The other night, in yet another fit of, “I’m too overwhelmed to cook, let’s get burgers instead,” Mr. Rathroy and I were sitting at a table on the patio and waiting for our to go order so we could gorge on guacamole topped burgers in the concealment of our own house.
This particular burger restaurant happens to be in a pretty hip (read: hipster) part of town with a music venue right next door. This music venue brings in everyone from Too Short to Cage the Elephant, so the crowds it attracts are…diverse…
Any night of the week, you can count on a line down the block of 17-22 year olds clad in what can only be described as the illegitimate clothing child of 80’s glam and 90’s grunge. Now, I’ve made it clear that I am not a fashionista (in fact, I had to Google that word to make sure I spelled it correctly). Just recently, I purchased my first maxi skirt, and that was a big leap into “style” for me. So it should go without saying that, in my late twenties, this new generation of fashion is absolutely terrifying.
My friends are starting to have children. I’m starting to think about having children (still a long ways off, don’t panic). And it’s only a hop, skip, and jump from the thought of having children to the idea of those children as teenagers. And if this music venue audience is any indication of what youth will look like when we have a teenager, my head might explode.
While I was groaning at the crowd and trying not to think about it, one couple in particular caught the brunt of my projected fears. I believe I said something like, “I will murder someone if our daughter ever dates someone like that.” Skinny jeans buckled around his thighs, unwashed hair pulled into a bun, and spitting out whatever it is that you have to spit out when you smoke cigarettes, the future mother in me ignited. All of the crappy boys I’d ever dated rushed into my mind and I sat on the burger joint patio attempting to convince myself (and Mr. Rathroy, much to his entertainment) that our children would be perfect, smart, “head on straight,” kind of children. I told him that if our kid ever started smoking, I would drop them from our medical insurance. We would muscle the “good kid” into them. That would do it. Then we’d never have to deal with short shorts or boys that ride motorcycles or concerts in the hipster part of town.
While I was reeling from all the thoughts on how to produce quality kids, the couple that provoked the outburst walked back toward the burger place. The boy with cigarette breath and saggy jeans opened the door for the girl, then stood back and kept it open for three middle aged women coming in after them.
“Thank you,” said one of the women.
“You’re welcome,” replied dirt bag boy, “Thank you for the opportunity.”
Wait, what? Did he just thank those women for the opportunity to chivalrously hold a door open for them? But your jeans are saggy. And you spit in the gutter. And you need to wash your hair.
I immediately sank back into my chair and avoided the smug smirk that I knew would be on Mr. Rathroy’s face. I was such an asshole. Here I was all high and mighty waiting to shove a burger the size of my head into my stomach and assuming that anyone not wearing a cardigan was bad news. Instead of a burger, I would be eating crow…
Luckily, Mr. Rathroy is not the rub-it-in kind of guy. He knew how scathing that situation would remain in my mind and that would be punishment enough. As I reflected on the situation, ashamed of what a Judgey McJudgerson I had been, I realized that each of the fears I had expressed were really just projections from own my teen years. I wore short shorts. I dated boys with motorcycles (almost exclusively). And I spent lots of time swooning over musicians and boy bands while donning baggy jeans and my Dad’s tattered, plaid shirts. I had caused this level of torment in my own parents but in real life and over the course of many years and I was terrified for it to come full circle.
I guess the good news is that, despite the motorcycles and underage drinking and less than appealing boys, I had turned out okay. Of course there was turmoil. Of course my parents thought they had failed at some point. I was a teenager. But if all of us had held onto that turmoil forever rather than accepting that it was a temporary moment in life, then we wouldn’t have the close relationship that we do today. If we weren’t able to let go of those difficult times, we wouldn’t be preparing for me to marry the greatest guy in the world. We would be stuck in a power struggle forever. I know that I don’t want to muscle my kids into being anything different than they are. Fear can be overpowering if you allow it, and I’m so glad that damn kid made me eat my words with his politeness. I’ll never be able to control my kids, or anything else that happens around me. I can only control how I react to them. And I hope that, with lots of gentle reminders from Mr. Rathroy, my reaction will always be one of love and acceptance.