July 23, 2004
Your Time Was Then
By David A. Zimmerman
I suppose I wouldn’t mind aging so much if we all did it together—or at least if the word generation actually meant something. I mean, really: I’m Generation X, but so is the little weasel who works down the hall from me and keeps stealing all my office supplies. So are those jerks down the block who keep blowing up sticks of dynamite on the street as acts of patriotism. And then there’s Generation Y or the Millennials or whatever, and they’re starting to take entry level positions in my field and write the theses I wish I’d written and move into my neighborhood—my neighborhood. Two generations breathing down my neck, and the older I get, the more of them there seem to be.
I’m much more comfortable with the age difference between me and my oldest niece: thirty-one years. She’s cute; I’m funny. She climbs on my back and sprays me with water; I carry her around and wipe the food off her face. I don’t have to worry about my niece taking my job from me, at least till I’m comfortably close to retirement. I don’t have to worry about her kids tromping on my grass and picking all my flowers. We’re free to enjoy one another without feeling threatened by one another.
Not so with these yuppie interlopers. They’re breathing my air, touching my stuff, stealing my thunder. That may be how King Saul felt about up-and-comer David. If Saul was anything like me, he had already developed a pretty clear idea of how the rest of his life would unfold—more eating, more drinking, more merriment, more glory. Here was Israel’s first king ever, the glory boy of the people of God, and suddenly all the girls were swooning over some punk kid instead of him. David burst on the scene and started stealing Saul’s press.
It didn’t help that David was so likeable. Nothing is more perplexing than liking someone you hate—or, perhaps more appropriately, someone you wish would just go away and let you enjoy yourself in peace. And that’s my problem: I really like all these folks who are the age I wish I were, but just being around them reminds me that my time was then, and what’s left for me now? Their present is familiar to me, and I get all nostalgic about it. Meanwhile, my future is an open question. I hate open questions.
Maybe I could take some small comfort in knowing that I’ve prompted a similar perplexity for the people who went before me; I’ve been a thief of their own youth, and they’ve been the same to their own antecedents. Maybe some comfort, but not much, because I’m still aging at an alarming rate, and I’m watching myself move from the center of the universe to its periphery, which in reality is where I’ve always been and where my usurpers are too.
Time is, after all, simply a construct, and the true Center and Source of it all exists outside of it. At some point even my niece will be looking over her shoulder as another generation breathes down her neck, at which point I’ll be happily sipping prune juice through a straw, watching Wheel of Fortune and laughing at the absurdity of it all.
But that will be then. For now, I hate prune juice and want the universe to revolve around me. Is that too much to ask?
Check out my last lunge at adolescence in my forthcoming book, Comic Book Character.
Read about my secret identity at www.ivpress.com.