Acting someone else's age

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

There's nothing like a weeklong visit from a 20-something to remind you you're a 30-something.

Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't re-live my 20s for anything. Too much drama. Plus, I feel like I'm starting to get a few things figured out. Maybe in another 35 years I'll really know something.

But there's a certain amount of wistfulness in knowing I can't go back. It came into focus last week when Gabe Hartwig, the Southeast Missourian's graphics and design editor, came here to spend a graduation vacation -- he just collected his bachelor's degree from Southeast Missouri State after grueling semesters of classes and full-time work.

He was ready to blow off some steam, Central Florida style. Beaches, amusement parks, shopping, nightclubs, the works. And I thought The Other Half and I could handle his plans if we tag teamed. After all, Gabe was a talented co-worker who became a good friend, and he deserved to celebrate.

Mr. Half took the first round -- a day of sitting in the sun, cracking open a beer or two, letting the waves lap over your feet. Easy enough.

I got Universal Studios in Orlando.

While Mr. Half sat on benches and sipped icy cold drinks, it was my job to get in line for every vomit-inducing contraption Gabe wanted to experience.

I spent the day asking costumed employees, "Um, do you think I'll fit on this OK??" Unfortunately, the answer was always yes.

Gabe couldn't get enough of the stomach-flipping drops, whiplash-causing jerks and headache-inducing spins. You know those candid pictures the park takes of you on rides and then tries to sell you? In each one, I looked like I wanted to die. Like I'm going to buy that.

The final straw? There was a street breakdancing show that required crowd participation. A dance-off between two 40-something guys in the audience was pretty entertaining until one blew out his knee and the paid dancers had to call an ambulance. Standing there, I couldn't help but wonder, "Is this me in 10 years? Clinging to the sorry dances of my era but with a body unable to do them??"

Mr. Half handled the souvenir shopping. It was back to me to pick out the nightclub -- so I consulted a cool friend who assured me this one had it all: good music, strong drinks, beautiful people, the works.

I blended in about like Jerry Falwell at a swingers convention. Dancing with Gabe, I caught a glimpse of my giant butt in a mirror. Was I really able to swing something that massive in time with the beat? I left him with another dance partner, slunk off the floor and settled into a dark corner with The Other Half to count the hours before we could leave without being labeled losers.

Frankly, I breathed a sigh of relief when we dropped Gabe off at the airport. The second he got out of the car, I switched the radio from "Hollaback Girl" by Gwen Stefani -- what the heck is she talking about -- to "Stomp" by the Brothers Johnson. Then I sat in front of my television in my house watching my DVR-ed "Law & Order," unapologetically on all counts.

Hey, at least I've figured out how to have fun.

Heidi Hall is a former managing editor for the Southeast Missourian. She lives in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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