Well, my friend Daisy just told me, "Darren's just started dental school. He cycles off every morning with his back pack."
"You must be so proud," I said. "It's always a great feeling, isn't it, when the oldest one starts college?"
"Yeah, but he still makes me do his laundry."
We laughed our heads off, because Darren isn't her son, he's her forty-three year old husband. Although, truth be told, he does look like a student, a slobby student, with an appalling haircut. He's already started economizing, since the fees for dental school are $100,000, and now cuts his hair with hair clippers. The only comment I can make on his haircut is that doing it himself was a false economy.
How Darren decided to become a dentist goes something like this. He was a bio-chemist who liked sitting in a lab staring at test tubes all day, but was useless at writing grants or publishing papers. So, he was fired from his job, and then sat about at home, staring out of the window for a few months, then decided he wanted to be a doctor. So he applied to med school in Adelaide, since the couple had once lived in Australia and were keen to move back, and flew off to the Land of Kangaroos for an interview. In fact, he was down under for several weeks, having a wail of a time, hanging out in youth hostels and puffing on bongs. When he returned, many nights of the munchies had put ten pounds on him. He was also a couple of thousand dollars lighter in the pocket. I suppose all that would have been okay if he'd gotten into med school. Alas, he hadn't.
So then, when he got back and had started staring out of the window again, Daisy said, "Why don't you become a dentist? It's almost as good as a doctor, right?" And when she still wasn't getting too much response, Daisy took the bull by the horns and more or less wrote his application for a dental school here in Baltimore, which he eventually got into.
So yesterday, Daisy went to a party the University was holding for all the dental freshmen, where Darren was the oldest freshman by twenty-two years. She said there were lots of cute girls there and she told Darren, "If you have an affair with any of these girls, I will cut your nuts off with nail scissors." Meanwhile, she was drooling over all the hot young guys. "One of them was all over me, eager as a puppy," she gushed.
"Yes, those young uns can be awfully cute, can't they?" I said. Indeed, their attraction is in their naivety and optimism. Some of the younger generation actually believe they can change things, bless their cotton socks! Although I must say, I wasn't really like that at college. I went on a march once for 'Grants not Loans' and then loans came in and I thought, well, that wasn't exactly much of a success, was it? I was always pretty cynical about stuff like that. But a lot of young people are just so sweet. They're like, "I'm going to be a politician and stop injustice!" And you want to pat them on the head and make them a nice cup of cocoa and tuck them into bed and say, "There, there, of course you are. But now it's time for teddy bye-byes." Or, if they are attractive young men, I suppose you might want to tuck yourself into bed with them.
Almost every youthful idealist ends up a cynical, bitter person by forty, bogged down with debt, a job they can't stand and a pack of moaning, demanding kids. Or have I got it wrong? Maybe you're the exception? Do you remember what you thought you were going to achieve when you were young? And did you ever achieve it?