As I look 50 in the eye (and punch it right in the ass), I realized I've gained quite a few things over the years. Mostly I've gained the ability to make up activities such as punching something right in the ass, but I've also gained a little bit of wisdom. Emphasis on "little bit." I mean, my work notebook is sparkly and has Hello Kitty on it. But still. Anyway, here are five things I used to think were absolutely true (and two things I'm still clinging on to for dear life):
1. Everyone is dying for me to join the conversation. Let's say you're in the break room with Leroy, having what has turned into a fairly deep talk. Until? Esmeralda strolls up. Right in the middle of the talk. As if Leroy and you wanted nothing more than her 22-year-old, interrupty-pants presence. What I've learned is, if people are already talking, they might not want you to wander up and give your two cents, or even worse, say, "Wait, what?" and expect them to recap the whole thing just for you.
2. Flashy people are the most interesting. For years, I was drawn to the charismatic person in a crowd. I finally learned that oftentimes, the people who command the most attention are too busy commanding attention all over yonder to actually be a good friend when you need one. I'm thinking of you, Bill Clinton. Now I look for the quieter person, the good listener. The one who remembers you hate cilantro rather than serving cilantro and regaling you with a hilarious "oh, forgot you hate cilantro, let me tell you about how I hate lemons" story.
3. Everyone has to like me. If I ever sensed someone didn't approve of me, I worried myself sick. Maybe I should be cooler around that person. Maybe I should try to sound less intelligent. Finally it dawned on me: There are people who don't like Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks! No way am I gonna win everyone over. And besides, what other people think about you is none of your business.
4. Everyone is thinking about me. When you leave a party, there is an 89% chance no one has thought about you after you left. This has been scientifically proven. They are not rehashing that thing you said, that thing you thought was so stupid. Do you know why? Because they're thinking about the thing THEY said, that they thought was so horrific. The thing you've forgotten all about. No one is thinking about you, unless you're Angelina Jolie. And even then, how often do you really think about Angelina Jolie? Eleven percent of your time? Even that's a stretch, right?
5. Everyone needs to think the way I do, or they're EVIL. I believe that gay people should have exactly the same rights as everyone else. Maybe you do not. Maybe you have reasonable arguments for why you do not. You know what? That's fine. I will not agree with your arguments, but I will also not write you off as someone who's full of hate, just as I hope you do not write me off, either. I am assuming that you still honor the "take a penny, leave a penny" honor system at the cash register. I assume you still pay your taxes and love your dog. Just because someone does not agree with me does not make him or her a bad human, generally.
And here are the two things I still believe, deep in my being:
a. I'd still look cool in black stretch pants, a huge black top and combat boots. And what's sad is, I didn't even look that cool in those in 1989. Yet I still peruse my middle-aged closet and wish I had me some Doc Martens to top off my look.
b. I'm hilarious. OK, I haven't been that hilarious in this article, although I did love myself a little for the "punched right in the ass" comment. I sometimes read stuff I wrote five years ago and chortle myself silly. I realize this makes me a repugnant person in combat boots, but what do you want from me? I'm no Tom Hanks.