Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
So the saying goes, and I’m inclined to concur. I apologize in advance for returning to the scene of yesterday’s whine, but these are the times (middle age and thereabouts) that try men’s souls.
Before you ask, I’m not in the throes of some midlife crisis. I had mine five years ago when I uprooted my entire life and moved from New York City to Buenos Aires. It was the best move I ever made, but what was I thinking? These days, I’m undergoing more of an existential crisis, wondering about the meaning of life, why we’re here, and how it will all end. But I won’t bore you by dwelling on any of those things.
Right now, I just want to know this: Do you know anyone whose life hasn’t defied their expectations? Though I’ve never taken any kind of official survey, nor have I even casually brought up the subject with any of my close friends, I’ve always assumed that nobody’s life turns out the way they expect it to.
Mine certainly hasn’t. Not that I ever had a life plan all mapped out for myself, but I’m pretty sure that 20 years ago, I never imagined that I’d one day live in Argentina, or Australia, or be spending a significant amount of time in Southeast Asia. Hell, I distinctly remember saying just a few months ago that I had no desire to ever visit Asia period. I’d always been far more interested in Europe, South America, Australia and Africa. Travelling to Asia was someone else’s dream. But look at me now. Here I am, and they can’t seem to get rid of me.
I’m not the type of person who sets long-term goals (I like to keep my goals short-term and sweet), and I’ve never had a five-year, or 10-year, or 20-year plan. But if I had, it probably wouldn’t have included four and a half years in Buenos Aires, a half-decade away from 9-to-5, a tattoo, and a two-month stopover in Bangkok. That, of course, is the beauty of life. It’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
This morning my friend Mara left a funny message on my Facebook wall referring to an episode of Sex and the City that we always used to make fun of when we worked at Teen People. It was the one in which Carrie took Berger to task for writing a book with a female character in Manhattan who wore a scrunchie in her hair. (It’s probably best known by everyone aside from Mara, my friend Cara and me for its soon-to-be-infamous catchphrase “He’s just not that into you.”) “A scrunchie!” I used to walk around the office shrieking, hamming it up even worse than Sarah Jessica Parker did in the worst bit of acting of her entire career.
Mara was watching the scrunchie/”He’s-just-not-that-into-you” episode on TV and wanted to tell me that it always reminds her of my SJP imitation. Her sister Shelley chimed in with an interesting observation of her own. She derided not only SJP’s acting in that particular scene but Carrie Bradshaw and company’s entire mid-thirtysomething way of life. “Rewatching these episodes,” she wrote, “I feel like the women are pathetic — dying to go the Hamptons and Bungalow 8 at the age of 35.”
I thought Shelley was being a bit harsh, but I didn’t disagree. And I wondered what exactly that made me. If you’re 35 and married with children, Bungalow 8 is probably not the place to be, but if you’re single and childless (which some of those who are married with children would probably qualify as having a serious case of Peter Pan Syndrome, but I say to each his or her own), what then? I’m past 35, and though I was never a Hamptons or Bungalow 8 type of guy, some would say a man my age has no business dancing shirtless onstage at G.O.D. in Bangkok — no matter how much time he spends in the gym working on his abs! Who do I think I am? Zac Efron? Taylor Lautner?
If there’s anything that wouldn’t have been in my life plan had I had one 20 years ago, that would be it. I remember hanging out with a friend in London when I was 29, telling him that my 30th birthday would be my party swan song. After that, I’d stop drinking, clubbing and bar-hopping. He tried to talk me out of it — “You’re only as old as you feel,” he said, or maybe it was some other similar cliché — but I didn’t want to be one of those people who spent his 30s and 40s desperately clinging to youth.
Yet, more than 10 years later, I’m still holding on, dancing on the ceiling with the vigor of someone half my age. I do it more for love of the game (it’s fun) than as some misguided stab at remaining forever young. Shelley insists that what made Carrie Bradshaw different from me was her desperation. You may find me most weekend nights on a dance floor in whatever city I happen to be in at the moment, but you’d never see me waiting in a long line outside of the hot new joint (I hate hot new joints!), hoping to get past the velvet rope, or angling for a spot inside the VIP section.
In fact, you generally wouldn’t catch me in a place with a velvet rope and a VIP section at all, and models are for catwalks and the pages of fashion magazines. I don’t need a perfect view of them from the dance floor or on barstool mountain. I prefer places with more of an egalitarian feel. I associate velvet ropes and VIP sections with insecure youth and the need to be accepted into hallowed spaces to feel better about yourself. Give me a bar stool or a dance floor where everyone is welcome — and equal — and I’m in.
No, the party’s not over yet, but I’m starting to think about last call. Right now I’m considering 45 as my possible cut-off point. But who knows what will happen between now and then? My recovery time gets longer with each passing week, but dreadful hangovers aside, I can still pull it off.
I must have been doing just that a few weeks ago when a 40-year-old Parisian I met at DJ Station described me as “elegant.” It was probably the best compliment I’d ever received, especially coming from someone from the land of ageless, eternally graceful beauties like Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche. Sure I still have my sloppy moments, but if I can down tequila shots with beer chasers while still looking “elegant,” I must be doing something right.