Greek salad

I was headed towards the cash register with a basket full of cleaning products and canned tuna and a bar of dark chocolate and one large beer when a couple cut in front of me in line.  They didn’t mean to; they probably didn’t even see me.  They were too busy talking to each other.  The girl was staring adoringly up into the boy’s face and leaning close to him and they were laughing as they put their items on the belt.  They were in their early twenties.  You could tell that they were because they were acting like going to the grocery store was fun, the way people do before they realize they’ll be doing it for the rest of their lives, and rarely as a date-type activity.

I found another line and got in it.  This line moved quickly, and I helped the cashier bag my things.  As I walked towards the exit I saw the couple at their register, still waiting to pay.  Haha, beat you, I thought, all vindictive.   And then I went home and made myself a Greek salad and ate it out of a plastic mixing bowl and thought about how I will never be that young again.

To people who are older than I am this thought will sound overdramatic. But it’s true that I am not, as a 19th century novelist would put it, in my first youth.  Firsts of any sort are in relatively short supply, for the moment.  In the coming years there will be a new set of firsts, of course, some of them of them horrible and some of them lovely, but for now my life isn’t materially very different than it was when I was the grocery store couple’s age.  All that sets me apart from them is a little bit of experience that sometimes seems like a lot and sometimes seems like not nearly enough.

12 comments to Greek salad

  • Amy

    Yes. All of it. Yes.

  • You’re in a very queer (in the non-gay sense of the word) stage of your life, by virtue of the path you’ve chosen, to wit: whether or not to invest yourself fully in one of the two cultures and thence to imagine (and by doing so, embrace) that lifestyle and all it implies.

    There is no “one-size-fits-all” for life and there are successful, fully-realized artists who have also managed to have families and raise children, but they are few in number I think. The majority of people (at least that I know) who have undertaken the “creative life path” have had to shed all their anchors in order to live with as little distraction as possible so they can fully devote themselves to their art.

    I came to this realization late in life but somehow I am fortunate to find myself in my fifth decade miraculously free of baggage. That doesn’t make me an artist any more than being able to swim makes me a fish.

    And I have certainly missed out on being the man in the arena; there is much to be said for the sturm und drang of a life fearlessly and fiercely lived.

    But some doors close as you age.

    Isn’t life fun?

  • David

    I sometimes wonder how people manage to walk a path that takes them away from the blissful ignorance of youth while avoiding the sheer nervous-breakdown-inducing horror of impending middle age. I haven’t had the nevous breakdown (yet), but the horror is there, watching.

  • Oops…SIXTH decade. Yikes! Also, “and thence.” ROFL.

  • I thought of this tonight on the train, when I saw my reflection and realized that I’m looking lots like my dad: merely handsome, which has probably always been the case, but without youth lacks a certain edge. The light on the subway is really bad, though.

  • TC

    I just came across this and it’s semi-appropriate. Lorrie Moore on why she centered a story around a 20 year-old:

    “Here’s the thing about being 20 years old. It’s actually the universal age of passion. It’s the age at which nature and form come together and your individual passion achieves its final shape and expression. When, later in life, when you’re older, you feel furious, it’s the fury of a 20-year-old. When you fall in love, it’s the love of a 20-year-old. It’s articulate, it’s visceral, it’s platonic. It’s the pure form of the emotion. When you observe the hypocrisies and injustices of the world, and feel shocked and betrayed by them, you’re actually being 20 again. And yet, you’re just shy of being able to drink. How perfectly completed, and thwarted, at the same time.”

    By this logic, you really are still 20 in a lot of ways.

  • ow a paper cut

    You inner canned tuna-cleaning product person is examining your inner dark chocolate-large beer person.

  • Tim

    TC – I’m sure I could make the same case about 11 or 12 being the universal age (so to speak). However, if I were going to make this assertion, I would change some things around – for instance, I don’t think the indignation a 12 year old experiences is the same as adult indignation (although it could be as a lot of men still have temper tantrums). But really, nothing changes as we age. I am still the same person I was when I was 11 as I am today. The fascination, excitement, motivation, dreams and longings are all still intact; however, these unique parts of me are simply more sophisticated and better articulated than their 11 year old counterparts.

  • audrey

    Wow that really brings me back to being 25; I felt old. And turning 30 was hard. But a certain number of years later I can say that I have never ever been happier, and have no wish to return to the early 20s. I can access the gestalt of Lorrie Moore’s 20 y.o. at any time, but I have so much more self-confidence and peace and joy and contentment and even the odd tiny shard of wisdom now. For most of us, this only comes with a few years under our belt (and for most of us, at least 40). So will you! Hang in there. The best is yet to come. You will retain your humor and wit but lose a lot of the analysis paralysis and compulsion to compare (in a negative way).

  • Rebecca A.

    Wow Hal, you’re old!


  • You’re only as old as you feel. In my case, that would be 51. Oh wait…

  • Linda

    I just find it bizarre that I had this exact thought – maybe distorted in a game-of-telephone kind of way – but the essence of that thought a few nights ago, except it was watching the news that brought it on. I was totally rapt and then jolted out of that level of concentration by the thought that when I was younger, even just a couple of years ago, the events of the day were always creeping in and blurring the edges of my concentration so that I was either emotionally buoyed in spite of what newscaster was saying or brought extra-low, depending on the how the day was going. I think I’m a bit more dispassionate now because I found myself just listening, intently, but without that layer of feeling. Plus, I recently vacuumed UNDERNEATH the cushions of my couch, something my younger self would never contemplate while sober.

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