The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

birthdaycakeYou want to make a 3 1/2-year-old laugh? Tell them you’re turning 42.

My kids are convinced I’m screwing with them.

“How old do you think I am, guys?”

They’ll think for a minute. “4?”

They’ve heard of kids who are 6 or even — gasp — 7, but they can’t imagine an age as big as 42. It wasn’t until very recently that I could imagine turning 42 myself, like in the last few weeks. When I was a kid, I used to imagine myself in high school, or in college… and that was about it. In part, it’s because I was convinced back then that there would be a nuclear war that would, at best, leave me hairlessly wandering a scorched hellscape where age had no relevance. So at least we dodged that bullet.

But today’s the day. I’ve lived 42 years on this planet. Laugh if you must.

In my head, I haven’t changed much from when I was a teenager. I still have a lot of the same insecurities and fears. I still judge myself by the aspirations I had when I was 16, even though I’m nothing like the person I was then. I want to smack that kid, seriously.

And I don’t believe that bullshit that you’re as young as you feel. I’m 42. Check my driver’s license and you’ll see.

I’ve given up on being celebrated for my youth. I was never on anybody’s list of Top 20 Under 20 or Top 30 Under 30, and nobody does a list of the Top 43 Under 43, so screw it all to Hell.

I’m not trying to say that I feel bad about getting older. What do I look like? Some kind of asshole?

Whenever I actually feel bad about getting older, I try to remember two people. One is Future Jerry. Future Jerry is a guy who means a lot to me, and he hates when I call myself “old”, because Future Jerry is always going to be older than I am. “You think you’re old now?” he says to me. “Just wait!”

I’ve been as guilty of prematurely feeling old as everyone else. I think back now on how I felt when I turned 30, with a mixture of disbelief and dread. How could I ever have thought 30 was old? I was so lucky to be 30. Then I realize that someday, I’m going to feel that way about being 42. And by then, maybe we’ll have invented time travel, so I can actually travel back in time and smack myself. 42 is a whippersnapper by many people’s standards. Why wait until it’s gone to appreciate it? I’m 42. Yeehaw!

The other person I try to think of when I fear growing older is Heather O’Rourke. You may not remember her name, but she’s the little girl who said, “They’re heeeeeeeere!” in Poltergeist. Then in Poltergeist 2, she said, “They’re baaaaaaaack!” Then, while she was filming Poltergeist 3, she died.

Bummer, huh? Heather O’Rourke lived to be 12 years old. That’s it. That’s as far as she got, and you know what she says to me from inside my television whenever I complain about turning 42?

heatherorourke“Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck yoooooooooou!”

Heather O’Rourke never learned to drive. Never got to waste six years of her life watching Lost. And she never got to whine about turning 42. She has my permission to complain about her age.

Then, if I’m feeling really morbid, I think about the billions of others who never made it as far as she did and never got to meet Steven Spielberg either.

There are places on this planet where the average life expectancy is 12, and here in America, people blush and insist they’re still 29 because they’re embarrassed to say how old they really are. Embarrassed? You should be wearing a freaking badge. “I made it to 50!” You’d be the envy of everyone in Zambia.

Age is a gift. That’s why we don’t count backwards from death. Well, that and the fact that we don’t know when we’re going to die, and that’s another reason to appreciate the time we get. Every birthday I make it to signifies one more year I didn’t get run over by a truck or get cancer, that I wasn’t killed by some asshole’s homemade bomb or didn’t fall victim to depression, drugs or alcohol abuse. It’s one more year I got to play XBox, waste money on sneakers endorsed by professional skateboarders and watch my kids learn to sass me with increasing cleverness.

After they’re done laughing at me, my kids will ask, “Am I going to be 42 someday?”

“Yes,” I say, and then I’ll think to myself, “… if you’re lucky.”

42 years. Happy birthday to me.


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Shamelessly yours,


The Birthday Party Pact

spongebob bounce houseWhen Drew and I were deciding whether to have kids, #1 in the “CON” column was birthday parties.  We imagined the next two decades would be full of the overindulgent, insufferable celebrations of our kids’ friends (and friends’ kids) every damn milestone, every damn weekend.  Ultimately, building a family together, adding love to our home and all that other crap won out, so we went for it.

Now, every Saturday and Sunday, we pay the price.

Truth be told, it’s not that bad.  Yes, we have a lot of parties to go to, but it turns out I actually like my kids’ friends and my friends’ kids – for now, at least.

Still, there are a few things that bug me about these parties, and they’re always the parents’ fault.

I know, the only thing worse than going to a kids’ birthday party is throwing one for your own kid.  It costs a fortune, it takes weeks of planning and it’s over in 30 seconds.

But we’re in this together, parents.  Birthday parties are a necessary evil, so let’s try to make them as painless as possible.  I’d like to lay out a few ground rules that I think will make this better for everyone involved.  Well, for the grownups, at least.  That’s what matters, right?

I hereby present the Birthday Party Pact:

1. Grownups get to eat, too.  Seriously, guys.  I like pizza.  I like cake.  Am I just supposed to stand there like an idiot and watch my kids stuff their faces with your wonderful junk food, then pick at their leftovers as I take their Elmo plates to the trash?  I’m starving!  I know it costs more to feed the grownups, but tough.  How ’bout this: I’m a guest at Timmy’s party, too, so if you didn’t order enough Little Caesars for everyone, then I get to raid your refrigerator. I’m not too proud to do it!

