Sunday, December 05, 2004

no one here but us old folks

The hostel I am staying in tonight has a guitar you can borrow, so when I got back from the show I sat in the commons and played for awhile. I was joined by Anna, a 20 year old Swiss woman who is here visiting art museums for a school project. We talked for about 3 hours, and for my part I can say that there are worse ways to pass time than by talking with a beautiful intelligent woman. But eventually (I'm not too bright about these things) I recognized that, through multiple layers of sociocultural transforms, she was hitting on me.

Now in and of itself this is a good thing, if only for my self-esteem. I am so habituated to the idea that people don't like me that when I am proved wrong I get all giddy. All told, I'd prefer that I have these experiences with people who will become friends, as opposed to people who will just disappear, but whatever.

Of course, becoming aware that this was what she was doing made me nervous as hell, which made it much harder to be my usual charming self, which surprisingly wasn't what fixed the problem this time. The problem? That I am in a Committed Relationship with someone I Love Very Much so despite the obvious appeal of this woman Nothing Was Going To Happen Anyway? No, just that, taking those things into account, I didn't want to fuck up a perfectly pleasant conversation.

Intent and outcome, it turns out yet again, are rarely coincident.

We talked about music and language and traveling, and as the conversation progressed she became aware that a lot of my referents were not just displaced across a cultural gap, they were also displaced across time. Eventually she asked me how old I am.

I am that age where feeling good makes me look and feel 10 years younger, and if I'm not feeling well I look and feel 10 years older. She was shocked to discover that I am 36 (so am I, actually, and what's worse is that my shock is ongoing), thinking I was perhaps 24. That means I am 1.5 times as old as she thought I was. Not some small difference that is best expressed by addition; this was a large difference most succinctly expressed using multiplication. It was pretty obvious on her face that she hadn't expected to need to do any math when she came over to talk to me.

We talked some more, but now instead of telling me about 'my friends' she told me about 'people I know who are my age'. It was almost like I'd become another species or something, reminiscent of an experience I had in college that I've previously written about.

I remember being at shows when I was 18 and seeing 30-somethings who I thought were pathetically hanging on to their lost youth. 'Just let it go', I thought. I remember the look they had on their faces as they struggled to find some point of connectivity with the people around them. Now I remember this every time I find myself on the opposite end of this relationship, and I know what they were thinking. Inside you still feel young, but you're not fooling those who truly are. It's just another one of those slow sadnesses that accrete on our souls.

Omnia mutantur, nihil interit? Sometimes I wonder. It sure feels like something has been lost.


Blogger krishna said...

Hey! I am older than you. I am forty but I never ever feel my age. What does age matter to those young at heart? In my Spanish class, most (well, I think all including my professor) are younger than me. I am able to compete with them and often, outscore them. In my Sanskrit class, I am the youngest. And, I find it hard to keep pace with men and women whose age is 1.5-2 times mine. Middle age is the best phase to be in: One is not so old and one has the advantage of experience.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha! I find this amusing as an older (37yo) person, who has everything in common with a younger generation that thinks it can't relate to me. The generational gap is not so vast as it was with the punk rock generation and the hippy generation, the kids these days are still listening to what they call "punk rock". I will be kind and call it "power pop" but I think it has more in common with the eighties "hair metal" than "punk".

Wise words from Krishna.
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