Girl walks into a bar. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Wednesday night at approximately two ours later than I wanted to be out, I walked into a club near NYU with my friend Beck, still waiting for Kent to join us. The occasion – very nearly the only thing that will keep me out past midnight on a Wednesday – was family. My brother J is the audio engineer for a band (I’m told calling him “sound guy” belittles his frighteningly expensive education and hard work), and the band had a gig (I’m told saying “job” or “show” is not nearly as cool as “gig”) downtown, so me and my old, old ass convinced friends and loved ones (well, friend and husband), to come along. Beck and I grabbed Cuban food and sangria in SoHo, then walked up Sullivan Street to the club. Inside, stood by the bar and did everything short of screaming HEY BARTNEDER WE WANT SOME FUCKING BEER, waiting twenty minutes for the [barely legal, female, tube-topped] bartender to notice us and take our order. Bud Lights finally sloshing in Solo cups, we surveyed our surroundings. Some floppy-haired rockers were singing onstage, and the club was full of teeny little girls – early twenties, which technically made them women, not girls. But to us, married and out past our bedtime, they were girls.
While I scanned the crown for my brother, whose band would be playing last, Beck and I kept catching ourselves staring at lithe, tanned bodies drinking and dancing with abandon. It occurred to each of us, simultaneously, that we may have wasted some of our youth.
Timing is a funny thing, as Beck and her husband were actually entrusted with the task (burden?) of driving his little sister to Smith this weekend, dropping her off for Freshman Orientation, and effectively introducing her to the still-wet-behind-the-ears beginning of her college career. The sullen little thing (actually an adorable 18-year old, but circumstances being what they were, she was sullen) had joined us for dinner, but was sheparded out hastily by Beck’s husband after bursting into tears when the waitress took her order. Beck and I were in full-on Rah Rah College is Great! mode, but the girl was not buying it. At all. Big brother put his arm around her and let her sniffle while speed-dialing her boyfriend, and gone they were. And so a mere hour later, it was interesting to in effect have a glimpse of Beck’s sister-in-law’s future: NYU college students, out late in a club, dancing and singing their hearts out to that band, you know which one, that little local rock band that sings to YOU and only you every time you see them live and when you’re dancing with your friends, time and place and weather and worries and school and work and family and folly all fade, because it is just you and your friends, jumping, sweaty, drunk and happy, convinced that now is the only time, that now is all you ever need, that now is the best, the only, the short, the special, the Now.
“I think I wasted my twenties,” I said to Beck.
“WHAT?” she yelled, over the band, the girls, the bar, the din.
“MY TWENTIES! I WASTED THEM!” I yelled back.
Beck sipped at her weak beer and nodded. “And now we’re married. How did that happen?”
“WHAT?” I yelled.
She gestured towards the stage. “LOOK AT THEM. NOW LOOK AT US. WE’RE WIVES. WIVES! HOW THE FUCK DID THAT HAPPEN?”
I shook my head and downed the rest of my Bud Light. “WE NEED MORE BEER.”
A few minutes later, my brother J walked through the club’s doors and scooped me into a huge hug. This is the same kid who perfected the all-purpose head-nod-and-“ ‘s’up” as his only means of communication. The same kid who can usually be found either asleep or locked in his room with a guitar. The same kid who would bite his cheeks to keep from smiling in photos when we were little, always wanting to be the tough guy. This kid, now 24 and about 6’3”, hugged me and then proceeded to BABBLE on and on about the band and the tour and all the clubs and festivals and venues they’ve played and places they’ve stayed and states they’ve visited and on and on and on. He introduced us to the band members and they all started babbling on and on. Beck and I did that tennis-spectator head thing, turning back and forth between them all, swilling cheap beer and watching their excitement build. Marveling at their youth, or passion, or energy. Eventually Kent showed up, and J and the band left us to start setting up their equipment.
“We are old,” I informed my husband.
“WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU, IT’S REALLY LOUD IN HERE.” he said.
Together, Beck and I yelled, “WE. ARE. OLD!”
And I don’t know if it was the humidity or the sangria or the glut of tube tops or the beer spilt on my feet, but I found myself eyeing all those bright young things and feeling the pangs of nostalgia gripping me something awful. Beck and I took turns picking out pretty girls, shaking our heads at the memory of being 22. I certainly would hate for “I am Old, wah wah wah boring married have some wine” to become the theme of this site, but people, let me tell you something: 22 year-old girls are hot. HOT. And now I am pissed off that no one told me that back when I was 22.
I have no intentions of blathering on about my wasted youth, but let the record show that at 22, I was NOT partying in clubs on Sullivan Street. I was having my own brand of fun, which at that point involved playing mascot to the slightly older gay men with whom I was living. While I spent little or no time in the downtown college bar scene, I put in my hours at Twilo and the Tea Dance at the piers, and saw a lot of theatre my first two years in New York. I wasn’t going home with financial analysts and junior account execs, but I was meeting artists and dancers and actors. I had great friends – male, gay, protective, and totally unaware of what most 22-year-old girls wanted to do.
If only. If only I could be 22 again! There wouldn’t be heels high enough or lip gloss glossy enough to contain me! Hell YEAH I’d be out ‘til 2 a.m. on a Wednesday and hell YEAH I’d be wearing teeny tops and HELL YEAH I’d be all over that lead singer. Because not much is hotter than a 22-year-old girl on a sweaty New York night (unless maybe it’s her younger, 19-year-old sister, wearing a miniskirt).
New York is a playground, and I’m playing with the grown-ups now. It’s nice over here, with lots of restaurants and money and cars and booze. But oh, for just a day or two back in the kiddie pool. Let me call in sick for work because I want to have bagels and coffee with the guy who took me home last night. Let me shop at H&M and not be embarrassed about it. Let me wear t-shirts with stupid sayings across my chest, and let me know where the cool bars are. Let me appreciate my lack of responsibility, the freedom poverty sometimes has, the energy, the lack of gray hair, the naivety and the new, new way I looked at the world. And please, tell me just how hot a 22-year-old girl really is!
The folly of youth has been written about in better ways by better writers for centuries. I am but one woman, nostalgic for her youth, seen through the filter of a dingy bar in Greenwich Village. One woman who left that bar with her husband, took a cab to her brownstone apartment, and flipped happily through the Restoration Hardware catalog that greeted her. ‘Tis a catch-22, my friends. Pun intended.