For most people, realizing that you’re no longer a kid is a gradual process. You wake up one day and realize that your back and knees hurt more than they used to. You get down to play with your children, and you have a little bit of trouble getting back up. Your wife says something like, “Do you know that your eyebrows and hairline are getting ready to connect?” These things are all very small by themselves and not worth worrying about. When you add them up though, you come to an awful realization: you’re not as young as you used to be.
When it comes to getting old, that process is pretty much the same for me. I’m now into my 30s, and I’ve been to the hospital a few times for Vicodin and muscle relaxers after my back locked up. I also have fairly persistent knee pain (to be fair, I had my ACL reconstructed when I was 19 years old). My hair isn’t gray yet, but you can tell where the first gray hairs are going to appear (I’m going back and forth between naming my first gray hair after my son or after the Navy). The smile lines around my eyes don’t necessarily go away when I stop smiling anymore. These all point to the fact that I’m gradually getting older, but that’s not necessarily what I’m talking about with this post.
I’m talking about the time when I realized that I was no longer a kid, that I was, in fact, an adult. I’m sure this is also a gradual realization for most people, but for me, it happened in a single moment.
I was a 19 year old enlisted sailor stationed in Charleston, SC. I was sitting around and “reading” a Playboy like 19 year old sailors tend to do from time to time. I was looking at the centerfold’s information, and a startling piece of data jumped out at me. I looked at it for a moment trying to comprehend what I was seeing. There’s no way that it could be true. It just wasn’t possible. This piece of information wasn’t the girl’s turn-ons or life aspirations. It was her birth date. She was younger than me.
How on earth could that be? Playboy centerfolds are from another planet. I wouldn’t necessarily call them role models, but they were supposed to be untouchable and out of reach. They’re definitely not supposed to be younger than me. That took away so much mystique. It blew my mind, and I’ve never been able to think of myself as a “kid” again. I wouldn’t call myself “mature” by any means, but definitely not a kid.
I don’t remember what issue it was or who the centerfold happened to be. I could probably do some research (a.k.a. dig through the box in the back of my closet), but I’ll save that for another day. I will never, however, forget the rest of that moment. It was the day that I stopped being a kid.