Today is my birthday. For math nerds and people who like to Google stuff: the year I was born is the 38th through 41st digits of pi.
I had to Google the pi thing because I only know pi up to 15 digits. In my freshman year in high school, I made this utterly dorky, useless goal to memorize pi up to 100 digits. I must’ve thought I’d impress my classmates by being able to casually rattle off dozens of pi digits. I had the first 30 down cold but somewhere along the line I lost interest. Instead, I ended up memorizing other things, like Steven Wright one-liners and commercial jingles.
Did I mention I never had any girlfriends in high school?
Anyway, it's my birthday and I’m 41 years old. I don’t care about turning 41, probably because I don’t feel like that age. I’m not sure what age I feel but it’s not 41. On a bad day, I feel like I’m in my late 30s. On a good day or when I’m drunk, I feel about 25. And if someone tells a fart joke, I feel 11 because I end up chuckling like a 6th grader. In general, I feel younger than I am. I think I feel this way, in part, because I spend most of my waking hours around people who were born during the Coolidge Administration.
My day job involves working with older adults. When you regularly talk to people who are in their 80s and 90s, you can’t help but feel young—a lot younger than you really are. When I visit the retirement community next door to my office and run up the stairs, I often hear comments like, “My goodness, you are fast!” and “Look at the kid go!”
To be called “kid” at 40 is ridiculous but it’s also kind of fun, along the lines of being carded when you buy alcohol. You know it’s a sham—they don’t really think you’re all that young—but you somehow let yourself be flattered by it anyway.
Since I’ve been around people 40-50 years my senior for the past several years, I feel like I’ve been living in a bubble. Generally speaking, I’ve always felt young. But that recently came to an end. The bubble popped.
This past weekend, my wife, daughter and I went to Lake Tahoe. One of my wife’s friends (her former coworker, Libby) was celebrating her birthday. Every year, she rents a condo in Tahoe for the week of her birthday and invites people to come celebrate with her. This year, Libby’s nephew and a few of his friends (who are all in their early 20s) were in attendance. All of us had fun swimming in the lake, joking around, drinking, watching the Olympics, talking politics, etc.
One morning, Libby cooked a huge breakfast and, when we were finished, I thought I’d get off my lazy butt and wash the dishes. A little bit later, I heard Libby’s 23-year-old nephew, Pat, say to her, “I guess we’d better do the dishes.”
Libby replied, “No, Scott just finished them. They’re all done.”
Then I heard Pat yell, “Thanks, surrogate dad!”
At first, I thought, Dad? How old does this guy think I am?
Then it hit me: I really am old enough to be this guy’s dad. This dude I had been treating as a peer could, in theory, be my kid. I suddenly felt old. Ancient. And it just got worse when I talked Pat’s friend, Matt, about Rowan Atkinson’s hilarious skit in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. When I started talking about how I love the movie “Chariots of Fire,” Matt’s eyes glazed over. I said, “Have you seen Chariots of Fire?”
“I’ve heard of it,” Matt replied. “I think my mom told me about it. Isn't it pretty old?” I might as well have been talking about flappers or rumble seats.
Later, Pat started raving about The Dark Knight Rises. Pat is a huge fan of Batman, he loved the latest movie, and was pretty shocked when I told him that I hadn’t seen it.
“But you’ve seen the other movies in the trilogy, right?” he asked.
Before I could say “No” someone jumped in with a comment about something else, which was good because I think Pat’s head would’ve exploded. Eventually, Pat got back to talking about Batman and I got back to feeling old.
“The Dark Knight trilogy is so awesome,” Pat said to me. “You know how your generation was really into the original Star Wars trilogy? The Dark Knight trilogy is like my generation’s Star Wars.”
I had the urge to reply, “Star Wars should be your Star Wars! Go wash your mouth out with soap!” But I held back.
It was a strange feeling to be the “old guy,” but it’s okay. I embrace it. As the cliché goes, age is just a number. Like pi.
Or 1981. The year Chariots of Fire came out. Which was….31 years ago.
Man, that makes me feel old.
EDIT: I saw Chariots of Fire the other day - the first time I've seen it in about 20 years. I was wrong. The movie sucks.