I love twenty-somethings. I like the energy. I like how everything is new to them. I like the fact that they drive people my age nuts, even though they are a helluva lot more pleasant than we ever were. I love thirty-somethings. They’re not jaded yet. Forty-somethings can be irritating the way forty-somethings are always irritating–that’s the age when people are at their most bitter and depressed and are still under the illusion that they are hipper than thirty-somethings. People my own age can be pretty obnoxious but then we were obnoxious when we were twenty-, thirty- and forty-somethings, too. What was rebellion then is just orneriness now. And hip seventy- and eighty-somethings are cool beyond words, a delight, and the hip among them long got over worrying about the threat of twenty-somethings. Wisdom comes with all those decades behind you. Then poof, you’re gone and it’s gone. That’s life, the man said, that’s what all the people say.
Just reading I piece I wrote about the day Elvis died and how all the ladies at work we’re crying their eyes out. Got me remembering those ladies. Tough dames, all those girls, working class and divorced once or twice and life hadn’t always been easy and now they were doing the working wife thing, which was new in the 1970’s, very new. They were sweet, but get them all together and they were a pack, foul mouthed, chain smoking, been around the track already broads and all totally horny. That I knew because they would talk about being horny. All the time. They had the itch. I got the itch, they’d say. I’m so horny I could fuck a telephone pole. I was a dumb kid then, not yet twenty years old, and would buy my burrito off the lunch truck and join them. At first they protected my innocence, but not for long. Time to grow up boy, they’d say. Soon enough they’re banging their drunk boyfriends on a Saturday night or wondering if the old man could still get it up. They doubted it. The old man never seemed to have the itch like they had the itch. I would listen and pretend not to. The concept of horny middle-aged ladies was new to me, alien almost, I didn’t quite comprehend the itch. That is till the pack turned on me. The loudest one–from Cleveland, I remember, she with that Great Lakes plain-spoken abrasiveness–started complaining about how horny she was. How she wasn’t getting any at home. The others agreed. No one seemed to be getting any. That surprised me, I’d thought that married people (excepting one’s parents, of course) got it on all the time, else why marry? They groused a bit more. Then I noticed them all eyeing me. Cleveland blurts out maybe we should all jump the kid here. I froze. They all stared and smiled. Cleveland says yeah, just pin him down and take turns. They laughed. I blushed. Then she gave me a look I’d never seen before. We’d have you flopping like a fish. Her tone was almost menacing. I must have looked stunned and she cackled The others laughed too, evil laughs, cackling, evil, lascivious laughs. They were all just staring at me, cackling. Grown up lust. I’d never seen it before. Never even knew it existed. It was a distant world of forty and fifty somethings and I wasn’t even a twenty something yet. I was a freshman at a community college, still living at home. Mine was still a world of crushes and instant adolescent erections and the endless distraction of teenage females. This was the mid-70’s and the sexual revolution of Hugh Hefner and a zillion hippies had finally reached the high schools in a big way. The girls wore micro mini’s and tee shirts barely concealing breasts held aloft as if by magic. We’d stare open-mouthed. Heat waves were torments. The school’s air conditioning barely worked and we’d sweat in our jeans and corduroys in class while the girls flounced about lazily in Daisy Mae cutoffs and halter tops. Screwing seemed to be frantic and incessant. Playboy was full of real live women, we thought, perfect and sweet and naked and we’d save the centerfolds for further study. But this, these middle-aged women and their itch and their telephones poles, this was sex, raw and sweaty and urgent and not always pretty. Reality. I didn’t even know it existed, not like that. Not even the letters in the Penthouse Forum we read at a friend’s place because his parents were psychologists and thought it healthy that their son read Playboy and Penthouse and Oui (Hustler wasn’t out yet, thankfully) mentioned telephone poles.
I’d never felt so uncomfortable in my young life. One of the ladies noticed. Oh come on, she said, leave him alone, he’s just a kid. He’s awfully big for a kid, another said. He’s still a kid. Never seen kid with a package like that. Yeah, but he’s just out of high school. The debate went back and forth, but at last their maternal instinct won out. It was uncomfortably quiet for a moment. Cleveland stopped her cackling and looked at me. It’s OK boy she said. You’ll learn soon enough. And I did, soon enough.
It’s a funny thing, but at some point in your life you begin to identify with the old people in your memories. The young you becomes so fresh and unjaded as to be unfathomable. Somewhere back there you stopped being the protagonist in your own life story. You become one of the secondary characters. You’re the dude on the far end of middle age looking at the young stud in the making and thinking man, you got some story ahead of you. You look at him and smile. The kid smiles back, clueless, nothing but innocence.