2.  Let’s keep things quick.  Two hours is more than enough festivity to expect of your guests.  When you see grown-ups looking bored or starting to pack their diaper bags, it’s time to bust out the cake.  If I don’t see frosting in the first 90 minutes, I’m dying inside.  The cake is what we’re waiting for, so don’t hold out on us. It’s torture.  Every conversation Drew and I have after the one hour mark is about how much longer it’s going to be until the cake comes and whether we should try to sneak out before then.  If I have to leave before you’ve served me cake, then your party was too long, and I’m probably going to stop at Frosted Cupcakery on the way home to get my sugar fix.  Happy?

Pinata graveyard

Image by Horace S. Patoot via Flickr

3. Gift bags?  Pfft!  I’m always impressed at some of the things my kids receive in gift bags.  People really go overboard.  It’s very nice, but totally unnecessary.  You spent enough money feeding my kids and entertaining them for the last no-more-than-two hours.  They don’t need parting gifts.  I mean, it’s not their birthday.  Save your money on the gift bags and get a better cake instead.  Speaking of which, chocolate is the universal flavor.  It’s your kid’s birthday.  Let them live a little.

4. Thanks, but no thank yous.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love thank yous.  They’re the perfect way to make our kids feel guilty about getting so much stuff.  But until they’re old enough to write their own, I hope you don’t expect me to do it on their behalf.  I’m not going to play with the Crayola Magic Color Explosion Super Mega Wheel, so why should I be punished?  Don’t worry.  You’re off the hook, too.  When I get a card that some sad grown-up felt compelled to write to me in their kid’s “voice”, I just laugh at them.  “I really love the thoughtful whatever-piece-of-crap you picked up at Target on the way to the party.  I play with it all the time.”  Really, it was nothing.  Trust me.

5.  Let your kid have some gifts.  When I’m throwing myself a party, I add a polite “no gifts” to the invitation.  I’m a grown man.  Taking gifts from friends feels tacky.  But kids are different.  Kids love getting stuff.  I know they don’t need it.  I know you’ve personally contributed about ten tons of perfectly good toys to the local dump because you simply didn’t have enough space for them all.  But let your kids walk into their birthday party and see a mountain of boxes in Dora The Explorer wrapping paper, all for them.  It’s priceless.  Personally, I was dreading the toy tsunami that would follow my kids’ party, but I have to say, our friends got them the nicest, most thoughtful gifts.  Educational toys, toys their own kids loved, toys I’d never heard of but that my kids went crazy for.  Just take them.  And if you don’t need something, regift it.  I’ll understand.

6.  Beer.  I’m always stunned when I go to a kid’s birthday party and there are two coolers.  One inevitably has Capri Sun or Juicy Juice or something, the other Michelob.  Seriously?  It’s 10am!  And we’re at Harriet the Hen’s Happy Shack.  But sure enough, I’ll see plenty of moms and dads pounding brewskies while their kids beat the juice out of a piñata.  All right, if that’s what you want, fine.  I’ll supply beer at my kids’ parties, too, and I’ll try my hardest not to judge you for drinking it.  Now how ’bout a Pepsi for those of us who want something in between a Cherry Cooler and a Mike’s Hard Lemonade?  Thanks.

7. Face Paint?  Color me pissed!  Am I the only one who thinks kids look creeeeeepy with face paint?  Or that it’s a secret plot by the tattoo industry to condition our children extra young?  (Wouldn’t they just love it if they created a whole generation of Mike Tysons willing to ink their faces?) I know I’m not the only one who hates cleaning that crap off my kids’ cheeks when we get home (or fighting with them to let me do it).  (Full disclosure – my kids haven’t actually had their faces painted yet, but I know someday it’s a fight I’ll lose.)  I think the only reason people hire face painters for kids’ parties is that kids demand it.  And why do they demand it?  Because of that one schmuck parent who thought it was cute back when the whole craze started.  Well, I say stop the madness.  If we all resist the face paint, it’ll go away forever!

There you go.  A few simple guidelines that will make the birthday party circuit more bearable for all of us.  And if you have something you want to add to the Birthday Party Pact, leave me a comment below.  Let’s finalize this thing and distribute it, OK?

Oh, and happy birthday, kid.  Wow, you’re getting so big.


Yesterday was the kids’ 2nd birthday party.  We wanted it to be very different from their 1st birthday party, which we held at Pan Pacific Park and which was attended by over 100 guests.  It was a lot of fun, but a lot of stress – and a lot of money.

This year, we wanted to focus on the kids.  One of their favorite places is MyGym, so we held the big bash there. We invited their friends from MyGym, their friends from twins class, one friend from music class, plus all our friends with young kids.  There ended up being close to 100 guests again, but in a much tighter space.

We requested that people not bring gifts, but we still got more gifts than we know what to do with.  We carted them out to our minivan in garbage bags and barely had enough space for all of them.

Bennett checks out the loot.

Drew and I sat in our building’s hallway last night opening them one by one, while the kids rode their bikes back and forth.  The gifts were amazing – thoughtful, creative, overly generous.  Nobody bought the same thing as anybody else and nobody bought anything we already had.  It made me realize how many great people we’ve met through our kids in the last year.

We used to be terrified of what LA parents would be like – and even more terrified that we’d become like them.  But somehow, we’ve found a safe place for our kids in this bizarre, sometimes terrifying city.

Year 2 has been even better than year 1, and I can’t wait to see what the next year holds.