DISCLAIMER: As it went on, this post ended up taking itself a little bit more seriously than I intended. Oops.Nowadays, when I stare at myself in the mirror like the vain boy that I am, a particular feature stands out. Beyond my freckles and my brown eyes and my messy hair that never knows where it wants to sit, one thing stares back at me. On the left side of my mouth is a deep crease, a wrinkle, permanently etched into my skin. This wrinkle, that I have just now decided to name Stanley, haunts me daily. I can't see myself without my eyes zooming directly towards him. Stanley sits there, smirking. It's like a really simple, depressing game of Where's Waldo. Where's Stanley? OH, HE'S STILL RIGHT THERE.
"How is this possible?" I think to myself. "I'm too young to have wrinkles!" Aren't I? I still feel like I'm a kid. Not only that, but there are three lines that run across my forehead. Unlike Stanley, they fade a little when I'm holding my face very still. These three are making me consider getting Botox as a preventative measure. I know, you're thinking, "that's crazy!" "you're so young!" "that stuff is poison!" But if I have wrinkles now, I feel like by age 35 I'll just look like an old worn-out leather sofa. So best to start fighting before Stanley has mean little children that spread across my face.
But imagining going to get the Botox gives me pause. I picture myself sitting in a waiting room, a young man sandwiched between suburban housewives twice my age. Then there's the meeting with the doctor, where you have to own up to your own vanity. Oh yeah, then a needle injects poison into your face. So there's that. And really, will the Botox do what I really want it to anyway? Because what I want is for the Botox to KILL STANLEY. I don't just want it to prevent new lines - I want it to destroy the ones I have now. I want it to turn back time and undo Stanley. I want it to wipe Stanley from the face of the earth - or rather, the face of my face. But can Stanley ever truly be undone? Isn't Stanley just a symbol for the fact that I'm aging? Can you really kill a symbol?*
*Batman and I both struggle with this question.
I feel old at random times - it'll catch me when I least expect it. I went to my sister's 7th grade track meet a couple months ago. By mere chance I happened to be wearing my badass Buffy the Vampire Slayer tee. After the meet, I found my sister chatting with some of her friends. One girl perked up when she noticed my t-shirt. "There's vampires on your shirt!" She said. "Yeah, it's Buffy the Vampire Slayer." ...Crickets. Blank stares. It was time to educate. "See girls, there was a time called the 90s..." I started to say.
"I was born in 1999." Said one girl. "Me too." "Me too." I felt sickened. And again old.
For those of you who can't believe I think I'm old, worry not; my old feelings are offset by simultaneously feeling way too young to be a grown-up. I keep seeing people on Facebook - people my own age - getting married. "She's too young!" I shriek. It is unfathomable to me that I could run into someone from high school and that they would introduce their husband or wife and they wouldn't be joking. I sometimes still don't feel like I'm old enough to drink, and there's people getting married? What's wrong with them/me?** I've said it before and I'll say it again - I. Feel. Like. A. Child. I forget I'm getting older - several times in the last year, when asked my age I've answered 21, only to then be reminded by someone else in the conversation that I am, in fact, 22. Horrified, I go, "oh my god... you're right, I am 22!"
**Who's the weird one in this situation? If you want to choose "them", go to page 85. If you choose "me", go to page 102.
My friend is now officially teaching high school, which my brain can not compute because I'm pretty sure we're children. What's that? We're grown adults? Huh? I can't hear you, must be really bad reception in here... my friend invited me to a dinner for the staff because she's new and didn't want to go alone. I told her I was pretty sure I'd feel like I was a student; she assured me I wouldn't. As she showed me her classroom, I held my hands up to my temples. "This is so weird! God, you're like a grownup and stuff!" My instinct was to sit in the back of the class with the cool kids***, not to stand up at the front and be a teacher. I could not believe that someone who is ostensibly the same as me could be so adult - could be imbued with such adultyness****. We wandered over to the football game. This was strange. The familiar trappings - the players, the marching band, the cheerleaders - if felt... like high school, for lack of a better explanation. It felt familiar, like a sense memory thing. It was all kind of sweeter, wasn't it? For me, at least. More innocent, I guess.
***I was not one of the cool kids.
****I'm aware this isn't a word. Artistic license.
I realized how far removed I was from it. The kids seemed so young. I definitely was not a high-schooler, which was a relief on one front because I often feel like I look and dress like I'm a fifteen year old. It was a relief on another front as well; my friend being a high school teacher had made no sense to me because I figured I was basically still a high-schooler, still essentially the same kid I was then. But the fact that I felt distant from it is good, right? It proves that I actually have grown up a little. Just because I don't feel like an uberAdult doesn't mean I'm still a kid. I must be somewhere... in between. Maybe it's like when children start getting taller - if you see them every day, you don't really notice the slow, incremental growth. But if you don't see a kid for a while, when you do you're like, "Jesus, he's tall!" I didn't notice the tiny ways I've grown up because I'm with me all the time, but the high school saw me and was like, "whoa, you're way more of a grown-up when you were the last time I saw you! Must be three inches more at least!"
So the point is, whether I knew it or not, I actually did grow up somewhat. Which is a relief. I suppose that if the price for elevating above the maturity of a teenager is that I have to carry Stanley around with me, I can live with that.****
****THIS IS A BOLD-FACED LIE. I CANNOT LIVE WITH THAT. If you have any tips for me on how to terminate Stanley please contact me right away. TIME IS A FACTOR.