Today is my twenty-sixth birthday. In all of my life, I’ve never celebrated such a mundane, uneventful, apathetic and craptastic occasion. Nobody cares about 26; not even I care about 26.
So, instead of singing the praises of not stepping in front of a cement mixer or drinking ammonia for another year, I decided to be honest with myself and determine exactly why the age of 26 is the worst yet for everyone that experiences it. You can take this as either words of wisdom, or the bitter ranting of someone who’s at least 33% dead. Tally-ho!
1. There’s nothing left to look forward to concerning laws that pertain to age. When you turn 25, you can legally rent a car, but that’s pretty much the end of it. All I have left now is the option to run for President of the United States when I turn 35, and my odds are looking a bit sketchy at the moment, to be honest.
2. Teenagers and mothers of teenagers no longer want to have sex with you. You’ve gone outside the box of acceptable age for rebellious teenagers and lonely housewives alike. The ship has sailed, grandpa, and if you weren’t already on it, the best you can hope for is a postcard from someone that was.
3. When you were 22, you were only four years removed from High School. Your opinions concerning fashion trends, pop culture, music and film were still relevant in the eyes of the young. Now, you’re eight years removed, and you instantly know nothing. You might as well be jitterbugging with Ginger Rogers and listening to Herb Alpert on the Victrola*, because you are old and obsolete.
(*I do listen to Herb Alpert records on my turntable from time to time.)
4. It’s difficult to enjoy professional sports when the athletes become younger than you are. When you’re a child or teenager, you look up to these superheroes; you tape posters to the wall and pretend that you’re them on the playground. Now, I find it increasingly harder and harder to care if some 8-foot tall, 17 year old will enter the NBA Draft a year early. How can you honestly say “You’re the man!” to someone that’s almost a decade younger than you? You know, assuming you’re not a complete douche noozle*?
(*Go ahead and start using ‘douche noozle.’ It’s okay.)
5. Nobody knows how old you really are. Every day, I hear people estimating me at somewhere between 19 and 30. At some point after college, you just become another faceless, MTV Generation turd that looks like he was born at some point in the early 80’s. This may be true and well-deserved, but does our mediocrity need to be rubbed in our faces so much?
6. Everything sucks all over again. When you were a youthful, rebellious teen, you would reject all things mainstream, because you wanted to embrace the scene of the underground and appear cultured (if you were cool, that is). When you’re 26, you once again attempt to buck the status quo, merely because nothing entertains you like it used to or should. It’s a bleak, mediocre world out there. The underground sucks, the mainstream sucks, the tastemakers suck there’s no scene left for you to crawl back to. Good luck with all of that.
7. You no longer get a free pass. You’re an adult now. No borrowing money from mom. No paying bills late (not that I ever have, but still). No getting drunk on a Thursday; regardless of if Lost is on or not. No excuses, no safety net and no bitching. For the next 20 years, don’t expect anyone to do absolutely anything for you, for any reason. If you’re lucky by the time you’re 45, you’ll have kids that are in High School, and you’ll get to start the vicious Circle of Poop all over again.
8. Your job has to be more than just a job. In school, anything that netted you a paycheck was considered welcome, acceptable and free of ridicule from your peers. When you’re 26, grilling ‘Sammies’ at Quiznos just makes you look like you’re missing a chromosome. Your employment is now your new social status scale; it’s the first thing that anyone will ask you when you meet them. Fortunately for me, I can tell people that I’m an author and actually mean it, never mind the mere pennies of income it has netted me over the last four years.
9. If she’s under 18 and you’re talking to her, you’re branded a pervert of the highest order, end of story. Case in point: Cargirl. I like Cargirl. She’s sweet, intelligent, funny, well-written, has a good direction and point of view, and I think she’ll be doing great things by the time she’s out of college. However, every time I speak to her, I can feel Chris Hansen’s frigid index finger tapping me on the shoulder and holding the transcripts. If I were pantsless and waving a teddy bear out the tinted window of my Chevy Van, it would be one thing, but I’m not and I still feel like I need a shower sometimes. Not cool; I blame my Catholic upbringing.
She’s not helping things, either.
10. You start to buy albums that your parents listened to. U2. Stevie Wonder. Michael Jackson. Led Zeppelin. Pink Floyd. Even the Bee Gees. These are all timeless and brilliant musical artists that everyone should probably own, but when you were younger, there was no chance in hell that they were ever going to show up in your CD collection. How do those words taste?
11. Things continue to hurt after you hurt them. Pull a muscle playing Wii Sports? Tweak your knee doing the Soulja Boy dance? Dehydrated after a marathon lovemaking session*? You’re still going to feel it in the morning, Icy Hot or Vitamin Water be damned. 26 certainly isn’t 46 in terms of aches and pains, but if you don’t take care of yourself on a base level, the ibuprofen and Valium won’t know the difference.
(*Your lovemaking sessions may vary.)
12. You’ve done nothing with your life. The dude that started Facebook is 23 years old, and he’s a freaking billionaire. LeBron James is 23 years old, and he’s being compared to Michael Jordan in terms of popularity and prowess. You know what I did when I was 23 years old? THIS! I sat on my ass, wrote funny stories, put on 30 pounds, drank whiskey, watched wrestling, read Entertainment Weekly and played Guitar Hero four hours a day. The 10 year old Me expected far greater things from the 26 year old Me. I’m letting him down on an hourly basis, and he really deserves better.
