It’s funny how you remember shit. For decades now I have been retelling the story of how Batman came out on my birthday in 1989 (when I was turning 15 – yeah I’m fucking old). But after a quick google search, it’s evident I misremembered. I have a pretty low opinion of Batman (1989) nowadays but back then it was a revelation.
(Some people fawned over the Donner Superman flicks but I found them to be mediocre at best. Superman II had some charm with Zod but overall they were just average movies about a superhero who was not one of my favorites and for whom it seems impossible to make a good movie about. Who can relate to the guy? He’s too perfect. But I’m getting sidetracked. This post isn’t about hating on Superman. It’s about hating on other things.)
Before Batman (1989) there simply wasn’t an awesome superhero flick. I was so excited about the prospect of a cool superhero flick that I participated in the mass delusion that gushed praise over the film. Thank god the internet wasn’t around back then. Believe it or not, young millennials, my best friend’s mom had to line up for us early Friday morning so we could get tickets. That friendship is dead and so are the days of lining up for tickets hours in advance AND, because there was no reserved seating, lining up AT LEAST an hour in advance to get decent seats for the actual movie. All told, to secure tickets for a hot movie on opening night involved at least two hours of work. Now I can do the same in about 2 minutes on Fandango.
I’m turning 45 today and Spider-Man: Far from Home, the much-anticipated sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, is out today. Unlike Batman, we can expect a certain level of quality from this film because its predecessor was amazing. I haven’t even checked the Rotten Tomatoes percentage for this movie because just looking at that number could prejudice my experience. Not to mention the fact that I have significant beef with the RT model. But here’s hoping there’s not a serious sophomore slump in the latest Spidey trilogy.
But the point of this post isn’t comparing and contrasting Batman (1989) and Spider-Man: Far from Home. It’s throwing myself a pity party by comparing myself (1989) to myself (2019). Fuck, how did thirty years pass by? I know this is something young people make fun of older people for saying. I did the same thing back when I was young. If anyone young is reading this, you’ll get it eventually. Be thankful you can’t get it now.
I took a time machine and visited my 15-year-old self and asked him some questions as a way to illustrate what I thought might have been and what has come to pass.
A 45-year-old bald man with a beer gut, wearing an Iron Fist t-shirt and the weariness brought upon by disappointing hundreds of people over the course of four decades on earth, has a black Jansport backpack slung over both his shoulders, and he sips on Coke Zero.
Across from him sits a pimply-faced 15-year-old, bone-thin boy with a mop haircut, wearing a Catholic high school uniform and the weariness of getting his ass beat daily at school, has a black Jansport backpack slung over one shoulder, and he sips on a regular Coke).
(my questions in normal text, his answers in italics, my current reality in bold):
What do you think you will be when you’re 45?
I have no idea.
Unskilled labor (don’t get me wrong – we like the work but anyone could do it and it pays accordingly) but we still don’t know what we’ll be in 5 years. We’ve never been anything for more than 5 years.
Will you ever get a date?
I guess maybe? I mean everyone does, right? Even people like me?
Yeah, even people like us. You’ll get plenty of dates. But be careful what you wish for, kid.
Will you be married and have kids and a house in the suburbs with a nice car?
I don’t think anyone would marry me so I can’t really see how I would have kids. But maybe an average car and an average house.
We never did get married and we’ve never even been in a committed or exclusive relationship. We’ve never had a girlfriend. There are high school freshmen who have lapped us. Through sheer dumb luck, we fathered a child. Believe me, that was a fucking surprise for me, too.
Who will be your closest friends?
I guess that would be L(redacted), S(redacted), and J(redacted). I mean J is m best friend and I’ve known L since I was 8 and S since I was 5.
Sorry, pal. Only one of those three is in contact with you. Your so-called best friend of 28 YEARS ghosted us (you’ll find out what that is eventually) and so did S(redacted) for that matter. Well, S(redacted) was more of a Zombie-ing but no matter how you describe it, you all ain’t friends anymore. But we do have good friends, still. It’s not all bad.
What about your professional life?
I have no idea what you mean.
Nor should you. But basically, we’re a failure. We’ve had about 7 cubicle jobs and we’ve been fired from 3 (not because of a bad economy but just because we were a shitty worker) and we’ve never been promoted in our entire life.
Will you be rich?
I doubt it. I’m not really good at anything.
Well, you’ll find that we do have a few talents but none greater than the ability to destroy our financial life. As I type this, we are nearly 400K (that’s 400 with one comma AND a decimal point, kid) in debt and basically making $15 bucks an hour.
Will you ever stop hating yourself?
I am happy to report that, after a nervous breakdown and two years of hellish mental rebuilding, we actually don’t hate ourselves anymore. We are neutral about ourselves. That may not sound very impressive but everything is relative. From where we were to where we are there is an ocean of difference. Despite achieving none of the markers of traditional societal success (our child and graduate degrees aside – because frankly, we’re doing a shit job with both of those), we don’t think we’re the worst. I guess love is blind. Not that we’re in love with ourselves. I’d say we’re in close acquaintance with ourselves.
Will you have figured it all out?
I hear you but we are actually pretty close to doing so. Sure, it took us 43+ years and severe mental trauma but we can see clearly now. The rain is gone.
Can you picture what your life will be like?
Some boring job living in some boring place by myself. Maybe I’ll have a dog. I guess I’ll mostly have my shit together? I mean I know what I said earlier but even losers get married so I’ll probably have a wife and kids.
Well, you’re wrong on most counts. We don’t have a wife. Our job isn’t boring but most people would say it’s something a college student would do on their summer break, not something a middle-aged man would be living on. We’re pretty much functionally asexual at this point after dating hundreds of women only to realize that we built such an impenetrable fortress around our heart that no one ever had a chance. Our shit could not be less together in terms of traditional societal success. We are the big bang of underachieving and incompetence, our failures still expanding across the universe of our soul, wreaking havoc in the lives of those we love most and those who have the bad luck to cross our path. We’re barely getting by financially. We got two master’s degrees we’re not using in any professional capacity. Worst of all, we’re a sorry excuse for a father. And we’re ending friendships at an alarming rate, destroying one of the only things we did well.
What’s the best thing about being old (to a 15-year-old, 45 is old)?
You can buy whatever you want and do whatever you want and there are no chores?
Yeah, you can pay people to do chores. But you’ll discover that buying shit doesn’t fill the hole in your soul. You don’t know what I’m talking about right now. You can feel it. You know you’re a shattered ghost trying to survive among the living but you can’t articulate it. You know something is missing. But you can’t even convey that sentiment. It’s not the worst thing to find out why you’re broken. Not knowing why is far worse. Once you know, things can change. And once you open your eyes and take a hard look at ‘why’, you’ll realize it is bullshit. And once you see it for what it really is, you will be free. You will be awake. And, god willing, you won’t ever go back to sleep again.
Weird. I thought it would be a completely negative self-appraisal of where I am and who I am today. I mean, the shit ain’t all roses. But the core has potential? It might even be strong? Sure, I have my struggles. Who doesn’t? Sure I have my dark days. Who doesn’t? Sure I fuck up all the time. Who doesn’t? But I think my 15-year-old self would be pretty surprised to find out I’m no longer asking others to approve my course. To paraphrase Henley, I’m the captain of my tattered soul. I’m walking side by side with my fate.
Excelsior, true believers.
It rains but the sun shines, too, son.
Peace. And Happy Fucking Birthday to me.