301 Moved Permanently

301 Moved Permanently


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The Self-Esteem Workout

One day you find yourself sprawled out on the sofa, wishing one of your kids was around to get you a beer. You’re really enjoying an old episode of Columbo—the one where Columbo goes undercover as a hippie and sings “Blowin’ in the Wind” with a young Megan Mullally—and you’re getting mad because a news promo features news of some protest somewhere. You say “I bet you not they’re not protesting rising deodorant prices!” and the handful of acetaminophen you took is kicking in nicely and, for a brief second, you look back on your time on earth and you think “This is a shitty way to spend my 25th birthday!”

And so it was for me when I was 25 and from that brief revelation I resolved forever to not be in a hurry to get “too old too soon”. I was a grad student at the time and so this was quite a monumental decision considering how the profession loved tweed and tea and anything else that smelled like grampa’s pipe. However, I decided then, that after my degree, I would no longer pursue the wisdom of the ancient poets who all had beards so long, white and spendid they could stash half a chicken in there (in literary circles this kind of beard is called “A Longfellow Bird Cage”). I dared to dream, that once liberated from the academy I would kick my heels up like an understudy in Rent and I would make the world feel better by raising their esteem to great esteemy heights and by teaching them all a vigorous lesson about so-called “balloon payments.” Oh yes! To be young at heart!

My thesis advisor who always called me “Mike” even though my name is Dave, said “Mike, I applaud your decision! Not just because for you to pursue maturity is sort of like a horse pursuing the piano but, frankly, I always regretted getting too old too fast. Did you know I once had a clear chance to punch Donnie Walhberg when he showed up at a Cambridge diner and I didn’t take my shot? Try and live with that, Mike.” He went on, but I have to admit I stopped listening because I was thinking about an episode of Silver Spoons where Ricky gets addicted to cough syrup. How’s that for youthful spirit?

I know the traditional way to always remain young is to have a completely unfulfilling job but to tell everyone you’re a writer or painter or juggler and that the job is “destroying your soul.” Somebody asks you if you’re writing, painting or juggling? You say “this job is destroying my soul!” Somebody asks if you saw the Super Bowl? You say “this job is destroying my soul!” Somebody asks if you would like to have a better job that gives you extra time? You say “this job is destroying my soul!” But I was not going to take the traditional way.

Everybody knows my story: the best selling self-help guides “10 Steps to Learning to Answer Every Question with a Resounding “WHAT?” and “Take Comfort: from Anxiety: At Least You’re Not A Member of the Barenaked Ladies”, they also know about the white linen suits, the cars and the helicopters, they may even know about the failed chain of so-called “breastaurants” called “Mangoes” (“Where does a man go—Mangoes!”) but what they don’t always know is that I have never once watched a second of a black and white movie (ridiculous!) or read a book by an author with 3 names. That means a lifetime 33% reduction of all my cover-reading chores!

You may have to give up things that reveal your rapidly aging self, of course. Most importantly: never dance again! If you enjoy dancing now people will catch on and then when you’re too old (never be that old person trying to look like they still have it on dance floor! never be that person!) it may be sad to give it up. But don’t say things like “dancing’s for morons!” when you’re really just concerned you’ll start sweating around your back brace. Just tell people you don’t dance because dancing is so beautiful and transportive it ends up making you “too sad.” This is solid advice because the only thing you will have to keep on guard against in your battle against maturity is the inevitable time when you start cheering for John Lithgow when you’re watching Footloose. It happens to everybody but you must remember the whole ethos of being young is contained in the unimpeachable logic in the enduring phrase “Shut up, old man, I wanna dance!”

Stay young forever! Work on your passive shrugs! Replace your knowledge of history with the slogan “all history is war, man”! Go to that rave after your retirement party, tell your doctor about your love of Doritos. It takes a bit of energy, I’m not lying, but whether or not you feel it’s worth it depends on how you feel about constant knee pain.

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