Is 22 the first post-birthday, birthday?
It’s an open question.
I know that 19 felt sort of inbetween-y, a sort of awkward age between the legal implications of 18 and the symbolic numerology of 20.
Similarly, all of my birthdays from childhood into adolescence seem jam-packed at this point, lined up in my consciousness next to each other like over-stuffed milk bottles in a freezer that hardly cares.
I would pause to say that they were usually fun affairs, the ones I can remember: bowling, Indian food, maybe a movie.
There were also the camp birthdays, spent with Wal-Mart cakes and youngsters who one either had a tenuous relationship with friendship at best, or buddies who seemed incredibly close for the short period of experience you shared with them and thus disappated in falls and winters to come.
Which is not to say my last summer’s birthday, spent at a summer camp, was a bad affair.
I was taken out by my head teacher, a guy I looked up to, out to some pizza-bar in a rural Vermont town, taught to pour beer correctly (something I take pride in to this day) and summarily rolled down the Vermont hill back to my dorm, when I was too drunk, tired and out of it to actually leave my teacher’s car.
Even though that was a birthday spent away from home, it was a fun one and a momentous one–my twenty-first–even though I didn’t have my ID to show to the bartender (like many New Yorkers, I am license-less).
Why I ask if 22 is the first post-birthday birthday, is because it seems like there are less milestones to celebrate, at least in the short term. As a child, every year you make it through without screwing up too bad is a miracle. As an adolescent, you have those aged milestones to surpass: the thresholds of adulthood.
But I feel like neither an adult nor a hood. I am 22, unemployed and as far as I can tell, unemployable.
I recently went to a Gamestop to go with my friend Frank to fill out an application and got the urge to fill one out myself.
It’s true, this was something I had even mentioned in my blog as being what would be considered a low point for me in potential employment.
But a bored, but cute girl behind the counter looked at me in my hesitation and asked:
“Are you doing anything this summer?”
No, I told her.
“Well, this job is better than not doing anything.” She told me. “You don’t do anything and you get paid for it.”
I figured she had a point and filled out an application.
Four weeks later, Frank and I have heard nothing back.
I also starting taking an improv class at Upright Citizens Brigade, a decision motivated by a need to maximize my “funemployment”.
People of sage perspective from a comedy writer to a Rob Malone had been advising me to do such a thing, bolstering such motives as improving my writing, to killing time, to changing my perception of the world and consciousness (a Beardo proclaimment)
I was bolstered if a little weirded out when while attempting to use the bathroom, a random guy sitting in the chair in the Upright Waiting Room pointed at my belly and said “Funny”.
I was wearing my trademark “Insufficient Memory At This Time” shirt, the shirt I often put on when attempting to attempt comedy.
Then again when I entered the door, hesitantly, the instructor greeted me with:”Hey, don’t feel like you’re weird, you’re only coming to an adult improv class.”
In all I’ve spent today more worried about the outcome of my birthday, whether people will come and have a good time, whether they’ll be anyone there at all.
It’s still my insecurity, I suppose.
But as I prepare to head off to a Karaoke bar for a 7pm tryst, like a voyage into the wild blue yonder, I hope that I can overcome my anxiety about it all, the fear that I’ll be abandoned, that something’ll go wrong.
Which even though I’ve been talking about the meaninglessness and the anxiety of dates, I realize, with not a little bit of wry amusement, that this has always been how I’ve marked my birthdays, important or not–with anxiety, fear, disappointment–hurdles to get over before having fun.
So perhaps this isn’t the first post-birthday birthday after all.
Perhaps I’m just a post-birthday kind of guy.
A quick story, remembered. A snapshot or something that comes to mind.
A camp birthday, it must have been 7 or so years ago. I’m at arts camp (Putney, the same one I worked at) having made a few close friends and a few dire enemies, and a bunch of people who just I was weird and perhaps vaguely amusing; a pattern I was to repeat for the rest of my life.
My best friend Robert Downey, chubby, blond, acne-ridden (like I was) was nonetheless a better poet than I (which counted for a lot back then) and seemed to have both a truer pathos and a truer confidence than I; I who was the equivalent of walking through emotional mud.
We sat outside on the 45-degree-angled-back wooden chairs that laid at the top of one of those Vermont hills, as campers would gradually pass us by, stopping to wish me a happy birthday; a fact they’d heard at our commual meal time in the morning.
“What’s life like for you back home?” I’d ask Rob Downey, as we’d stare either at the sky or at the peeling-paint dorms in front of us.
“Bad, not bad.” He’d tell me. “I have my friends, my compatriots. And some scumbags.”
“But there’s also this restaurant back home called Chipotle. And they’re the greatest thing on earth. My friends and I at school go sometimes to the Chipotle at lunch and grab these massive, massive burritos that are about the most delicious things on the planet. And they’re huge. And you tell them what you want and they make it. and if it doesn’t fit in the tortilla they rewrap it until it does.”
“Wow.” I marveled, picturing a mythically-packed burrito. (This was before Chipotle had ever been seen or heard hair of in New York.)
“I’d go with my friends and get one and they’re expensive-ish. But sometimes you can go with people and no one, like no one can finish one. No one can finish a Chipotle burrito. So sometimes you scavage the ends of them, called ‘nubs’. And a young man, he can eat a feast this way. With no money and ample nubs.”
And as I lay back on my chair, staring up at the Vermont sky, I pictured Rob Downey with his friends at Chipotle, snacking.
And talking about writing, intellectually.
And eating nubs.
And I wondered if that’s what heaven was like.
Or at least utopia.