Proctor : April 2019
59 PROCTOR | April 2019 Teen birthdays no laughing matter But I’ll be left in stitches By the time you read this, I will have been through two traumatic incidents. These would be guaranteed to make even great heroes from Australian history, such as Captain Cook, Dally Messenger and Skippy, turn pale. I will have undergone surgery to repair a couple of hernias, and attended an 18-year-old’s birthday party – and I am not sure which of these is worse. Actually, I am – it is the birthday party. Not, I should add, due to the horrendous music teenagers must (apparently by law, as there is no other explanation for it) listen to, and at volumes which cause ripples in the rings of Saturn. I do not fear this, because the birthday boy is the child of our good friends, and his mother has both excellent taste in music and a sound system so powerful even teenagers cannot get near it. Indeed, I fear the birthday party more than falling into the clutches of modern medicine, despite the fact that I am at the age where a skilled health care professional can take a minor bruise on my elbow and turn it into a three-week hospital stay dedicated to finding out which parts of my body react the worst to needles. I mean, sure, I can present at a hospital with an in-grown toenail and end up forking over the cost of a six-pack of F-35 fighter planes for the privilege of having tissue samples taken from every internal organ I possess, but the birthday party can do something much worse – make me feel old. This is because the fine young man who is turning 18 used to be – last month, if I recall correctly – a newborn who could fit on my forearm when I first met him, 12 hours after his birth, and incapable of communicating other than in grunts, burps and unintelligible mumbles. Next time I see him, he will be 18 years old and taller than me, although as a teenager his communication preferences will remain largely the same. To make matters worse, another of my friends has a daughter who is even older, although she at least had the decency not to invite us fogies to her 18th and so rub in the obvious message – my friends and I are old and decrepit dorks. Our response to that would of course be to protest vehemently that we are neither old nor decrepit, before trailing off because we have forgotten what we were saying, and possibly what day it is. In other words, despite the impression of youthful vigour, dynamic vibrancy and wolverine abs that one must gain from looking at my profile photo (and I assure you, my friends all look almost – although of course not quite – as amazingly youthful as me) I am getting older. Fortunately for fans of this column, the maturity that usually accompanies age has never once evidenced itself in my case, so we can safely assume that it has no intention of putting in an appearance. I digress, however, and return to the point at hand, which is that I am getting older and that now that I am attending the birthday parties of my friends’ adult children, this can no longer be denied. People of my vintage used to be able to avoid confronting our mortality because, when we were young, cameras were not ubiquitous (literally, ‘affordable’) so evidence of ageing was thin on the ground. Indeed, another group of friends has a photo of most of our group, taken – as near as I can figure it – just after photography had been invented. It allegedly shows us at the dawn of either our legal careers or time itself, meaning we are supposedly in our early 20s. When I look at it now, however, it seems to show a group of 12-year-olds who have snuck into a restaurant after raiding their parents’ wine cellars. So once upon a time I could avoid the passing of years by not looking at that photo and any like it, of which there are few. The lack of a photographic record of our collective misspent youths is partly related to the expense of photos back then, partly to the difficulty in storing them and mostly to the fact that the responsibility for taking and storing photos back then fell to any girlfriends in the group. Thus many good photos were taken, meticulously dated and described on the back, carefully stored, and then burnt as invocations to various goddesses to smite the male involved when the relationships ended; such were the primitive ways of my people (known to archaeologists as Davidus Bowiesapiens, or The Children of the ’80s). That is not an option for today’s youth, who can take and post upwards of a dozen selfies in the time it takes to exit a cab (sorry, Uber; today’s youth prefer a form of transport inspired by Nazi Germany, apparently). Also, should they consume one or two too many sherbets, and find themselves sitting naked atop the clock tower of City Hall and declaiming the virtues of going on the paleo diet,1 their friends will thoughtfully record the event and upload to video-sharing sites. So young people will not lack for a record of their own ageing. For my friends and me, however, even the absence of any real forensic record of the passage of the years can no longer protect us, due to the curse of all lawyers – mathematics. Simply put, Einstein’s theory of relativity states (somewhere near the back, I think) that if your friend’s kids are turning 18, and you are the same age as your friends, then you are relatively old. Come to think of it, having to have a hernia repaired isn’t exactly an indication of youthfulness either. I cannot recall my kids, even once, coming home from kindy and mentioning that little Alchemy Stevens (c’mon, you don’t hear of anyone calling their kids Johnny or Mary any more, do you?) was off until Easter due to a hernia. Even at uni, if you had said the words ‘inguinal hernia’ to one of us, we would have assumed it was the name of Iggy Pop’s new band. Thankfully I’m not one of those really old guys, you know the ones, who just go on and on about what a drag it is getting ol-uh oh... Suburban cowboy by Shane Budden © Shane Budden 2019. Shane Budden is a Queensland Law Society ethics solicitor. Notes 1 Nil, unless you count the public benefit of notifying the rest of the world that you are a gullible prat.