I’m having mac and cheese and chicken nuggets for lunch. Which means that I had to take the money that I got from my job that has nothing to do with my degree and go to the grocery store with a calculator to make sure I didn’t overspend, and picked out a box (six) of mac and cheese and a small bag (five pounds) of chicken nuggets, look the adult cashier in the eye, and “cook” them prior to consumption. I am twenty five years old and this is an average day for me.
When my great grandfather was my age, he was doing one of two things. Either working for the electric company, climbing poles and doing something with transformers (or whatever is at the top of those poles), or treating soldiers’ injuries in World War Two. When my mom’s dad was my age, he had two kids. When my dad’s mom was my age, she had already left a life of selling moonshine in Puerto Rico and was raising her kids. My mom had me. I have chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.
The problem with my diet is that, while cash strapped and busy and usually drunk, fresh vegetables aren’t really an option because they’ll go bad too fast and will take money away from other, thriftier meals. The other problem is that I am lactose intolerant, so I’ll spend the next few hours after lunch sweating on the toilet and saying “never again” over and over while knowing that I am lying, and then spending the rest of the day with terrible gas. Why does cheese taste so good, but feel so bad?
This morning I went to the thrift shop to find a new desk chair. I walked through the slush wearing skate shoes that look like baseballs—white “leather” with red baseball stitching. They cost five dollars and are fairly waterproof. I wore a t-shirt with a band logo and dirty jeans. At the Salvation Army, an employee in a red vest that stared out the window and didn’t give a shit about my chair needs gave me a soft sell on a set of two chairs, flower printed, that were too short.
“We have these chairs,” he said, yawning.
“I don’t know. The pattern wouldn’t really go with the rest of my apartment.” This is true, only because nothing in my apartment matches. It’s a collection of thrift store and alley furniture. Everything has been stained by someone else.
“Ok. That’s all the chairs we have.”
“I think I’ll go somewhere with a better selection.” I was too good for the Salvation Army. I had too high of a taste. My décor sense (what?) was too good.
I walked to the second thrift store down Halsted. It’s Friday morning, no one is out because they are at work. Real jobs with time cards. I worked two jobs last night, going from my part time PR job on the northwest side and hosting trivia in a bar half a block from Wrigley Field. I woke up hung over and decided I needed a new chair for my desk which would somehow make me a better and more dedicated writer. That this new chair would help me sell a story to a magazine. The second thrift store wasn’t open yet. I went home, masturbated, and made mac and cheese and chicken nuggets.
I laugh at fart jokes. I laugh at my own farts. Lately I’ve been making bad jokes about my farts when my girlfriend is around.
“Is there a duck in here?” Fart.
It’s funnier in person.
Last night, while hosting trivia, I drank microbrews. Since I’ve started working in bars and they give me free beers, I’ve expanded my horizon on the beer front. Saisons, Stouts, ESBs, Porters, Hefeweizens, all of the things that that one friend of yours talks about while you drink whatever was in the fridge. I talk to bartenders about bitterness, about the history of breweries, about hops and wheat and yeast. It seems sort of ridiculous to me that I spend so much time figuring out what the top notes of beer are, especially since this knowledge will never help me. But talking about it, dissecting flavor profiles, makes me feel more adult. No more Keystone light. That’s for children playing beer pong. I am much too grown up for that. I have a refined pallet. I only like the finer things.
When I finish my meal, my mac and cheese lunch, most times I’ll forget about it and let the pot and bowl crust over and go bad and curse myself for not putting the leftovers in a Tupperware. I used to say that exact same sentence talking about weed in college. But I don’t smoke anymore because smoking pot is for kids with spare time to kill. It’s a youthful vice and I am too old to be messing around with marijuana. I get drunk instead. A lot. About as much as I used to smoke pot. But that’s ok, because that’s what adults do. Kids smoke a bowl in their dorm rooms after class, I drink whiskey on the rocks after work. Like a grown up. With responsibilities and a future and life to take care of. I’m out of college and need to act like it. Need to do whatever it is that I’m supposed to do now.
On the times that I do put my shit away and wash my dishes and dry my hands on a dish towel instead of my pants, when I don’t worry about how I’m supposed to make it three weeks to my next paycheck with forty dollars in the bank and a credit card bill past due, when I put on a clean shirt that has buttons, I feel like I’m finally doing the right thing, finally acting my age instead of complaining that I’m a lost twenty something in an ever changing world (or all that other bullshit that Lena Dunham has tried to get us to believe). And I start thinking that maybe it’s all of the complaining that makes being a lost twenty something in an ever changing world so hard. That I could have it a lot worse. That maybe I should just shut the fuck up about it and act my fucking age.