“Getting old is not for sissies,” one of my grandmothers warned me today. “It’s not easy.”
I silently nodded, while a faint smile played across my face.
If you can get past the fact that the previous sentence sounds like it came straight out of a cheap novel, let me explain why I reacted that way: I was agreeing.
I wasn’t agreeing in the sense of, “Yes, Grandma, you are getting older.” That would be rude.
Instead, I agreed because I knew exactly what she meant.
Now, mind you, I’m not claiming to be over the hill, older than dirt or that I have one foot in the grave. But I’m not exactly the spry, happy-go-lucky teenager I once was, either. That was MONTHS ago.
This realization came to me the other night while teenagers from across the country were sneaking out of school-sponsored dances in search of more mature things to do, all while wearing a brand-new tuxedo or ball gown that likely cost their parents hundreds of dollars.
I remember those days: prom was a rite of passage. I, for example, spent the wee hours of the morning after my prom nights by scoring under 60 points in sleep-deprived bouts of bowling.
But this is way beside the point. (So was my aim.)
This year as the Holy Grail of high school dances approached, I was shocked to find myself feeling completely apathetic about prom.
I told myself that I was too grown-up to find fun in such frivolous extravaganzas. I reasoned that prom was a waste of money and time. I kept a simmering sense of cynicism in regard to the overly commercialized, highly political and overly dramatic atmosphere of the standard American prom.
After all, I would sneer, prom is kid stuff.
But deep down inside lurked the true reason behind my pessimism: I knew I wouldn’t be able to last through it anymore. I’m getting older.
It’s not like I was invited to go. In fact, it was quite the opposite: I was at work.
That’s right. While millions of high school students around the nation were dancing, I was waiting tables at a restaurant that I will not divulge the name of because I don’t want to show any bias, but it starts with “Country” and ends with “Lakes Cafe.”
By the time we had closed up and finished cleaning, my coworker and I were still feeling the residual adrenaline boost from juggling requests and complaints from several tables simultaneously.
So we decided to go grab something to eat.
Our destination was Charlie’s, a great all-nighter for all-American fried grease, which is located within the Newell’s Trucking Plaza in Newton.
When we got there around midnight, we were both surprised to see scores of high school students, wearing poofy dresses and rental suits, eating cheesy fries and milkshakes.
This struck both my coworker and me as odd. I, for one, would never have thought to bring a prom date to a truck stop in the middle of the night.
It seems tacky. It seems cheap. It seems like their nice clothes would end up smelling like french fries by the time they left.
As we sat and drank our own shakes, we watched different groups of teenagers come and go dressed in formal attire, and I was starting to feel pretty gosh-darn good about myself.
“Maybe I’ve still got it,” I told myself. “Here I am in a restaurant full of teenagers, and I’m feeling just a bit as perky and immature as they look.”
The two of us finished our milkshakes, paid and headed home. (But not before having a couple other impromptu adventures that, for the sake of word count and dignity, I will refrain from detailing.)
When I finally crawled into my top bunk—not long before I assume the prom-attendees would be finding their own beds—I was feeling pretty smug.
“Maybe I’m still one step ahead of age,” I thought as I dozed.
The next morning, still buzzed from the excitement of the previous night, I jumped out of my bunk. This was followed by a surge of pain that bolted all the way through my aching and muscle-knotted body.
I’m getting too old for this.