Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Forty-one and Awaiting Maturation

At my age, I’m supposed to be educated, sophisticated and worldly wise.
There is a stack of books that educated people are supposed to have read, important things like the complete works of Dickens and Shakespeare, The Ancient Art of War, Das Kapital, the Federalist papers and Moby Dick. I am waiting for retirement to get to this list, when not reading them will be chucked up to old age and poor eyesight.

Adults are also supposed to like things like coffee and wine, sushi and blue cheese not accompanied by super hot Buffalo wings and beer. They can watch documentaries on war and read the serious sections of the paper with total recall. They wear jeans and sneakers for gardening and football games only, and they don’t voluntarily choose to dine at places that wrap the food in paper. As I understand it, some of them even listen to and love opera.

I am waiting for those chemical enzymes to kick in and transform me from a fairy tale loving, French fry noshing comic book reading plebian into a character out of a Henry James novel; who coifs her hair and wears dark form fitting frocks and speaks in mysteriously compelling short phrases that bewilder and bewitch those around her as she passes through the heathers without stepping into a gopher hole.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to mature. I dutifully checked out Bleak House from the library and read a play each summer from Shakespeare. I keep ordering wine at restaurants but I never finish a glass. I know how to talk about tannins and the deepening flavors and all that, but what I really think when I drink wine is, why didn’t I order a diet coke? I have eaten sushi with friends who love it and survived, but can’t figure out why no one doesn’t just say, “Hey this is a great piece of fish, just give it five minutes in a pan with garlic and olive oil.” I think they’re just trying to avoid doing the pots and pans in the kitchen.

My sister has bought me CD’s of opera, explaining which pieces were her favorites. She has also taken me to drink my first Starbucks, I got a violent headache after three sips. I had a similar reaction to the opera. My husband buys tickets to the symphony. We go. He shuts his eyes to listen. If I shut my eyes, I snore. My music tastes haven’t ever left the early 80’s and high school.

I have taught myself to read the editorial section before I hit up the funnies and the sports, but it’s rather like sitting through math class in High School before lunch. I do it, but only because I ought, and much of the front section just rolls past my brain which is fixated on what happened today in “For Better or Worse.”

So here I am at 41 and I still want big parties on my birthday with wrapped presents and a frosted cake with all the candles. I know the Saturday morning line up my kids watch, and I sneak my TV viewing under the responsible adult headline of “Parental Supervision.” I change the channel if I don’t like the cartoon or its animation. I read comic books inside of real books like “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” and wear jeans or shorts 350 days out of the year. I don’t own a form fitting frock and I talk in breathless longwinded excited loud sentences. It’s not that I don’t like wine, opera and all things sophisticated; they just aren’t my first preference.

Given the fact that much of my life is lived like a stone that just perpetually skips on the water (never slowing or stopping to sink below the surface), introspection is not one of my strong suits. It requires a quieter mind and spirit than my temperament allows. Yesterday, my son was invited to take a course on manners and etiquette, designed to teach freshmen of high school how to act like the adults they will some day become. As I looked at the requirements that the boys wear jackets and ties, and the girls, dresses and gloves I wondered if one day my kids would grow out of their childhood tastes. I’d be left to go to McDonald’s, watch Disney movies and listen to Duran Duran on my own.

But then I remember, my husband prefers burgers to fois gras, and chocolate shakes to champagne. The other day, he came home with tickets for a baseball game and proposed a camping trip for the 4th of July weekend. After dinner, he asked for ice cream. So I stopped by the bookstore today, and even though, the complete works of Evelyn Waugh were on sale near the front of the store, I picked up the latest Fantastic Four comic for him, and tonight, we’re going to see Kung Fu Panda. Maturity can wait, at least until it feels fun and not like an assignment to eat my broccoli.

I will say though, some of that opera isn’t so bad. Thanks sis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to one of my favorite people! If loving opera and wearing form-fitting clothes is the criteria for measuring maturity, I too am in danger of remaining in Neverland. That is, unless you count Andrea Bocelli, whom I do like. However, I'm not sure true opera-lovers would consider that mature enough to really count.


Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!