Coming of age

Reality has a funny way of hitting you. Sometimes it walks right up and slaps you in the face. Other times it cowardly calls out to you from a dark doorway. Such was the case a few days ago. I was taking a leisurely walk around my neighborhood, minding my own business, when I was heckled by a tag team of prepubescent boys. No doubt encouraged by the latest episode of “Jackass,” they had decided to make a day of screaming nonsensities out the house to passersby. I turned to face the verbal snipers, but saw only a couple of short shadows doubled over in laughter, lurking in a dark doorway. Little did they know who they had chosen to prey upon. In a verbal sparring match, I could have easily taken both of them with my tongue tied behind my back. But before I could challenge my midget antagonists to come out and take it like the little men they were, they blurted out one more unintelligible taunt and slammed the door shut.

That’s when it hit me: I had gotten old.

See, in addition to being reduced to the intellectual level of a third-grade boy, I had just been the unwitting subject, no doubt, of a double dare. And as anyone who has ever been a kid knows, these dares almost always involve an oblivious adult victim and some sort of bold action meant to shock and awe said adult. In this case, that adult was me. That’s right, in these kids’ eyes, I was old – someone so creepy and hopelessly uncool that I was worthy of being heckled. The Wicked Pigeon Lady in the Garden; the Blair Witch; Boo Radley.

Mind you, this wasn’t the first sign of my movement into the ranks of adultdom – just the first one I chose to acknowledge. Perhaps I should have taken the hint a few weeks earlier when my college neighbors let me know about a bash they were throwing. Only problem was, they weren’t telling me because they wanted me to come over and enjoy a cold beer from one of their 17 kegs and mingle with their party guests. They were informing me from a “don’t-call-the-cops-and-ruin-it-for-everyone-you-fuddy-old-teetotaler” standpoint. Of course, being as over the hill as I am, I didn’t quite catch on. When I asked what time the festivities started (so I could get a good position next to the keg) they assured me it would start at 6-ish and end early. But, when 6 o’clock rolled around and the kegs didn’t, I didn’t need my reading glasses to get the picture. Lucky for them, old people like me go to bed early and sleep like the dead (who can hear anything over all that snoring, anyway?). The party raged until (true to their word) the early hours, when, incidentally, another neighbor not so hard of hearing called the police.

So anyway, back to the snipers. There I was, standing on the streets of Durango, my youth snatched from me like a pleather purse full of pennies, travel-size Kleenex and hard mint candies. I could have given chase but realized with knees like mine, that could have been extremely painful – both for participants and spectators.

But rather than wallow in self pity, I realized I was really quite lucky that I had lived in oblivion this long. All of my friends in the cities had faced the muzak years ago – when they traded in their youthful ideals for sensible sedans, stock portfolios, make-up, pantyhose and pumps. I, of course, have none of that (I do own a bike pump, but it’s not quite the same). In their defense, my cityslicker cohorts may argue that I suffer from delusions of Peter Panitis – to which I reply, “No duh.” In fact, most of the toys that litter my yard are similar to the ones that littered my yard as a kid – bikes, skateboards, plastic boats, wiffle ball bats, skis. I may look like an adult, but I still wipe out, skin my knees, track dirt in the house and, for the record, can swill cheap beers with the best of ’em. Which is precisely why I live where I do – a giant playground where I am surrounded by like-minded denialists who have never outgrown playing hooky. When people here discuss what they do, they are referring to their extracurricular activities – not their jobs. Maybe someday I will have the courage to face the message of my midget menaces and buy some no-nonsense business suits and get a real job. But in the meantime, I’m going riding. Has anyone seen my green tights?

-Missy Votel




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