The Faulty Logic behind Mottos to Live By
I was reading an interview the other day with Who guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend, where he was talking about writing his enduring lyric "Hope I die before I get old," and how with every passing year as he moved further from snot-nose into adulthood, he began to anticipate the shit he was going to catch for it. It's a tough one to defend against, that's for sure. When you spend your whole life railing against the system, what do you do when you suddenly find yourself part of the very thing you hate?
One of the ways I've gotten around this conundrum is in my refusal to mature. It's a risky strategy, and one that doesn't win many friends or prove lucrative in the job market. (It certainly doesn't lend itself to long-term marriages, either.)
The transition to being a father (i.e., going from irresponsible punk to mentor figure responsible for instilling values in a young child) has been a relatively smooth one for me. My anxiety condition still gets the best of me from time to time, but that is why I have a psychiatrist, and I am at a loss for where the hours go, but I guess that is what a calendar is for. Overall, I think I am pretty good at being a dad, and feel confident I will avoid the traditional teenager rite of passage, hating your father. In short, because I still think like a teenager. I still believe Holden Caulfield was right. And I don't expect that viewpoint to change any time soon.
Facebook is a breeding ground for a lot of these soundbites and catchphrases, winning legions of Likes and "you go, girl!" This one has been popping up a lot lately:
Like "Whales and Mermaids," it seems innocuous enough with its positive carpe diem-like message. Drink life to the lees and all that. Except if one were to actually follow the advice of arriving at the finishing line all used up, you'd look like Donatella Versace, and nobody wants to see that shit.
No, you don't want to show up with chocolate in one hand and a latte in the other. Chocolate is OK in moderation, but too much sugar is not a good thing, especially when you get older. And that is essentially what lattes are, milk sugar, which turns to fat and places an inordinate amount of pressure on your joints and spine, and bones are particularly brittle at that age.
Encouraging a lifestyle that wears one out and leaves you ugly is bad advice, no matter how you spin it. That advice works for exactly one person. And you ain't him.
For the rest of us, I don't recommend heroin. (Trust me, it's not good for your teeth and gums.)
I guess it comes down to a value system. I'd consider arriving at the end of this goddamn thing in a well-preserved, attractive body to be a victory. Withstanding this shitstorm and still being pretty and intact? Hell yeah that's a success. (Then again, I'd rather be good looking and dead than alive and healthy but unattractive. So maybe I'm not the best guy to ask.)
Conventional wisdom is just that: conventional. And when you live outside those mores and folkways, it's tougher to gauge appropriate behavior. Pushing iconoclast boundaries looks good on paper or in Christian Slater movies, but in real life, it isn't any more practical advice than what's supplied in Whales or Mottos.
(Speaking of Christian Slater movies, don't re-watch Heathers. Trust me, it doesn't age well.)
Maybe it isn't about developing an all-encompassing, foolproof philosophy for the boy. And maybe I won't have to point out the bullshit to him. After all, kids are pretty good at picking up on that themselves. The tricky part is not losing the ability to still see it as you get older and join those same ranks you once opposed.