denver Broncos whether they’re in season or not. Blergh.
Here’s the thing. I was driving from a client thing on the north side of town to a different client thing way on the south side of town the other day, and as always, was playing my music LOUD AS SHIT while bombing down I-25. When I’m in the car alone, you can bet your ass I’m blasting the speakers with some punk rock. I’ve done this since I could drive, and excepting when I’m in the car with my wife (whom I actually like to talk to), with the kids (who shouldn’t be unfairly subjected to that level of volume in their young, developing ears), or like, a client or whatever, this is basically every car ride for me.
To my fellow middle-aged parents, is this true for you? When you get those precious few minutes alone in the car, are you still rocking out? Or are you quietly sitting in traffic listening to pertinent news and analysis of local and world events read by antiseptic newspeople?
This is not some desperate attempt to hang onto my youth, nor is this some misguided posturing – I’m genuinely curious. At what point did the volume come down and/or did the music stop altogether? Because I can’t see that happening for me in the near, medium or distant future.
And while I may think about the lawn more in a given week than I did in the 12 previous years put together (Edit: My wife and I talked about the lawn at length the night after I wrote this!), I return to the opening sentence of this essay. I’m not sure anyone ever truly and fully grows up.
Maybe there are parts of you that will never, ever change from your youth. And maybe that’s not bad. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to buy some fertilizer for my lawn since weather conditions will be optimal for spreading it… and if you see me on the road, I’m the guy in the blue Acura with the unholy level of volume coming from my open windows.