Single White Nerd: New Year’s Fever!
True story. I spent the last moments of 2009 huddled on my bathroom floor covered in sweat clutching my toilet with a thin trail of vomit dribbling from my nose. Gross.
Now if this were a hackneyed Hollywood movie or not-particularly-well-crafted novel, that moment would be deeply symbolic. Filled with portent. “Aha,” the astute viewer/reader might think, “this is a symbolic purge from which our hero will emerge stronger, smarter, and better in every way.”
Luckily this isn’t a movie or book. It’s a blog. Blogs don’t do symbolism. I’m just telling you how I spent New Year’s Eve with the flu.
As I lay there flushing away the remnants of the apple I’d eaten earlier that day (“AHA,” the astute reader exclaims, “another literary symbol. Biblical, even!” Give it up, astute reader.), I took the opportunity to review the year that had just passed. After all, it was New Year’s. That’s what you’re supposed to do. The problem was that I was quite weak. Feverish and shaking, the best I could muster was a quick review of the previous week. Christmas.
I’d gone to to Albuquerque, New Mexico to visit my parents. I didn’t grow up in New Mexico. My parents moved there three years ago when they retired. Initially they’d chosen New Mexico because of its natural beauty and abundant hiking trails. Within weeks they realized that their affection for hiking limited itself to vacations. Daily walks in the mountains didn’t have the appeal of an annual tromp through the English countryside. Luckily Albuquerque had another benefit: it’s an airline hub. It’s very easy to get just about anywhere from Albuquerque with a minimum of transfer drama.
And so my parents have become avid travelers in their retirement. During the past year they went to Thailand, Vietnam, England, India, and Alaska. Probably some other places,too. I don’t really keep track.
I’m telling you all this because I’m still trying to figure out what’s happened to my parents and I suspect that the traveling thing may have something to do with it.
In a word, my parents have mellowed. Holiday visits have long been a source of terror for me. I get flashes of Christmas past. I remember being 12 and pummeling my present—a giant inflatable punching bag emblazoned with the words STRESS BUSTER (who buys something like that for a 12 year old?) while my parents yelled downstairs:
Father: But I told you I didn’t WANT the calculator that prints as you push buttons!
Mother: You can’t return it.
Father: Sure I can.
Mother: You are so ungrateful.
Father: I’m very grateful. Thank you. And I will return it.
Mother: You are the most inconsiderate person I’ve ever met.
Me (screaming): YOU’RE RUINING CHRISTMAS!
Mother and Father: WE’RE JEWISH!
Me: Then why do celebrate CHRISTMAS? (savagely kicks Stress Buster)
Something like that would happen just about every year. Holiday angst combined with my mother’s general habit of pushing my buttons and my father’s tendency to yell at me about my retirement plans. Not fun.
This year, I prepared by role-playing with a co-worker, Stuart. To his mounting consternation, I asked Stuart to work through a range of scenarios with me. Tell me I’m fat, I’d say.
“Ask me when I’m getting married.”
“But I don’t care when you’re getting married.”
“You’re my mother.”
“Just do it.”
“When are you getting married?”
At first, I responded to the scenarios viscerally. “Screw you, Mom,” I’d shrill at Stuart. But after enough repetition, I trained myself to respond differently. With greater maturity. In response to matrimonial inquisitions, I would simply say “It’s not in the cards” or something equally sophisticated. Stuart was mildly terrified, but I felt prepared.
I landed in New Mexico girded for battle, stepped off that plane ready for war. And my parents. . .well, they were lovely. Delightful. Charming. Erudite. We drank wine and had dinner. Shared laughs. I kept waiting for them to pull the rug out, to sucker punch me with a little old style dysfunction. They didn’t.
What the hell had happened to my parents? Had the combination of retirement and travel simultaneously deangstified them and broadened their horizons? Had someone lobotomized them? Had the elevated altitude of Albuquerque siphoned enough oxygen from their brains that they no longer had the energy to fight? Or had they just grown up?
As drops of fever-sweat plunked on to my bathroom floor, I thought about my parents. If they’d grown up, maybe I could, too. If they’d given up their addiction to dysfunction, maybe there was hope for me, yet. Yes, I thought, I can do this! I will invest myself in becoming stronger, better in every way! As soon as I can stand up with out puking, I will go to the gym! I will find a girl and make her my friend! We will communicate and cook together and snuggle and share things and make love without crying!
I washed my face and immediately saw great portent and symbolism in the fact that I was beginning the New Year with a literal purge of my system. Good. Get all the old stuff out. I vowed to fill my bodily temple with only the finest tributes—organic foods, vegetables, free range, hormone free beef. I vowed to fill my spirit with love and light.
Not a bad way to start a new decade. Goodbye old ways, hello new path. Happy New Year!
Then I took a sip of water and vomited again. And again. This was no symbolic purge—after all, that kind of hackneyed crap is reserved for Hollywood. Reality was I had the flu. Reality was my parents were just getting old. Maybe I could kick dysfunction to the curb and deflate my growing spare tire, but it certainly wouldn’t happen overnight. That kind of thing takes work.
I guess my New Year’s Resolution, if I were to make one, would be to make a go of it. Baby steps towards a better, functionaler me or something. I’ll work on that. In the meantime, Happy New Year!
And come back soon so I can tell you about the offer I’m currently considering to impregnate two otherwise intelligent women. Baby steps, friends. Baby steps.