Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Farewell, Youth. I Hardly Knew Ye.

Saturday I attended the wedding reception of my last remaining single friend.

It came as a surprise. I am ashamed to say that even though this person, Jason's college roommate his senior year, was just a few years ago one of our closest friends, we had lost touch with him. Chalk it up to being busy working parents. We didn't even know he was seeing someone until the reception invitation came in the mail just before we left for vacation.

Seeing him, and sitting at a table with a couple of other Centre alumni, was like old times. Except that it wasn't. On the one hand, none of us has changed very much in appearance and we all still look pretty young and as cute as any of us ever did. On the other hand, everything has changed.

At one point, during a lull in conversation, Jason looked at our glasses.

"When did we all start drinking wine?"

This same crew a decade ago would have been taking advantage of the open bar by downing Bud Lights or shots of Goldschlager or Jager bombs. Now it's Pinot Noir and Riesling.

One of the first things we did after perusing the wine list was to whip out pictures of our kids. Our conversation was dominated by them; who they look like, how they do in school, what sports and extracurriculars they enjoy and show promise in. After we had exhausted the topic of our kids, we moved on to the exciting worlds of careers and saving for retirement and home improvement.

As we watched the bride and groom dance, and moved out onto the dance floor ourselves, I realized this was a kind of goodbye. The group of people moving around us on the dance floor were key players in some of my most reckless moments of youth. But now we're so settled. The last bachelor is married off and soon will start a family of his own. We drink decent wines in moderation and carry around pictures of our kids and talk about health care and the stock market. We look like slightly better-dressed versions of our old selves, with only a few more lines around the eyes and a couple more pounds around our middles betraying how much time has passed since college. But dig a little deeper, and everything has changed. Our priorities, our tastes, even our capacity for staying out late (we all started yawning and saying our goodbyes at 11:30.) We parted with promises that those of us who live in the area would stay in touch, but the reality is that staying in touch will probably mean saying "hey" on Facebook. Not that I don't still love these people. It's just that adult life gets in the way.

Bittersweet: it's not just for chocolate. It's how you feel when you realize you're truly a grownup.

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