On This, My Twenty-First Birthday

Those of you who know me will know that I only really like to talk about three things: crying, novels involving magical powers, and men. I think the unifying theme here is fantasy – things I want but can’t have, unless I’m drunk and it’s after 2 AM, in which case I will have those things whether I want them or not, sometimes all at once. Not the powers. Just the books. I mean, binge-reading Lord of the Rings for the seventeenth time and still wanting to marry Legolas is sort of like a magic power, I think. All I’m saying is, at this point it takes kind of a lot of effort to keep my love for Legolas burning as strongly it did when I was going through puberty. No, you guys – not Orlando Bloom. Legolas. We’re talking full-on elf. I guess what I’m trying to tell you is, I’m a fun person. Seriously fun. And I know how to think for myself. Like, if I’m standing at a crosswalk and the “walk” signal is red, but there are no cars coming, I’ll still cross the street. No permission, no nothing – just me, the open road, and a grounding sense of perspective. Why do we even have all these signs anyways, you know? Let’s get creative, people. Sometimes you just have to look the system in the face and laugh. Like, “Not today, urban planners. Not today. I don’t need you.”

I also have pretty strong predictive capabilities, like in the sense of having pretty solid foresight, so I guess that’s another superpower of mine. It’s a blessing and a curse. Get this: the first time I saw Donald Trump on the news, I knew he was going to take over the Republican party. That’s because I instantly feared and loathed him, like on a primal level. Anyone who reminded me that much of the boys I hated in middle school, I said, was bound to claw their way to the top of the mean kids’ heap eventually, probably sooner rather than later. Ask my friends. I said it then, and I’m saying it now. Guys like Trump have been acting like strong-man bully-gorilla-gnomes since kindergarten. He probably tortured cats when he was little. Oh yes: I recognized that face as soon as I met its angry, televised eyes, like a cross between my gym class nightmares and the racist uncle I never had but still feel indignant about. Can I just make a confession right now? Sometimes, I fear for my own safety. Let’s be real: I could totally get purged for writing stuff like this, like if Trump becomes president and pulls off his own Night of the Long Knives thing. I am likely in grave danger. But never you mind, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. Just go. Save yourselves.

Anyway, enough about Donald Trump. Politics, shmolitics – it’s my birthday, right? And here I am. Twenty-one years young, and lighthearted as all get-out. But yeah, to be honest, I’m really not that fun. Unless neurotic is the new fun – which, according to every TV series targeting a millennial audience, it is. But seriously, things are worse than you’d think. With me, I mean. When the crosswalk sign is red and the street is empty, I literally pray for a car to come so I have an excuse not to jaywalk. I’m not a free spirit. For me, shirking responsibilities is kind of like eating Chick-fil-A: I do it every morning, and then I freak out and journal. Okay fine, who am I kidding? I don’t journal. What would I even write? It’d be like, “Dear Diary: How am I going to find a surrogate mother for my first baby? I’ve emailed Charlize Theron six times, and still no reply. Starting to lose hope. And even if Charlize said yes, could I? I mean, she is, like, uncannily blond. And South African. Wouldn’t the whole thing seem sort of racist? Like, nobody would say it, not out loud, but deep down everyone would be like, ‘Yup, he wants a blond baby. Knew it.’”

See – I can be funny. White people jokes are in right now, aren’t they? To be honest with you, I am just now learning how to laugh at myself comfortably. I think all white people are. I mean, for me it’s probably the sleep deprivation that’s giving me a sense of humor, more than the shift in public consciousness. Insomnia makes everything seem just unreal enough to be funny. There’s a hysterical edge to my laughter, yeah, but come on: this isn’t the 1920s and I can’t just chortle about my privilege without also regretting it and feeling hopeless. No, this is 2016, and we are better now. It may be my birthday, but I am keeping in mind that not everyone gets to have birthday parties. Like people in the Global South. They probably don’t have birthday parties. Kids there are sad, for sure. As an affluent, liberal man of my generation, I have learned to be the Nick Carraway to my internal Jay Gatsby, dragging my meekly critical gaze with me into any and every celebration I attend – including my own birthday party. I see the system of resource abuse here: decadence is totally generational. Whole dynasties of wasteful, sheltered party hosts. Intersectional decadence. It’s all geopolitical, you know? (No, like, it actually is. This is worse than we thought.) The more extravagant and ill-considered the festivities, the more guilt I feel, and the more champagne I drink. Can’t wait for my birthday party tonight. I’m planning to attend a roller disco, if, as my friend Julia says, “that’s even a thing here.” Nothing says “gentrification” like a roller disco, am I right?

If I could give a speech at said roller disco, it would go something like this: stumble, stumble. Here we go. Let’s start with three things I have liked in the past year of my life. Number one: coffee. It’s healthy, okay? It’s fine. I’m fine. Completely wired. Number two: I am twenty-one, and I still have the metabolism of Gumby. I cannot gain weight, and the more I eat, the more my body eats itself. I realize this is kind of a huge perk, and I am duly grateful. I also realize that I will never look like Brad Pitt in Troy, but hey, that’s okay, because who wants beautiful, round muscles anyways? Not me. I never wanted that. Not when I could look like a sweater-clad skeleton instead. Grad school, here I come. Number three: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her wisdom, her rulings, her hair. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been trying to get my hair to look like hers since I started college. What can I say? The journey of a thousand slicked-back hairs begins with a single fistful of pomade.

Okay, now for three things I have disliked in the past year. Number one: people who chew with their mouths open. The sound of your lips smacking together is definitely going to give me a stroke. That’s how I’m destined to go – I feel it in my bones (and I can pretty much see those through my shirt, so). Your bad manners will cause my death. But go ahead – enjoy yourself. Smack at my own risk. Number two: bad men. They’re bad. They’re men. I don’t like them. Enough said. Number three: people shrieking like banshees when they find out I don’t know about pop culture stuff. “What? Like, whaaaat?” No, I haven’t seen that movie. No, that show wasn’t “my childhood.” It isn’t “life.” I don’t know who that celebrity is, and I am not sorry. So please don’t scream, just accept it. I am a pop culture criminal – hear me roar – and I don’t have to watch anything on TV unless it’s related to wizards, Lena Dunham, or eighteenth- to twentieth-century England. Period. Period drama. Please. Right now.

Well, folks, that’s about all I have to say. In closing, I’ll borrow a few words from the eleventy-first birthday speech of my beloved Bilbo Baggins, illustrious hobbit of the Shire in the Third Age of Middle Earth: “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve…Take care! …I am as happy as I have ever been, and that is saying a great deal.” Thank you for your kind birthday wishes, and thank you for caring enough about what I think to muddle through this lengthy blog post. I’m going to re-read Lord of the Rings now. Time for my fourth coffee of the day. Goodbye.

  • P.S. I wanted to share with you my twenty-first birthday song (if I may be so bold as to choose one), linked here from SoundCloud. It’s a rendition of Philip Glass’s “Mad Rush” by the organist James McVinnie.
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