I had promised them I would never grow up. That I would never change out of my childhood iteration. When I did, they seemed genuinely surprised, as though I was special enough to deliver on the Neverland existence I had promised. And yet, in some way, I suppose I carried out the implications of my word, hence my current state of unmalleable adolescence in the guise of being on my way to early thirtiesdom. A kingdom of no heaven, to be sure. And one I had effectively managed to avoid for so long via a constant state of flux and vagabondery. The trick to which involved a steady mix of not paying rent by taking up “odd” jobs of the menial labor variety–cleaning houses, walking dogs, babysitting children, tutoring, that sort of thing.
It was in no way glamorous, yet the life of carefreeness I projected made it seem as such to those friends suddenly burdened by the permanence of a corporate job, marriage and having children. And because they were all getting so settled in their lives, it was becoming more of a challenge to rely upon them for favors of the lodging variety. What’s more, just as Carrie Bradshaw had postulated in “Bay of Married Pigs,” I feared my female friends saw me as some sort of enemy threat with my exhibition of singledom and a non-stretched out cervix. Thus, my entreaties for a quick place to crash were, more and more, met with a resounding silence. But I would not be deterred. I had vowed to my parents I would never grow up, after all.
It was something they seemed to regret encouraging as I found myself moving back into my old room (which had, in cliche fashion, been converted into an “exercise space”) “just for a while.” That was my assurance as my mother angrily chopped tomatoes on a cutting board, perhaps imagining them to be my intestines. But rather than address her irritation and anger, for repressed families do not do that, she simply said, “Sure, whatever you need.” My father was slightly more open on the matter, adding, “Just don’t bring any gentlemen callers over, if you catch my drift.” He then turned back to his jigsaw puzzle and continued ignoring that my inability to transcend into an adult was all his fault. He was the one who had first put this notion into my head about not growing up. That to do so would be a huge disappointment when, in the end, it was not doing so that was. Yet no one could have been more disappointed than I was to find that making good on my pledge involved being awakened against my will every morning at seven a.m. as a result of my mother’s sadistic need to keep her Stairmaster in my room despite the garage being a perfectly viable place for it. “No, it’s too dark in there and I like sunlight when I work out,” she insisted. But I knew better. She wanted to torture me. To punish me for my crime of infiltrating her space past the age of reason. For being her own personal Pan. Would that I was as rewarding and satisfying as a personal pan pizza.
Unfortunately, I could not deliver such cheesy goodness to my parents, though I did seem to be just as bad for their health. For soon, my mother took to the histrionics of fainting spells while performing her exercises in front of me–as though she wanted to get as much mileage as possible out of both 1) having me around and 2) making me feel guilty for deigning to be around. But what choice did I have? Get a “real” job. The very derisiveness of the term real in fact inferring that one had to succumb to the unreal in order to partake of adulthood. For what could be more nightmarish than the hypnagogic unreality of dressing in nondescript tones, ceasing to listen to new music and concerning oneself with such banal endeavors as waking up early and paying taxes?
Why was everyone so maligning when you actively chose to avoid this at all costs? As though there was something wrong with you for trying to find a loophole until your last dying breath. Even if that loophole rounded you back to your parents’ house where they ruthlessly made you feel like the most useless human being they could have possibly contributed to the planet–but it was still somehow just one notch above surrendering to becoming homeless. To becoming a gleaner in the spirit of one of the happy-go-lucky trash-feeding fiends in Agnès Varda’s The Gleaners and I.
That’s what I would have to do pretty soon. For if I had to endure one more morning of my mother’s Stairmaster session paired with feigned fatigue to the point of fainting, I might just abandon ship right then and there without bothering to pack a bag. In fact, that is precisely what I was forced to do that very evening over one of our most harrowing parent-child dinners yet. Upon having a Pyrex of fingerling potatoes thrust at me so that I could “serve myself–for once,” as Mother phrased it, I was pushed to my breaking point on the passive aggressive antics. Which I almost couldn’t tell if I was more annoyed by than my father’s carefully cultivated oblivion. Because at least my mother had half a ball to show her rage toward me. My father couldn’t bear to acknowledge his emotions, lest he be forced to acknowledge something lacking in himself as a result of “how I turned out.” Which is to say, their little personal Pan.
Well, Pan was no longer feeling welcome and decided it was time to fly away, back to the not so idyllic Neverland (by the way, wishing Michael Jackson hadn’t ruined the use of that concept) of living from “situation” to “situation,” rather than bothering to rely on the ones who were once so pleased to hear that I would never grow up. But a promise is a promise, even if it must be fulfilled by way of the self-degradation of constantly having to ask favors of others. Namely, at this point, those passing me by on the street as I wave my change-filled Starbucks cup at them expectantly. Would that we were living in a time when tin cups were more pervasive, I might catch more notice with my auditory bombast. Regardless, I can still categorically say with the utmost certainty to my parents: I have never grown up.