It goes without saying that children think their parents are as dull as dishwater, generally to be mocked, not imitated.
For instance, when I was a teenager, I happened to be catching a bus home from Eglinton subway station with my dad. He explained to me that, if you were at the bus platform and you stood under a certain light fixture, that was exactly where the bus would pull up and you could just get on, easy as pie.
He seemed pretty proud of the whole idea.
But at the time, for whatever reason, this idea enraged me. It was so predictable. It was so boring! Was that how tedious his life had become? You get the idea.
I don’t think I bothered to tell my father how much angst his simple suggestion had caused me. Instead, I probably wrote some sort of dramatic poem about it or something, as I was wont to do in those days: “The bus will never come,” etc.
Then, this happened.
I was waiting for the subway at King station the other day, trying to decide which end of the station I needed to be at for the other end of my journey. (We moved in June, and I’m still figuring a few things out.)
I’ve noticed over the course of the summer that, if I turn right when I get off the train and go along a bit, there is an up escalator. At the end of a long day, this is a truly welcome sight.
On this particular day, I decided to position myself under one of the video screens on the King platform as a baseline experiment so I could keep track of where I was standing.
The train came and, when I got off — after a few hard-fought but ultimately unsuccessful rounds of Candy Crush on my phone — lo and behold, there I was, right in front of the up escalator.
Here’s what I thought: “Oh, that worked. I should always stand under the video screen.”
And just like that, I had turned into the boring, predictable person that 16-year-old me would’ve railed against.
The other thing that happened, over Thanksgiving weekend, was that the kids came home. The older one and I were watching TV, waiting for the new Saturday Night Live to come on, when we chanced upon an old episode from 1990. Mike Myers was dressed up as a superhero named “Middle Aged Man,” complete with receding hairline, thick glasses and a paunch (“I’m working on it!”), whose mission is to dispense sensible information to folk younger than him.
If and when I watched that initially, I was 24, planning a wedding, living downtown. I probably thought the sketch was hilarious.
I still do, but 24 years later, playing the role of Middle-Aged Woman (with the thick glasses but thankfully without the receding hairline), a few thoughts come to mind.
First of all, you don’t know at 24 who you will turn into at 48. You have no idea. And when you do turn into that person — perhaps a little more staid than you had imagined, a little less famous, a lot more likely to have a couple of pairs of Naturalizers in your closet — you know what? Relax.
It’s OK that you are Middle-Aged Woman who has owned a minivan (two, come to think of it), attended a fair amount of children’s sporting events, plays, school concerts and doctors’ appointments. You’ve bought your share of pudding cups.
It’s OK that you often don’t recognize the host on Saturday Night Live anymore and that you usually fall asleep before — or during — the musical act. It’s OK that you have to take your glasses off to read the messages on your phone or boost the type up to eye-chart size.
It’s OK because the thing about being middle-aged is: you get that some of the stuff you thought was important when you were younger — caring about what other people wear or drink or watch or dance to — just . . . well, it just isn’t.
And, if you’re me, you finally get why your father was standing under that light, waiting for the bus. He knew it would get him home faster.