Wednesday, April 04, 2007

But I'm (insert age here)

There's nothing like living outside of parental scrutiny after subjecting oneself to it for six months after being free to roam the world for a year's time.

I went to see a play in Boston called "Well" on Saturday night. One of the notably striking lines in the performance had to do with how things suddenly "change" as soon as you walk back into your parents' house. It's as if you are passing through a time warp upon stepping over the threshold--you're back in your teen years and your parents are back treating you like no amount of subsequently gained life experience or education had any positive effect on you since that time.

Although you may have successfully lived internationally without desperately calling home for help, somehow if you don't come home within a twenty-four hour stretch, parental panic ensues. It doesn't matter how many times you told them you were going out and didn't know when you were coming back again--even if you got really ambitious and gave them a play by play of where you were going when and with whom, you'll still get the "where the hell are you?"
phone call at some point and you better hope you aren't in a situation in which that may cause you some embarrassment.

Then, you arrive home and must directly confront the situation.

"Where were you?"
"I was out--just like I said I was going to be."
"And you didn't come home until now?"
"(Instert parental title here), I'm (insert age here)."

The funny thing is that when you were anywhere between 14 and 18 years old, the assertion of age only served to enhance your parents' arguments: of course they are going to call you, you're only 14 or 17, etc. However, this gets increasingly harder to justify after you hop over the 21 line. Once you start putting in numbers over 25, then, it just sounds ridiculous. In my case, if this is my mother--and she usually does most of the quizzing--I'll make a point of the fact that she had already had me (her first child) by my present age. That usually places a pause in the conversation.

However, it goes on--this time, the car is somehow brought into question. Now, two months ago, my brother brought our Toyota 4-Runner to my parents' house with the front of it in a semi-crushed, somehow hanging-off-of-the-body-of-the vehicle state--and with a broken window to boot given someone had recently stolen his stereo. I think it was in the shop for between three and four weeks to repair everything. The cost more than likely outweighed the value of the vehicle. When my mother starts calling my brother to "check up" on the state of the 4-Runner on a daily basis, then perhaps I will entertain the "where the hell are you?" phone call under this line of reasoning. Since I am sure you assume this does not go on, and indeed your assumptions would be well founded, and since every time someone asked about the 4-Runner after it's longer-than-expected absence my mother's reply was "oh, someone stole my son's radio and broke a window to do so" rather than "my son crashed into a median on Route 1 inflicting 3500 dollars worth of damage on the front of the car", I am rather inclined to dismiss it.

When I took on a film project at Plimoth Plantation for the Mayflower II's 50th Anniversary, I had to think practically. I worked on the film clips for the upcoming website for three or four days, and many of them ended long after 5 pm only to be tackled again in the morning. I still had my commute to contend with both ways, too--about an hour, maybe more, each way. Since I was working for such a low pay rate, I asked to be housed in lieu of the cash, and they agreed. I moved into a room in a house the museum owns, and I didn't anticipate the amazing benefits thereof--NOT ONE "Where the hell are you?" PHONE CALL. I could take a week's vacation to Tahiti and no one will think to call with the underlying "be home soon" demand implied. I have a roommate for part of the week, and normally I don't like sharing my living space with someone else, save in the case of significant others. However, what I did notice this time was that didn't matter at all--I could do all the basics without scrutiny and somehow, as soon as I walked back over that threshold and out the door, the invasion of the life of a normal 27 year-old stopped.

Thought for the Moment: Yes, counter-lady at the local liquor store, I know you recognize me. I've come in on and off over the last four years as a patron of your establishment. However, somehow, it must make you feel better about yourself to demand ID from me every time I intend to purchase anything from you. The first time, certainly, I understand that. In addition to first-time getting-to-know-yous, you had to put me through the ringer about the format of my driver's lisence. I'm sorry it didn't match your books suitably, although I swear I have no control over my home state's decisions as to how my lisence appears. I am also sorry that since the format change, I retained a copy of my old, laminated version that I can also present to you with the same ID number, the same birthdate, and lo and behold, a photo of the same person on it so if you get excited about being able to give me trouble about my purchase, I can nip that in the bud before it builds too high. And yes, I know, reluctantly, you have to allow me to buy my bottle of white wine because there is no room for reasonable doubt that I am somehow under 21 after presenting you with two forms of ID. I also know that I took additional fun out of the process for you by also carrying my passport with me, just in case a third confirmation of my birth date is in order. However, as time passes, my age only moves farther and farther away from the 21 year threshold rather than closer to it, so the longer you ask me for my ID and the more forms of that ID I bring to you, the person who looks increasingly like an idiot is you rather than myself.


Winter said...

ID me all you want. I swear it never gets old for me.

Matt said...

A similar woman in New Jersey gave me a hard time about my DC license years ago after I'd given her my license AND social security card--the ultimate ID.

She was greatly disappointed.

The best line I ever heard, however, was in college at a convenience store near the school. A lanky high school-age clerk watched a man exit the store and return to his car.

He raises his fists above his head in celebration:

"I DENIED a sale!"

"Angeldust" said...

Well, we must be distant relatives - our mothers appear to come from the same tribe!

It took me to move to another city to be able to breathe... I was double your age.
Fascinating how a room at a Museum can become an instant paradise.
An absolutely delicious bit you must remember when you pen your memoirs.

Freedom once gained is very hard to give up.
Imagine, I was shipped off to boarding school at age 6, returned home full time at 13 and "they" wanted to tell me what to do?!
Preposterous I'd say.

Interesting how "parental rights" apppear to extentd forever no matter how old, mature and/or successful one might be.
I'd say is "family culture", it is in your hands now to change it for the next generation.

Have a great Easter weekend!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Age is irrelevant; you're still their child.

BionicBuddha said...

It is a common experience...many people share your frustration!