I wrote this awhile back for a now defunct web site. Since the site is gone I salvaged it. It's prime purpose is laughter. Read and laugh. NOW!
If I weren't a spiritual Pagan who does not believe in the concept of Hell as a place where one suffers for their sins for all eternity, I could tell you with complete certainty Hell is a shopping mall filled with teenagers as customers and employees. They are all younger than I and in much better physical condition, and all much more in touch with the current fashion trends than I. If I weren't this truly spiritual person, completely at ease with myself and the universe, I would be standing on a street corner, on a wooded crate, preaching the evils of shopping malls, or being gently place in a padded cell.
No I'm not having a mid-life crisis, thank you very much. Well, maybe I am, but only a small one. I'm only 38 for Zeus' sake. (I mean Zeus the ancient Greek God, not Zeus my faithful Chow dog who, as I write this, is nudging me for another cookie.)
Anyway, what brought on this mini mid-life crisis was a Friday night trip to the mall. Now in my teen years I spent many Friday nights wandering aimlessly down one wing of a shopping mall after another, with my friends, sometimes stopping for a big salty pretzel (the kind President Bush choked on earlier this year), or an ice cream cone, before going to see a movie we really didn't want to see, because it would kill time until we had to go home.
Then I grew up. Or, at least, I emotionally matured. Along with this emotional maturing process came the passing of time and growing older. However, you don't realize you've grown that much older until you are looking at jeans, in a jeans type store, in a shopping mall on a Friday night, when the snippet of a sales clerk, who will be graduating high school in about two years, comes up behind you and says "Excuse me, sir. Those jeans you're about to try on aren't really made for someone your age."
My eyes flashed, sort of like you would see happen in a horror movie just before the villain decapitates a nubile young actress who might resemble, oh say, a certain sales clerk in a jeans store in a shopping mall. "My age?" I ask incredulously. "Perhaps you meant my size? Although, they are my size."
The young clerk, who in the horror film would already be splattered across three racks of clothing and scattered throughout the rest of the shopping mall and three parking deck levels, looked up at me with a contemptuous smile. "No sir, I meant your age. Guys your age just don't look good in those tight jeans. They tend to show too much."
I resisted the urge to strike her with my metallic taloned glove, basically because I don't have a metallic taloned glove. "I'll try them anyway," I said.
"Okay, but the relaxed fit jeans are over there, where all the middle-aged guys are standing, right near the dressing rooms," she said, pointing to the far wall.
I nodded, allowing my lips to curl up slightly at the right corner, like I was attempting to smile, but just happened to sneer instead, and marched across the store to the dressing room determined to fit into the slightly tight jeans which had that painted on look I used to wear back when I was 17.
It occurred to me most of the young men, A.K.A. juvenile delinquents, I saw wandering the mall aimlessly, as I had done lo those not so many years ago, were all wearing extremely baggy jeans with the crotch hanging somewhere between their knees and ankles. I wondered just who was wearing these skintight jeans and why, considering their apparent lack of popularity, the jeans companies were even making them?
I entered the dressing room; a tiny compartment lined with mirrors, shed my own comfortably worn jeans and stepped into the jeans from Hell. As I snugly secured the waist button and tugged the zipper closed, I surveyed myself in the surrounding mirrors, and quickly shed the offending garment returning to the relaxed fit section with all the other middle-aged guys.
I quickly decided this was not a night for purchasing jeans and returned to the concourse, where I watched several groups of roving youths wandering along in baggy jeans with the bottoms dragging along the tile floor. I realized the main use of these baggy jeans was to help the shopping mall make a profit by cutting down on the need for extra janitorial staff to sweep the floors.
Looking around me I had a flashback to Logan's Run, feeling every bit as if my life clock would give me away to all those around me and a sandman would soon appear with a laser pistol to put me out of my delusion of fitting in with today's youth. My mid-life crisis was in full swing.
When, I wondered, did I go from yellow to red on my life clock? Why, I wondered, was I thinking in terms from a 1970's film that depicted a society glorifying youth and terminating all those over 30? More importantly, where had I left my sanity?
I reached into my pocket, retrieved the keys to my recently purchased new car, realized most of the people around me wouldn't be driving for a couple more years, and when they did they couldn't afford the type of car I drive, and indulged myself in a wave of materialistic superiority.
Sure, I had glimpsed middle-aged Hell, albeit a few years early, but now I know what it looks like, and I can avoid it. Okay, so most of my shopping will be done on-line, and perhaps I can persuade an old friend to act as my butler and chauffeur, and I can start to live a reclusive life in my mansion while I wait for the world to realize how big I am and how small it has gotten, or simply face the fact I'll never again be 17.
I left the mall, driving through the surrounding suburban neighborhoods, and looked up at the full moon shining bright in the night sky. That's it! I thought. The full moon explained everything. It was the reason for my descent into mall madness. I wasn't having a mid-life crisis, and the world wasn't completely youth oriented, and, while I will never again be 17, 38 is a good age. I took a deep breath of fresh New Jersey air, cranked up Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" on the stereo and drove home.
Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.
ABOUT ROBERT A. MELOS
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
9.12.02 @ 4:38a
Makes you think...
9.12.02 @ 8:02a
Robert, I loved this! Thanks for the smile this morning.
9.12.02 @ 7:00p
This was great!! As a fellow 38 year old (very soon to be ugh, 39)I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who sees today's teens in this light. Why do I keep thinking of Paul Lynde singing "What's Wrong With These Kids Today?"
9.13.02 @ 8:23a
My husband's turning 39 next week and he's now saying he can't wait to be the old guy chasing those dang kids off his lawn in his baggy shorts, black socks and sandals!
9.16.02 @ 12:35a
The only way you'll find me in a mall is bristling with guns, swords and a chainsaw... They will push their sunglasses kiosks and bead necklace carts into a barricade against my fury, but I will advance relentlessly, and the escalators will cascade with young, caffeinated blood.
9.16.02 @ 10:23p
Russ, I think you're my new hero.
9.17.02 @ 9:36a
Russ, wait until your child becomes a preteen - teenager.. you are soo hatin' it.
9.17.02 @ 8:17p
This makes me laugh, because not too long ago I had a similar encounter while I was buying jeans. The perky clerkie told me that the store did not sell "women's sizes" ... for those not in the know, the word "women's" when applied to clothing means "fat." And she HAD to be referring to my age, because size-wise, I am about the same size as your average 12-year old. (I know this because I have an average sized 12-year-old.)
9.17.02 @ 8:19p
I hate shopping for clothes at the mall because none of the trendy stores sell my size pants, so I'm left with the "women's" section at JC Penny's. Thank God for H&M, though. That store rocks.
9.17.02 @ 8:24p
I have the opposite problem. I don't do trendy, because my feeling is if you're old enough to remember the first time a style was in fashion, you're too old to wear it the second time around. Try finding tailored, respectable, suburban mom type clothing in a size 5.
9.18.02 @ 9:54p
Thank God leather pants never go out of style.