13. Everyone has heard all of your stories. Unless you’re single or an astronaut, chances are that you’ve exhausted every interesting thing that has ever happened to you by this point in your life.* Your friends don’t want to hear it, your spouse is tired of hearing it and strangers couldn’t care less about it. You’re out of memories; make more.
(*Not me, though. I still have hundreds more for you. Good ones.)
14. Vices are no longer cool. Hitting the casino for 16 straight hours? Chain-smoking a carton of Marlboro Mediums in your parents’ basement? Riding that second ecstasy wave while lapping a Red Bull Bomb off of a Coyote Ugly dancer’s taut tummy? Guess what? It’s uncool and unoriginal. That kind of behavior was expected of you years ago, and now it’s akin to the lonely guy at the club, leaning against the wall and tapping his foot out of sync with everything. Sure, it’s still a lot of fun, but nobody else thinks it is, which is exactly why it isn’t.
15. Nobody cares about your achievements. Learned to play an instrument? Well, there’s an infant down the block that makes your guitar playing look like Stephen Hawking hitting himself in the head with a tambourine. Just got the new high score on XBox Live? Enjoy it for the three seconds before it gets trounced by some 10 year old Asian that did it blindfolded. Face it; you’re too old to be proud of stuff. Just do it the best you can, exhale, and do something better next time. Put on a happy face for your mom, though; she’s proud of everything you do.
16. Your parties are boring. When you were a kid, your parties were all about video games, music and candy. When you were a teen, your parties consisted of booze, nudity and louder music.
When you’re 26? Yup, more video games and candy. It all comes full circle, but at least you have a nicer TV now.
17. You will do anything to remain youthful in the eyes of the young. If that 16 year old girl at the Buckle thinks that you look cute with the $250 Fossil watch around your waist, you’d better buy two of them and keep that gut sucked in. When your world revolves around High School, 26 is considered ‘old.’ Honest to God, old. Never mind that this is the same 26 year old that became the youngest person ever promoted to his current employment position. The truth is that each phase of life has its own sacred code, and you’ll fight tooth and nail to cling to each passing one.
18. Your life is at least 33% over. If you’re lucky, you’ll make it to your 80’s, but when’s the last time you’ve been lucky about anything? Nope, your pie graph is engulfing upon itself, and no amount of hair gel or The Hills is going to change that. Start exercising for your body, doing sudoku for your mind, and taking Lexapro to stop the voices that remind you of your impending doom. You’re dicked.
19. You flat-out stop remembering stuff. The Missus told me that when I was in the second grade, I did a magic act for the school talent show that she was in attendance for. Not only was this the first time that I was made aware of this story, but it was also the first time someone told me something about myself that was 100% unverifiable by me. I don’t remember a second of that day. It’s not foggy, it’s not hazy and it’s not vague; it’s non-existent and it never happened in my brain. This is frightening to me, because if I don’t remember that, what else don’t I remember? Who should I try to avoid at the next reunion? How am I going to keep all of my lies in order if my head gets soft?
20. You’re constantly hassled about starting a family. Me and the Missus don’t want children right now. We’d much rather have a nice house, accompanied with nice things to put inside of said house. Our superficial tastes far outweigh our parental instincts right now, and I feel that at the very least, we’re being honest. Better to get the hedonism out of the way early, as opposed to being a selfish parent later on. Children are always an option; I can adopt a kid on my death bed if I so choose. In fact, that’ll probably be around the time I’m ready to accept that sort of responsibility. Stop asking; I don’t care about children.
21. It’s impossible to make new friends. How many friends have you made after the age of 25? I don’t mean ‘surface, outer-circle’ friends, either. I’m talking about good, solid, ‘hang-out-every-weekend with pillow fights and secret-sharing’ friends. Probably not too many. That’s because it’s freaking hard. I’d have better luck going to a bar and finding random women that want to sleep with me, as opposed to a regular dude that just wants to talk about football and music, and that’s just sad.
23. You’re too responsible. Every purchase requires a moment of reflection, projection and quick subtraction. For example, I’ll be buying an HDTV and 5.1 Home Theater as a birthday present to myself today. You’d think it would be impossible to keep my excitement discreetly tucked away in my pants, but nope. I’m miserable, because I’d rather the money go towards my credit cards. I owe this to myself, but I can’t bring myself to be happy about it. How in the hell can you be depressed when you have a Home Theater? Unbelievable.
24. You can’t enjoy remakes of movies, the Nintendo Entertainment System was released over 20 years ago, and your Woodstock festival was an embarrassment. Your nostalgia is starting to become a distant reality. The 80’s have been thoroughly mined for pop culture gems, and they’re coming for the 90’s next. You’ll realize this soon enough, but believe me when I say that it was far easier for our parents to explain the 80’s away than it will be for us to explain the 90’s to our kids. It’s a ludicrous decade, Clinton or not.
25. When you were a kid, it was as good as Christmas. Now, you’re lucky if your office’s ‘Sunshine Club’ remembers to tie a mylar balloon on the wall of your cubicle. And you’ll like it, too. You’ll thank them profusely and carry that stupid balloon home for your wife to see. That’s who you are now, and it’s absolutely hilarious, even if you do contemplate suicide hourly.
26. If you think 26 sucks, 27, 28 and 29 are even worse.
That’s it for me, kids. Lost was amazing, and I’m working on the Season Premiere of Lost Monday as we speak. Keep working on your mix-tapes, sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend. Happy Birthday to me.
MONDAY: LOST MONDAY.