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Sign of the Times

Maybe I should stop riding the train. It seems that nearly everything I write here is either precipitated by or occurs on a train. Yesterday morning I was on the train with my beloved wife wearing my beloved aviators. As the ride into the city is about 25-30 minutes I had intended to either memorize lines for a little scene I have to do for an acting class, or just veg out on my iPod Touch. Before I got the chance the wife speaks:

"Just so you know, these are my plans for your son's birthday..."

His birthday is at the end of June and I was simply trying to make it to ten o'clock.

He's turning 13 and she wants to plan a blowout for him entering his teen years. Most days we want to blow him out because of his preteen-isms, but in any event, she's cooked up this elaborate plan that involves Six Flags, a gaggle of his friends and a party bus. She went on to state that she's priced the expenses at roughly $1,500. Upon hearing "fifteen hundred dollars" I left the conversation. My eyes, still shielded behind the gradient lenses of my shades, found a point over her right shoulder and fixed on that until she was finished talking.

In no way shape or form do I want to withhold the best from my son. She wants to do this because we don't have a yard to plan a backyard blowout that she believes would cost the same with a DJ, food and whatever pyrotechnics, laser light show and petting zoo she believes would cost $1,500. Mind you, $1,500 would be a nice contribution toward a house (with a yard). Many a married man has mentioned, if not warned of the woes of being bled dry by that woman you live with who's wearing half a car on her ring finger.

I was taken back to the first time my parents dropped $1,500 directly on me --- for my security deposit for my first New York apartment. There's no measure on the money my folks have spent on me over the years on food, clothing, education and the general maintenance of an only child. Besides not being able to remember 13, I can't even imagine myself ever even wanting something that would cost $200 for my birthday. The kid hasn't asked for this, but the expectation for something big is clearly there. My parents and all my friends' parents thought we were bad. At least there was some distinction between kids and adults. As mouthy as I was I knew I was a kid and I enjoyed being one. I didn't have what my parents had (cell phones, iPods, laptops, shoes and clothes that cost the same if not more than adult shoes and clothes) and I didn't mouth off without backing it up, meaning I had some brains behind it.

A little more than two years ago, I found out I was going to be a father of a baby girl and I haven't splurged on myself at all since then. The most self indulging I've done was purchase a nice suit and accessories for my wedding. I haven't gone on a honeymoon and I want a house with several rooms in it, one specifically for my daughter to destroy to her heart's content. I believe this is reasonable as my entire family benefits. And then I have my own wants, flat screen televisions, a car with only 2 doors and a few hundred horses under the hood (to all my environmentally responsible readers: forgive me), and several other things that are personal to me. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that and what's more I don't believe I deserve these things. At the end of the day I don't deserve anything. God is not a respecter of persons and neither is life, so I'm entitled to zilch. But I have earned the right to want whatever I want. If this is selfish, then so be it. A dose of selfishness every so often isn't criminal.

Now as a man, I understand the seething contempt I used to see in my father's eyes when my wants began to get outlandish (by 70's and 80's standards). I believe my son now sees it in me when he asks for everything that isn't nailed down or free and his room looks like it was raided by A.T.F. and D.E.A. agents everyday. Apparently they keep coming back because whatever it is they're looking for they can't find. And apparently, neither can he.

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