One non-descript day you’re out on the street, sucking down a hot, tasty wiener with furious unchecked gusto. As your jaw unhinges like an anaconda to accommodate your fervent, uncurbed enthusiasm, you’re in paradise, never more certain of your identity and purpose. But, like being hit by a runaway train, later that day you’re blindsided by a documentary on the processed meat industry and, just like that, you swear off hot dogs forever and an existential crisis ensues.
I was once a conquistador, a Cortés with an unquenchable thirst for new lands to explore, plunder, and exploit for Aztec gold. Consumed by wonder and unbridled optimism I thought the best about any and all potential sexual prospects. It’s like when you haven’t yet been to Honduras and you naïvely think, “I bet it’s a tropical paradise, full of fresh fruit, exotic rum, and capuchins dressed in tiny butler outfits,” but once you get there you realize it’s just a warmer Detroit without the failing auto industry and the Lions.
Ignorant teenage me existed in a fantasyland. Most of us did. We’d see someone mildly attractive and immediately wish for a zany turn of events that led to us and them engrossed in an impromptu, impassioned session of carnal pleasures. Now, though, we’re older and the shine has been taken off; most people my age have some mileage, not a lot of us are certified pre-owned, and even fewer of us smell like anything resembling New Car scent. These days our initial instincts are similar, but now those feelings are fleeting and generally subside to thoughts like “They’re cute, but I bet that nimble mouth has been on a lot of gross over the years.”
Life has jaded us. We have all served as our own best examples at keeping secrets, maintaining intricate webs of excuses, and effectively hiding rashes and extra weight. We all know the kinds of things we don’t mention or try to hide with our clothes, so, of course, we assume everyone else is playing the same game.
It’s like everyone knows that artsy person who loves to wrap presents, but doesn’t know how to shop for anyone. Sure, they wrapped up that Applebee’s gift certificate, personalized magazine cover, or box set of NCIS in ornate, artisan wrapping paper that’s complemented with a beautiful tag and a fancy bow, but as soon you open it none of that packaging matters—it’s still that awful present you want nothing to do with and will throw in the garbage with the torn wrapping paper once they leave.
Now, picture me at a wedding or job interview. I may be in a suit and tie, but once you unwrap and get to know me and you’ll find I’m just a disappointingly narcissistic individual covered in asymmetrical thickets of nappy body hair who abides by a diet consisting almost entirely of cheese, frosting, and vehicles for cheese and frosting. The guy in the suit seems respectable, like he has standards and you wouldn’t catch something from him. With the naked, frosting-eating narcissist though, that reality has an aura of filth like he’s never been vaccinated and isn’t above eating things out of the garbage. Frankly, just describing him to you has you considering making an appointment to see your doctor.
It’s a deceptive game and can be scary. Through the years I’ve recognized my desire to be a conquistador has diminished. I no longer wish to risk traveling; I’m happy just to have a stay-cation. Plus, I know what I like and I’m fine with the equivalent of spending a week at home full of sleeping in, watching Maury, and eating a French dip while I take a dump with the door open.