Monday, August 07, 2006

Growing Pains

There are designated moments throughout a woman's life which are supposed to count as “rites of passage” for her; transitional events that theoretically herald the onset of adulthood.

Some such events include being bat mitzvahed, getting your period, your first job, losing your virginity, turning 16, 18, 21…. I have to say, I think the entire system needs some serious rethinking.

There’s no doubt that everyone eventually has some sort of defining moment when they realize “oh fuck, it’s all down hill from here”. I just don’t think any of the milestones our culture has elected to signify that moment have been well chosen at all.

I had a bat mitzvah. It didn’t make me an adult. It didn’t even make me feel like an adult. I spent the night getting wasted and being miserable that the boy I liked didn’t ask me to slow dance. Although eerily predictive of my adult life, this was hardly the beginning of it. I was a baby! I still had bangs for Christ’s sake! I didn’t even own a bra, let alone make up.

I had sex for the first time about a year after that. That sure as hell didn’t “make a woman out of me”. It pretty much just made me an even more jaded, jappy, bratty kid.

At 16, I got my drivers license… nothing screams adulthood like a fire engine red VW Beetle with a fake daisy in the vase by the steering wheel being driven 20 miles over the speed limit with bad techno blaring from the stereo.

18? Drove to an all night gas station so I could buy my first pack of cigarettes. It was somewhat anticlimactic though since I’d been smoking for five years already.

On my 21st birthday, theoretically the great equalizer of all rites of passage, the first thing I did was order a green apple martini. Clearly the choice of a grown up. The only adults I know who can get away with drinking green apple martinis are gay men and sassy black women, of which I am neither.

These events are completely meaningless. Adulthood is signified by far subtler, more ominous events than any of those. I propose a total renovation of the system. Here’s my proposition for the new "Quartet of Adulthood for Women":

It all starts off innocently enough with event one; the first time a man pays for something without provocation.

I remember this one well. I was hanging out at Dunkin Donuts with some friends one evening, recently having graduated from Middle School. I went up to the register to buy a Snapple, when I realized I only had a single left. I was about to go ask my friends for money, when the creepy middle aged drifter looking guy behind me on line said "Don't worry about it sweetie", then turned to the indifferent Indian dude behind the counter and said "Her drink's on me" and winked at me.
I blushed, thanked him and took the Snapple, then returned to my table where all of my friends were already teasing me.

When I took a sip of that Mint Snapple, my entire future flashed before my eyes... I was jet setting around the world, driving luxury cars, being adorned with diamonds and emeralds while Madonna's "Material Girl" played in the background....

THAT was a rite of passage.

Tragically the finally three stages are far uglier. Event number two is the first signs of your inevitable slow decay.

One ugly day, may at 40, maybe at 30, maybe at 16… you see it…. ominously lurking amidst all the regular colored hair on your head/eyebrows/cooch… your very first gray hair. There it is, clearly sent to tell you that God no longer thinks it important for members of the opposite sex to find you attractive.

I endured event two earlier this year... my friends tried to convince me it was actually a platinum hair, but I knew the hideous truth.

Event three can come before or after event two, and it's every bit as chilling. I call it the "old man at the club" moment.

You’ll be talking to some kids a few years younger, but people you still think of as being “in your age group” and you’ll reference something they’ve never heard of. For me it was Crystal Pepsi. I believe I was at a bar, and this girl just refused to believe that such a thing ever existed. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. Suddenly, I had become the creepy old chick talking about her favorite episode of The Brady Bunch. Oh my god… not me! NOT ME!! But it was too late.

The final stage is one I've only recently experienced for my self. It's an undeniable sign that the gravy train of your youth is making it's final stop at the retirement home of Adultsville. It's when you participate in a totally juvenile activity, with a creepy and antithetical level of maturity.

This may come in several different forms. It may be the first night everyone comes over to pre-game, and you wake up on your couch the next morning, and when you try to piece together what happened the night before, it slowly dawns on you that you never even made it out. You all fell asleep halfway through your second glass of wine while watching "Jenny, Please Eat Something" on Oxygen around 10:45.

Maybe it's the first time you get wasted at a bar and go home with some dude, but you refuse to have sex with him because when you get to his apartment you discover he doesn't subscribe to The Times.

Maybe it's the first time someone asks you how your weekend was and smirking you say you've done something "really bad", but instead of referring to a coke fueled orgy with a football team... you actually meant you had a second helping of kugel when you went home for dinner on Sunday.

For me, it was all three.

For men, there is only one sure sign that adulthood is about to begin... their 53rd birthday.