Monday, August 9

Marinated String Cheese.



I remember my 21st birthday like it was a year-and-a-half ago. Me and the missus (who was the fiancée at the time) went out for a quiet dinner at a nice chain restaurant. (While some people like to look down at chain eateries, I actually prefer them to a hole in the wall or an expensive bistro. Give me an Olive Garden or Damon’s any day of the week, I say!) It was exactly what I wanted. While most people celebrate their being of legal drinking age by getting thoroughly trashed, I settled in with a non-alcoholic beverage and whined about my life being mostly over. It was clichéd and stereotypical of what most boring emo-guys would do when faced with a change in life, but anything else from me would have been quite unexpected and wrong. We went back to the house, where I’m certain we were asleep by 10pm.

But I’m not an entirely normal teenager-turned-adult. Most of the time, I refuse to acknowledge what people my age “should” be doing, simply because I hate most people my age and don’t want to play ball with them. For the most part, I dislike my generation immensely for what they’ve done to my attention span, and for what people think of me just by looking at me. The boring originality and angst of generation-X was diluted by the media and given a suicidal makeover with pre-ripped pants and name brand plaid. I, of course, fell right into line in the last 2 years. Sure, I look a lot better now and my clothes are much more expensive, but my insides ache for the fashion nightmare I used to be. Make no mistake about it; I really don’t like my generation as a whole.

All ranting about my wasted youth and jaded outlook aside, we need to talk about someone else who celebrated a 21st birthday this weekend. Erin, friend to all and a co-star in my movie, invited a dozen or so people to a gathering last Saturday evening. This was supposed to be a classy get-together with classy snacks and classy drinks leading into a classy dinner at a classy restaurant, and culminating with classy conversation at Kevin’s classy homestead. Everyone showed up with their cards and gifts, dresses and slacks, uncomfortable shoes and all. Kevin had prepared a wonderful spread with various cheeses and mushrooms and other intestine-blocking goodness. We said hello, got comfortable with everyone, and prepared ourselves for the classy evening that was bound to unfold.

If only.

While this should be obvious to anyone who knows me, I all but break out into a rash when I’m around more than 4 people at a time. There’s never been a time when I wasn’t a social butterfly; the life of the party, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it over silence. If you put me in that situation, however, I will adapt and do what I must to make people happy. It’s how I operate, and if I don’t make people happy, I get depressed. To you, this may sound like severe sociological disorder, but to me it’s just…well, I’m not sure what I think about it, but it’s gotten me this far, so I’m not going to rock the boat.

I arrived at Kevin’s house with Celia and Sherry, both looking as cute as silk-covered buttons. We well-wished Erin, and I conversed with Kevin, who was fretting himself into an episode about all the nice food he made. “Why isn’t anyone eating?” “Do you not like it?” “If nobody is going to eat anything, then I guess I will.” What Kevin forgets is that nobody wants to be the first one to start eating, especially ladies, so I took it upon myself to break the ice and start munching. I eventually ate enough cheese to stop my colon until Labor Day. It was fantastic, though. Eventually everyone showed up, and I found that I barely knew any of them. They were all a bit younger than me, and I actually had gone out with one of the ladies for 2 long weeks back in 1995 or so. The reason for the quick breakup was sketchy at best, but I think that it had something to do with us not having anything in common apart from jumping on the trampoline in her front yard. Once the bounding was over and all you had was the stars dizzily spinning above your head, you realized that there was absolutely nothing to talk about. Apart from that, I had an awful acne problem I hadn’t fully come to terms with yet. Nevertheless, I became comfortable with as many of them as I could, before we all piled into our cars to go out for dinner. I also did what I could to not be appalled by the fashion sense of her new fiancée, whose peach polo and clip-on cell phone were enough to send me reeling for the exit. I’m not superficial.

Most of the kids rode in Kevin’s Suburban, while me, Celia, Sherry and Lindsay went in my car. We were really in no shape to rub elbows with near-strangers and loud voices for a 45-minute drive. What happened in my car on the way there will have to remain a mystery, as the ladies have sworn me to secrecy. (None of that was true) We arrived at “The Cliffs” eatery a minute past 8, just in time for our reservations. I took a seat between Celia and the birthday girl, who up to this point was being her normal, interesting, reserved self. After all, this was her 21st birthday, and she was doing what she could to be a great host.

This was until the drinks started rolling in.

To say that Erin is a virgin drinker is like saying I’m a virgin, both of which couldn’t be closer to the truth. Within 1-and-a-half Brandy Old Fashioned-es-es, Erin instantly turned into a less-annoying, less-crying, more-giggling version of me last week. (See this post for all the lush details) I, in the role I was destined to play, did absolutely everything I could to make her laugh even harder. I kept this up for the remainder of the evening. Being able to successfully make someone laugh heartily is one of the best feelings in the world, as far as I’m concerned. Not as good as “Sex on the Cliff”, but you get the point. I munched on my limp pasta, told some more annoying jokes and headed out the door, buzzing a tad on the couple drinks I’ve had thus far. I did drive, but I was well within my legal limits, and felt just fine. (I would never endanger the lives of friends due to poor judgment. Again.)

Ben joined up with us, and we went back to Kevin’s house for more drinks and awkward conversation. By this time, I was feeling a bit tired. As an old man, I don’t stay up nearly as late as I used to, and I’m just not built for that kind of socializing anymore. I’m the type of guy, that if I decided to be quiet and space out for a minute or two, people would repeatedly ask me what was wrong. That’s far more annoying than just talking non-stop for 5 hours, so I always choose the latter. I attempted to get some people to play some cards, and they obliged, but it didn’t really work the way I wanted it to. It was also around that time that I realized that Sherry’s friend Sarah was nothing short of a hustler when it came to cards. I half expected her to pull out a personal deck of cards and chips from her handbag. Then it was time to go. While I’m not certain what happened after we left, it was either one of 2 things:

1. Everyone got tired and left one at a time until the place was empty. Or
2. Drunken orgy. (Why they waited for me to leave before starting is beyond me.)

Enough speculation. It’s time for the…

Moral:
You learn something new every day. Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you’ll learn more. I learned a lot about myself that I didn’t know last week. I saw the new location of my tolerance, patience and overall outlook of where I’ve come from over the past 5 years. I also learned that all of my wife’s friends look cute in dresses, and they have an uncontrollable urge for guys much younger than them. I learned that I’m better off now with a couple friends than I was before with dozens of them. I learned that you need to be insured to drive a car in Minnesota, Sherry tastes like nuts, and it’s completely impossible for Erin to do something stupid, no matter how tipsy she got on her 21st birthday.

Happy Birthday, Erin. I really needed it.