Henry Belanger is either in post-quarter-life or early-mid-life crisis.
I’m 33. I’m not that old. But there have been some troubling developments.
A few months ago, my doctor asked me, “you’re in your late twenties, right?” Without hesitation I replied, “yup.” It’s not that I wasn’t listening, or that doc was violently jamming a pointy medical device in my ear-hole. No, for a couple seconds there, I was a confident 28-year-old. Then, in a flash, I remembered that I had a 30th birthday party a while ago—a long while ago. And I drove my old Honda to the party. My new truck isn’t even new anymore. “No—shit. Damn, doc, sorry. I’m in my early thirties. Fuck.” I don’t generally swear so much, especially in front of my doctor, but it’s no fun aging five years in two seconds.
It wasn’t a huge surprise—I habitually forget how old I am—but I generally get the first number right. Thirty-one? Thirty-two? Thirty-three? It usually takes me a few seconds. I think the confusion started when I hit 27, at which point I could no longer convince myself that I was in my mid-twenties. I began anxiously anticipating how old I would be at my upcoming birthday. They started coming so fast, and were surrounded by so much less fanfare, that I started to lose track. When I was a kid, my parents told me that I’d grow up soon enough, but they didn’t mention that time would accelerate.
Just moments ago, I convinced myself, briefly, that I was 32, and that my suspicion of being 33 was brought on by the anticipatory fear of crossing into the dreaded late-early-thirties. I mean, once you turn 33 and a day, you’re basically only a year from your pre-forties. It’s not that you’re totally over the hill, but you can see the bottom of it, off in the distance.
This is not to say that I’ve forgotten the year of my birth. I remember that, even without looking at my driver’s license—1977. Given that it’s 2010, and there’s no snow on the ground (my birthday is in March and I live in Boston), that makes the math even easier than usual. I’m 33. Larry Bird. Shouldn’t be that tough.
But whatever. Age is just a number, as they say. I still get carded, despite being 6-foot-7. I have a baby face, I guess. I could easily pass for 28, so it’s not so bad. Well, it wouldn’t be, if it weren’t for my asshole barber.
A few months ago, my barber—who is great at his job despite being completely bald (I’ve only cheated on him once since we met in 2003)—asked me politely if he could trim a hair coming out of my ear. I was horrified. And I was a little disappointed by the implicit confirmation that, while I will never be able to grow a beard, this will not be my last ear hair.
Later, after I added an all-new step to my post-shower routine, I laughed about it with my wife. A couple of weeks later, she came home from CVS with an electric nose-hair trimmer. Less funny.
I comforted myself: at least I still have a young mind and spirit.
Then, a few weeks ago, I found myself looking up the word “wack” in the urban dictionary. Not for meaning—for spelling. It can’t be “whack,” right? The hip-hop community isn’t big on silent letters. It’s probably “wac” or “wak.” In any case, it’s certainly not “whack.”
For the record, “wack” is preferred.
It gets worse. A couple of days ago, my buddy John, a contemporary, ended a text-message communiqué thus: “do work.”
My instinct was to text back for clarification. H-u-h-? I started to type, but I closed the phone. I thought about it all day. Did he mean good work? It was possible, but a stretch given the context. Plus, John isn’t really one to let a confusing misspelling stand without clarification. Hmmm….
After work, I found the draft in my phone and sent it: “Huh?”
His response: “just a slogan.”
More confusion… Wait… what? It’s not just a slogan. It’s a slogan that I, as your contemporary, am expected to be familiar with. Crap.
I’m not just aging; I’m getting less hip, precipitously, even by the standards of people my age.
Thank god for the Urban Dictionary.
1. Coined by Rob Dyrdek and his personal bodyguard Christopher “Big Black” Boykins, “Do Work” works as a self-motivator, to motivate your friends. It ranges from, but is not limited to “taking a dump” and “nailing” a skateboarding trick. The possibilities for this phrase are endless; you just have to know how to use it. D.W., short for “Do Work” can be used as well.
Person 1: I’m going to backflip off this 20-foot ledge.
Person 2: DO WORK!
Person 1: Oh shit son, did you see that backflip off that 20-foot ledge?!
Person 2: DO WORK BABY, DO WORK.