There was a great ad a few years ago, possibly for a credit card company, about how the spending power of that credit card would give you the freedom to spend your days on a luxurious island eating coquille St. Jacques with Nastassja Kinski. The punchline: “Of course, (boss appears) you’d be fired, you hate coquille St. Jacques (food dumped from plate), and Nastassja Kinski is dating a kickboxer named (Kinski’s voice) Serge (whack).”
Like a lot of great comedy, it’s funny because it’s true. Any statement that begins, “If I had more (time/money/Axe body spray), I’d …,” is invariably full of shit.
And yet, we all make those statements. I’ve been catching myself doing it more and more because I work in an office with a few people who have too much free time (it’s journalism, so the “too much disposable income” tag doesn’t apply), and I’ve been occasionally envious of the time they spend working out, playing tennis, bicycling, having second careers and taking actual vacations.
It’s especially easy to be envious in an urban, professional-minded area such as this one that has a lot of recreational activities and is full of people who live interesting lives. A former co-worker of mine recently wrote a piece for the Post magazine about taking her mom for a rare travel excursion to Costa Rica, where my former co-worker has been many, many times. You can’t move on the interstates on weekends because so many people are either going to the beach or the mountains. We drove through D.C. and Arlington today, and we saw people kayaking in the Potomac, wandering around monuments and just generally enjoying themselves.
We have, of course, tied ourselves down in ways that make even a simple trip like this morning’s outing relatively rare. Since we moved to the area, we’ve always had at least one dog — for some years, a geriatric dog needing special care. Now we have a kid. We will have a second. (That’s not the confession.) We have a house with a demanding yard. If I want to hit the bike trail, I have to make sure I’m not sticking the love of my life with babysitting chores that can’t fit on top of her occasionally oppressive work load.
And this area aggressively markets lifestyles other than mine. When I say “aggressively,” I’m not kidding. Northern Virginia has built so many freaking huge condo towers full of costly amenities that they’ve started using the “Live In Our Tower, You’ll Get Laid” advertising approach. Check the Post real estate sections, and you may see an ad in which a guy holding a wine glass in an immaculate new condo is looking for a place to put down said wine glass because a gorgeous woman has a hand on his thigh and a “let’s break in that new expensive piece of furniture from the retailer advertising on Page 6” expression.
They know their audience. The dating scene is so heavily skewed toward men in this town that attractive women often end up (temporarily, at least) with someone less appealing than George Costanza. Or perhaps a congressman. So it’s not unreasonable to think that a good-looking guy in a condo tower full of Yuppies might find himself in pleasant company without leaving the building.
Since I’m not single and spend at least part of every day rejoicing that I am not, that line of advertising isn’t going to appeal to me. But the condos, on occasion, look inviting. We’ve been watching a lot of Small Space, Big Style on HGTV (highly recommended), so we now think we could deal with a major reduction in square footage. And I enjoy flowers and grass so much more when I know I’m not going to spend entire afternoons attempting to take care of them and screwing up royally in the process. (Grass seed, I’ve decided, is a scam.)
But the fact is we wouldn’t suddenly spend our afternoons kayaking and our evenings partaking of the Arlington social whirl if we lived 10 stories over a fitness center in Ballston. That’s not really us.
And that’s why this excellent post at Crooked Timber rang true, even if the comments were overrun with some rather tedious bleating from the “childfree” folks. (Yes! We get it! We’d have more money if we didn’t have kids! In other news, summer is hotter than winter, Freddy Adu is a pretty good soccer player, and Britney Spears is now better known for her tabloid appearances than her singing or acting career.) That post is a reaction to this one at 11D, in which we find some of the funniest reading you’ll ever see on the topic of partying vs. parenting:
Well, last night I wanted the kind of fun that involves staying up all night, smoking a pack of cigarettes without guilt, and doing body shots in a Mexican restaurant on West 3rd Street.
Yeah, yeah. You can’t maintain your party-hardy, couch slacking ways for long. I mean nobody wants to see a forty year old woman licking salt off a guy’s neck and coughing up big phlegm balls from the smokes.
Even the slacker thing becomes old, too. Steve always brings up his old roommate, Tiny, as the poster boy for the aging slacker. Tiny is still in the four bedroom apartment on 146th Street with the rotating cast of crazy roommates found in the Village Voice. He’s still blowing his money on video games and pot. He is a professional slacker. Of course, he hasn’t had a girlfriend since the first Bush administration and is getting fat from all that Chinese take-out.
Great reading, but I related more to the Crooked Timber post because he confesses something that I, too, will confess:
At age 36, I still have never been drunk.
It’s only shocking if you don’t know me. First of all, I’m the sort of person who’s convinced he’ll get caught the one time he does something everyone else does, which is one reason why I didn’t drink or do much else to defy authority when I was underage. Second of all, I went to college young (17 and four months) and naive, and when I got my first glimpse of drunk people around me, I thought they looked pretty stupid. Thirdly … OK, I should warn you that this gets kind of gross … on the thankfully rare occasions that I vomit, it comes out my nose as well as my mouth. That makes me shy away from anything that makes vomiting a realistic possibility.
Finally, I have a hunch I’d be a mean, nasty drunk. Deep down, I’m angry about a lot of things, and I try to vent that in healthy ways while maintaining an outwardly positive and pleasant demeanor. Toss a bunch of alcohol into the mix, and I’m liable to start screaming about the officiating in the 2003 NHL playoffs until I’m no longer tolerable company.
And so I proudly join Crooked Timber and 11D in saying, “You know what, I really don’t regret my lifestyle choices. Even if I were childfree (I’d miss my little guy), dogfree (who’d greet me with a wagging tail each day?), rich (OK, I could deal with that) and single (couldn’t deal with that at all), I wouldn’t be living some glamorous lifestyle full of outdoor adventure and indoor erotica.”
The grass in my front lawn is brown in places and bare in others. But it ain’t greener anywhere else.