Archive for June, 2011
I am now 20 years old. Or, to be precise, I will be 20 years old by the time you read this, and presumably I will be busy recovering from a massive hangover following a night of booze and retro-gaming with my friends. I’ve successfully avoided thinking about this for a long time by occupying myself with anything from studying to the aforementioned inebriated tomfoolery, but it’s an issue that keeps creeping back into my head, so I might as well address it now: What does it mean to be 20 years old?
For starters, it means that I’m one year older than before, though at the same time I am just one day older than before and an entire decade older than before. At any rate, a significant portion of my life has gone by. The wonders of modern medicine would have me believe that I could live well past 100, but when you factor in my lifestyle, my unhealthy diet, my lack of exercise, my passive smoking and active drinking, suddenly 80 seems like a pretty optimistic guess, which would mean that a quarter of my life is now over. The, by common opinion, best quarter. I have ambivalent feelings about this: On the one hand I wonder if I made the most of the experience, on the other hand the sum of those 20 years alone is overwhelming. The thought that I did, said, felt and saw all these things is surreal and I could spend hours just pondering on the wonders of the past. I can’t begin to imagine what a mindshattering task it must be to carry the memories of 80 years. How merciful of Mother Nature to make us forget.
Just a few hours ago I was a teenager, but now I’ve passed the invisible barrier to the realm of twentysomethings. I assume this new moniker brings a lot of changes I don’t fully appreciate, yet, but what I do know is that this is a time of transition and that, at some unspecified point in the future, I’ll have to become an adult member of society, to put it in general terms, or a man, to specifically address my case. Perhaps I should really rather treat those as two different things, since the recipe for adulthood seems to be a pretty uniform across all borders of gender and sexuality: get a job, find a mate, start monogamous relationship, produce offspring, spend the last precious years of your life sitting on some veranda and tell young whippersnappers to get off your lawn. Some of these points are on my agenda, but I feel glad to note that I will do so whenever the hell I feel like it. The quest for manhood is slightly harder to dismiss, since it’s less about my actions and more about the way people see me. Well, there’s no stopping other people’s gaze.
For the longest time I’ve simply ignored this issue, figuring that if you live by the ideals necessary to make you a good person, becoming a proud exemplar of your gender ought to happen automatically. I’m still convinced that this is a very good attitude to have towards the various stereotypes and social constructs surrounding the issue of gender, but as I’ve learned in my dalliance with pick-up arts, one should never feel above testing a new philosophy. Even if you end up disagreeing with most inherent ideas, merely dealing with the questions behind such ideas can help to advance your own perspective of things. So who am I to simply scoff at the stereotype of manly macho-men when some parts of their codex might be worth considering?
The problem is that the societal image in question is not only subject to a lot of change, but so ambiguously wide that it’s ultimately always necessary to find your own niche (but, really, how else would there be any fun to be had here). I can’t say I’ve had the time to exhaustively consider the subject. I have simply been more conscious of my own actions in the past few weeks, wondering how I’d judge them. This hasn’t brought me any closer to figuring out what kind of person I should be and where exactly being a man figures into this, but I have found more than a few things that most certainly have nothing to do with it. I had an easy time dismissing most of these, even if some of these concepts play an important role in the self-image of a lot of people.
Let’s see. It has nothing to do with alcohol or cigarettes, or any of the other drugs that look so cool and adult to teenage idiots. It’s certainly not about holding your liquor or knowing how to deal with a hangover. It’s not about promiscuity either, nor physical violence, nor “manning up” and ignoring pain, nor being stoic and tight-lipped about feelings, nor about cars, beer and football. Possibly it’s about knowing how to tie a full windsor, or cheering up a kid with a magic trick, or walking away from a fight, or taking the blame for somebody. Maybe it’s about having doing these things and going through these thoughts. What it probably isn’t about is long-winded blog posts.
I felt that this particular occasion called for something deep, long and profound, but to be honest, I got nothing. Fortunately I don’t even have the time to indulge existential queries. There’s a good deal of studying still ahead of me if I intend to make it through this term, and luckily I’ve had the brilliant idea that now would be the perfect time to pick up a bit more responsibility on The Escapist. Then there’s the fact that I haven’t done any for my regular projects in a while, not to mention a certain piece on Gravity Bone that might or might not happen at some point in the future. But that’s all business for tomorrow.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a bottle of vodka waiting for me.