The next guy who tells me about how some experience gave him personal growth is getting something sharp in his cranium. Seriously, blood’s going to pour out of his temporal artery. You know I mean it when I get mad anatomical with my death threats.
Why? Because it never ends there. Given male competitiveness, it turns into an arms race where each one feels the need to one-up the story. And it goes on and on until someone fabricates a coming of age tale where a plucky kid from Mumbai overcame his odds to win a million dollars on a game show in a country where we don’t count money in millions. All I want is to hang out with my friends and discuss guy-stuff. Just your average volleys of double-entendres and nothing too sensitive or soft; nerdy topics are welcome. Instead I get assaulted with this affirmation of adulthood, which often hides a plea for approval.
Most guys I know are comfortable with the ball-busting group dynamic where we pick on one guy and magnify his every imperfection. It’s immature. It’s caveman. It’s our way of sifting the herd for the weak link. So, that’s not four guys ganging up on one at McDonalds; it’s a test for vulnerabilities that we are better off catching here than in the wild—you know, the bar. But it’s familiar. It’s safe. We have come to expect it, maybe even enjoy it. But if well-enough was left alone, life would have been different. We wouldn’t have war and nuclear weapons, and Windows XP would still be the best operating system. (Okay, that last part is true. Not that I care.)
Then someone goes ahead disrupts the equilibrium by showing us what a man he now is. Oddly, it’s often the same guy who used to turn a quiet evening of beer-drinking and cricket-chatter to a tequila-shot-drowned, vodka-infused, Jack Daniels chugging pukefest. You won’t believe it dude, when that kid grabbed my finger, I felt something. Yeah, you felt his fist. And then you returned the infant to his parents who will feed him at 3 am and hold his hand through rehab someday because grabbing that finger scarred him for life. But you will call this a paradigm shift and promote yourself from Jack Daniels to single malt to suit your current state of refinement. And we must follow along or cut you off like the gangrene that you are.
Half the time this whole personal growth or character-building bullshit is a band-aid for the most recent slight life has dished out. If so, that’s fine. It happens to everyone. Just don’t talk about it. It’s called rationalization because you do it to yourself. Selling yourself this crapola is hard enough. If you spread it around, daring others to refute it, you might just find out how many friends you really have.
I understand that when you watch Don Draper, who always had a mistress within Metrocard radius, walking around all mature-like, it’s understandable to regret the water-balloon fights and the time we faked a Harvard acceptance letter to mess with a friend’s head (He was so excited that he didn’t notice the w in Harward. Yes, I’m going to hell. More on that some other time.) In the animal world, prolonged eye contact means aggression, but among guys it’s just a staring contest to decide who will do a beer run. No one washes a dish after using it. We each fish ours out of the sink come dinnertime. That way, no one can shirk dishwashing. We order takeout because there’s no dishwashing before or after. But does that mean we are immature? I doubt it. We are just beta-testing adolescence at an age when we can appreciate it more.
The way I look at it, maturity is paying your bills and having more friends than enemies. Done and done. Saying I mustn’t say or do some things because I’m not a teenager doesn’t resonate with me. Who draws these lines? When your grandfather was your age, he had two children. Yes, but that’s because there wasn’t much to do back then. Procreation was recreation. Let’s see him being all nice and fatherly in his twenties with a House marathon on HDTV and an FiOS internet connection. Do you know what a high-speed internet connection does to guys? It’s like giving us our own set of breasts—a productivity killer. Let’s face it. Most of us are going to live longer than our grandparents did. Why can’t we do things a little slower then? There’s no empirical evidence that playing Medal of Honor Allied Assault reduces your ability to be a father. Well it kinda does, if the laptop gets really warm.
So I’ve decided to stay immature, by society’s definitions, that is. Every now and then, I’ll wear whatever I can lay my hands on. I’m religious about showering and deodorants, so don’t call the CDC just yet. But if someone walks into a joke, I’m not gonna be the bigger person and let it go. Your ass is gonna get ridiculed. It will make you a better person. Or not. I don’t know. It will make me a happier person. That’s for sure.
Whoever decided that 26 is too old for that’s-what-she-said jokes did not check with me. In fact, all those who feel that way should just admit it right now. Admit it so I can un-friend you and cut you off. Or deal with it in silence. And that includes dick jokes, funny rape jokes (NOTE—I did not say rape threats, and no, they’re not the same.), and every other joke conceivable.
Except the Aristocrats. That shit is nasty.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy
3. Café speak