Tuesday, October 5, 2010

On Grown Men and Adolescence

A man fifteen years older than me with an early-Whitman beard and a terrible pair of glasses is unsettling while the same situation and ten years younger is, god, infinitely sexy. What is that about? I wonder if I'll always feel that way. When I'm fifty, will I still be drawn to the unshaven or is it only hot when you're thirty? I think, at this point, we're just milking the end of our adolescence. I'm happy to let it take as long as possible, though. I don't really want to move it along.

I think the thing of it is that the beard, the shoes with holes, the half-drunken charm tell me something that the clean-cut, polo-and-chinos gentleman does not. He says, “I'm your other. I feel things and I'm eager to explore exceptionally tactile sensations. I am 'one of the roughs, a kosmos, disorderly, fleshly, and sensual, no sentimentalist, no stander above men or women or apart from them, no more modest than immodest.' I may imagine a completely different version of you than what really exists—but I will never ask you to listen to David Crowder.” He is much more charming a few drinks in and it's hard to say no to that. I think at a certain point in your life, it's important to allow yourself to fall for charm as long as you know that's what you're doing. Unfortunately, that generally happens at particularly young points and those are the most dangerous times.

That other guy, now, he's unpredictable. He's scary. I don't know how to read someone who doesn't feel things in the same ways that I feel things or isn't afraid of marriage. I don't know how to talk to someone who hasn't at least been interested in reading Whitman even if he's not willing to don the follicle commitment (read the metaphor). That other guy is already married, anyway, and has been for years.

There are these two boys sitting a few tables away from me. They're having some sort of an accountability meeting/ bible study. I feel terrible for eavesdropping—I'm a bad person, but then I think maybe they shouldn't be having a fairly loud meeting in such a public place. I'm not wrong. When they first sat down, the talk mostly centered around girls, which is to be expected where two or more are gathered. How girls are temptresses and how it's not their fault that they're getting boners every time they brush up against one. Fair enough. I felt really sad for them, right then. The truth is that, nope, it's not their fault that they're experiencing inconvenient and embarrassing erections at the worst possible moments. It's simply a terribly horrific part of growing up with a penis. It sounds too simple, but I'm pretty sure that's what it is. I can't imagine being forced to wear your arousal on your sleeve, so to speak. But what's worse than the embarrassment is the shame and the hatred that has to come alongside of it in some circles. The poor boys. They're praying for the wrong things. They're hoping to never get an erection again but really all they want is to wake up in the morning and not hate themselves over something so elementally biological. Being a teenager is impossible but it gets better. Throwing adulthood on top of a mountain of childhood—who could blame you for being utterly speechless.

When we're seventeen we think that we should know better by now but really we have nearly two decades of being a kid lightly covered by a blanket of a brand new interest in understanding ourselves. In retrospect, being the adult overhearing these kids' conversation, it's half encouraging and half heartbreaking. I want to tell them that they will always be confused. There are no answers that will end the questions, so don't expect them to stop. Questions breed questions. But the last thing I would ever want is for them to stop. Continue to wonder. Continue to wander. Continue to be open to honesty, little brothers. Continue to look upon yourselves with as much grace as you would offer to your friend across the table.

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