Monday, May 30, 2005
Late Night, Maudlin Street
On long weekends like this one just past, it is possible--even with three kids under the age of 7--that one might find oneself alone for a moment or two of quiet solitude. Of course "quiet solitude" works on a sliding scale like everything else; in my house, it means no one is bleeding or kneeing one in one's junk.

Normally I try to avoid moments of quiet solitude and the resultant pensive reflection. It's not that I like getting kneed in the junk, it's just that whenever I stop to think about shit now I get really depressed about the passage of time.

Sure, I'm glad my kids all sleep through the night and are nearly all out of diapers, that's all good. But for myself, the milestone advancement of my children means the contemporaneous degradation of my slowly-dying mind and body. It's all superficial and meaningless, sure, the type of stuff any man creeping toward middle age worries about: a first wrinkle, a random gray hair, a little extra paunch in the haunch, sagging breasts, unprotected sex with random men I meet over the internet... standard guy stuff that could probably be fixed with a Porsche Boxster. Not owning one, I mean if one were to run me over at about 120 miles per hour and put me out of my pensive, reflective misery.

As important as it all seems in the moment, I almost always come to my senses and put the sleeping pills one by one back into the bottle. Vanity, I know, is the second least useful state of mind, right after Love, but just before Gassy.

This weekend, though, I had a slightly deeper age-related crisis. In the line at the grocery store, alone among strangers (none of them bleeding and only a few of them lining up their knees to my crotch), all pensive-d out, my mouth went dry, my face went numb and I started to sweat profusely. It was one of those moments when you realize things have changed forever and you're not sure you can ever get back to the place you were before, the place you want so desperately to be again.

It was the checkout-line tabloid rack that got me. I'm ashamed to admit this publicly, but I just don't know what to do and I'm hoping you people can help me. Courage, Pops. Here goes:

I just don't give a fuck about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

There they were, the happy couple, staring at me from the cover of every single magazine, every glossy splash-page positively glowing with flawless skin, perfect teeth and dimples.

I know I'm supposed to care. Tom and Katie wouldn't be getting this much attention if it weren't important. I stared and stared until my eyes watered and started to cross, but I just... couldn't... feel. There was nothing.

No one warns you that this is a side-effect of getting older, losing the ability to tap in to the massive public zeitgeist, to comprehend and to grasp the important newsmaking events of the day and build that comprehension into the kind of empathy and emotional sensitivity that connects us all, that makes us all human.

But for me, apparently, it's gone. I wasn't always this way. The things that mattered used to move me. I remember 9/11 I'm very happy to tell you made me weep bitter tears. Did you see when the Royal Guard at Buckingham Palace played The Star Spangled Banner a few days afterward? Man, that fucked me up but good and for days.

And now something just as earth-shatteringly media-distracting happens like Tom Cruise having regular sex with a woman half his age and... nothing. I'm a hollow shell. I'm half a man.

It was bad enough feeling old when local radio stations are mining the music of my youth as nostalgia holiday programming theme acts ('80s weekend on Star 98.7 and '90s weekend on KROQ), but now I'm feeling positively decrepit. Is there a social-empathy version of Alzheimer's? Maybe I've just discovered it. We can call it Bucket's Disease or something where in the advanced stages of early almost middle-age we lose the ability to give a shit about what kind of dress Katie might wear if in fact her hypothetical wedding to a 5' tall one-note non-actor were ever to possibly happen.

If these are the ravages of age, then I guess I have nothing to do but to accept them. The most tragic thing is that I still have my memories of when I was whole. I remember the day I cried and cried when Justin Timberlake and Britey Spears broke up or how I tried to hang myself the day Bruce and Demi announced their separation and I had to try to convince my mom it was a failed attempt at autoerotic asphyxiation so she wouldn't have me committed to a state hospital. Those were the good times. I know now that when this whole Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie thing gets sorted out or--God forbid--something crazy happens like Jennifer Aniston starts dating Billy Bob Thornton, I will watch from the outside, cut off from my fellow man, alone in my apathy.

Just promise me that when the day comes and the first telethon is organized by the Pops Foundation To Cure Bucket's Disease you'll give generously and be courteous to our friendly and professional phone staff.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 3.9



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