DEAR SIR: YOUR MEMBERSHIP IN THE YOUTH CLUB HAS EXPIRED
We hear this all the time. A creature around twenty says, "I
think you're being too hard on the guy, I mean, he's an old man; he's forty-five
or something." My first impulse is to hit the kid, but since I'm
too old and tired, I usually just wonder how these young people can behave
so insensitively. Then I catch myself thinking, "these young people,"
and realize I'm not one of them anymore. When you're in your teens
and twenties, you think of yourself as an eternal member of the youth culture.
The music, the rebellion, the hair -- long Hippie hair, dreadlocks, a mohawk,
an attractive punk cut, you name it. Then one day, you're forty-something
and find yourself poring over mutual fund returns and life insurance options.
You never resigned from The Youth Club, never tore up your membership card
and stomped out of any meeting, but there you are, out in the parking lot
of life, banished from Youth.
It's worse than banishment, of course, because you're surrounded by young
people. Walking through the streets you see one beautiful or handsome
young thing after another. Surely, they're doing this on purpose.
I imagine young women at their mirrors plotting to drive me crazy.
Women at the fitness centers say they're taking those step classes and
cranking those ab machines to count down their cholesterol and tummies,
but let's face it, they shape their bodies into classical perfection simply
to drive me nuts.
And good grief, even if you've taken to draping your mirrors with purple
satin so that you don't have to see the coursing of time across your face,
you look out on their faces and you know in your bones, that the sweet
bird of youth has flown south and is lost, deep in an unknown jungle, never
Talk of life's "passages" doesn't ring true. The modulation from
youth to middle age is a long deceptive Indian summer when it seems as
though winter has got lost somewhere in a land far away, far away from
your life, like a hurricane in the heartland of America as you sit sipping
G&T's on the coast. Suddenly, the program you've been tuned to
for what seems like eternity, is interrupted by an emergency bulletin:
A hurricane is coming to town. You have to fold up your chair, throw your
beer bottles against the rocks -- get off the beach, get to high ground.
Hurricane Mortality is tearing in from the horizon and you are in the eye
of the storm.
has published essays, fiction, and poetry in many
magazines and journals, including Art Times, The Quarterly, Mind In Motion, Lynx
Eye, Quarter After Eight, Visions International, The Wolf Head Quarterly, The
Antigonish Review and Oxford Magazine. He teaches creative writing at Berklee
College of Music and Brandeis University, and has twice been a Fulbright professor
of American (and Irish) literature: Cameroon, 1989-90, and Norway, 1995-96.
During his 1998-99 sabbatical year, he will teach creative writing and Irish literature
at the University of Essex, England.