I’m one of those people who never wastes a chance to tell others I grew up in the epitome of Long Island suburbia, so naturally I remember the first time I heard Blink-182’s now immortal hit, “What’s My Age Again?” I was nine, sitting in the backseat of a minivan with one of my best friends at the time. He, more musically inclined, was pumped the fuck up about a new CD he had just got for his birthday — something called “Now, That’s What I Call Music! 3.”
Like most overly impressionable kids, I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually like the song. Twenty-three seemed like another life, and I’m fairly certain my innocent and sheltered 4th grader self wasn’t exactly down with “watching TV with no pants on.” But Blink became the sort of thing you were supposed to like at the time, so I figured there was something wrong with me if didn’t totally buy in — it was like saying how dope “Billy Madison” and “The Waterboy” were, or laughing your head off after every loud armpit fart.
Middle school brought a pretty heated Good Charlotte phase, and the early high school years were all about the now non-substantial mid 2000’s rap–Unk’s “Walk it Out,” The Game’s “How We Do,” and our basketball team’s main jam, the Terror Squad’s “Lean Back.” Blink was always kind of around though, particularly as the themes became more applicable. “Feeling This” hitting the Madden 2004 soundtrack (the one where Mike Vick was stupid good) was a pretty big deal, and liking Blink became even more important after their 2005 indefinite hiatus. Sure, the internet wasn’t totally around to manufacture nostalgia via shit like “14 Punk-Rock Reasons Why Blink-182 was the Band of Our Generation,” but we managed to figure it out anyway–liking, even worshipping Blink became some sort of strange universal testament to growing up “where we grew up.” I’d find out a few years later that this all had to do with a bunch of media theory bullshit like semiotics and the encoding/decoding theory, but even those old guys were wrong–after all, they didn’t grow up in Smithtown. How could they be right?
Over the years, I have remained relatively close to the owner of “Now That’s What I Call Music! 3.” A lot of this has to do with the fact that we’re neighbors, we both have parents who enjoy talking about college applications, and the similar caliber schools we went to have rendered some “no way!!” (yet, predictable) mutual friend connections. We now both live within 10 blocks of each other in New York City, he happens to live with one of my better friends from college, and my roommate happens to be working for the same company that he is. I’ve just gotten a Facebook invite to his 23rd Birthday Party.
The funny thing is though, I rarely see this kid — we have relatively different friends, we only have so much free time, and our various pursuits of trying to #makeit don’t really intersect. We make plans to hang out, but a lot of times they don’t exactly make it past the “we totally should” barrier. And when they do, one of us (me) will usually find a way to not text back, or say “I’m there in 15” and then never show up. We have plenty to say to each other when we do hang out, but the infrequency in which we do renders the never-ending carousel of jokes about people we know the predominant conversational fodder.
I was recently rehashing weekend adventures with a friend from college that I do sorta hang out with, and after recounting one of those “only in NYC” stories where a strange series of circumstances led him to making a decision he wasn’t 100% proud of, he tells me that he’s come to the conclusion that “all 23 year-olds are sorta assholes.” I think to myself that 1999 was fourteen years ago, but he’s exactly right.
Now, to take a moment to incorporate big-picture ideas into things that our demographic cares about, I will consult Golden Age Comedian Louis C.K., who makes a pretty funny yet real point about people who are 20:
I’m prejudiced against twenty year olds. Because, nineteen you’re still your parents’ fault. Twenty, you’re technically an adult, but you still haven’t done anything.
Twenty year olds at their jobs are always like, “This job sucks.” Yes, that’s why we gave it toyou! Because you’re twenty. You haven’t done anything. You’ve just been sucking up resources, you’ve just been taking food and love and education and iPods, and taking it and judging—“I like that,” and “Oh, that sucks.” You’re like a big orange on a tree that’s rotting, and the tree is like, “Get off!” and you’re hanging on, “I don’t want to go.” If you’re twenty, you definitely have never done a thing for anybody.
Twenty-three though, and you don’t necessarily have that luxury of hanging on. “Real Life,” despite being the name of a recent facebook album, is decidedly a thing. Yes, the job you take right out of college could just be something “you give a shot,” but if you look at the kids a few years older, that never really seems to happen. Like Red at Shawshank, you become “institutionalized” — privy to a certain lifestyle, the nuances of which become increasingly hard to understand for people not in your same boat. You then develop different reflexive tastes, wants, desires. You prefer the trail with moguls, they like the one with that dope jump.
Trails that may intersect at some point, but ski mountains don’t always do that. We’re at the point where life is demanding that we weed out certain things–friends, hobbies, shitty lifestyle habits–and start embracing other things–waking up early, realities of a career, and for some, even settling down and ceding to permanent monogamy. Compromises need to be made, and compromises inevitably hurt at least one party, if not both. And because you’re really compromising for the first time, this is also the first time people are going to get seriously offended. No longer can we really go back on this shit. Congratulations, we’re officially all sorta assholes.
I have tickets to Louis C.K. the night of my friend’s 23rd birthday party, so I probably won’t end up going. I guess this is growing up.