I won a chili cook-off this weekend, and I'm OK with that.
Of course I'm OK with the winning part, as I don't think there exists a competition that someone wouldn't be happy to win. Plus, this particular cook-off benefited my friend's Relay for Life team, so in this case everyone was a winner (except for cancer). No, I make mention of being OK with it because as someone who has always considered himself a social, hard-partying man about town, I spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon not chasing skirts or partying with my bros, but schlepping a Crock-pot across town and eating chili. And, again, I'm OK with that. As we get older, our proclivities and prerogatives change, and I think that's normal.
(Before I go too far, my award-winning, chili "recipe" can be found in part here, and in full on my blog.)
To children, adults (particularly your parents) are truly odd creatures. Why do they insist upon listening to weird, old music? Through adolescence, their urge to wake up early on weekends is baffling. In college, we look at them as though they have food on their face when they don't want to spend every single day drunk and socializing, which is obviously the most fun thing anyone could ever do and, god, you guys are so lame that there's no way we're related. About a year ago, I wrote an article intended as advice to recent graduates that alluded to some of these changes. Luckman Nouiouat, apparently a student at UCSB, had this to say in the comments:
"yall r soft...university of california santa barbaa here, top 5 party skools, ill be taking hos to poundtown and shotgunning brews long after the pussy who wrote this article said I would."
Yeah. So point is, when you're young, it's kind of hard to imagine yourself doing anything different than you do now, even when you reach the ripe old age of 29.
Twenty-three-year-old Ian couldn't imagine himself making chili, let alone duct taping shut a Crock-pot and entering it into a contest. Grown Ian, on the other hand, had a wonderful afternoon tasting six or so delicious chilies and drinking gallons of cold beer. In fairness, part of that comes from having a spouse. You never realize how much time and energy you put into meeting women until you're no longer doing it. I'd sooner die than enter the singles rat race again, not least of all because when you're not chasing women around, you end up with a lot of free time to explore other interests (like chili). That's also, I realize, kind of a trite thing to say. "Y'know, you'd be a lot more interesting if you would just GET A WIFE already," as though matrimony were a concept I made up on my own and just happen to be magnanimous enough to share with the great unwashed. So, yeah, getting married will definitely change your priorities, but it's far from the only factor.
No, I think the single biggest contributor to our changing tastes as we age is confidence, or self-awareness. As we grow up, most of us begin to feel comfortable with whomever it is we've become. You realize, for instance, that going to loud, crowded nightclubs isn't something you actually enjoy, and you wonder why you ever found it fun in the first place. You, like your parents, will revert to listening to the music you enjoyed when you were younger, because that was the last time music actually "meant" something to you and, damn it, that's what you like. Maybe you'll turn down an invitation to check out a new band, either because you don't like that kind of music or because you want to get up early on Saturday to paint your living room. Either way, it doesn't matter because you've reached an age where you've stopped doing/not doing things for the approval of others.
Of course, the flip side of that is that we all probably know people who haven't quite gotten there, even though they are of an age in which they probably "should" have. Most of us have that friend who's 30 but insists on going to the same college bars and hitting on the same college girls, despite not having been in college since Dubya was in office. They're the same kinds of people who feel like they always have to have the "scoop" on something, be it music, restaurants or fashion. They cease to enjoy something as soon as it goes "mainstream," because their enjoyment of that thing had more to do with the image it projected to others than the thing itself. The result is a kind of extended adolescence that's equal parts baffling and sad.
Maybe, when people bemoan today's generation of perpetual "man-children," part of what they're really complaining about are men who haven't yet learned to be comfortable in their own skins. On the other hand, in a perverse sort of way, willingly admitting as a grown-up that you enjoy things typically reserved for teenagers is its own kind of self-assuredness. For the rest of us, growing older and watching our interests grow with us is all part of the journey. I'd say that our tastes change as we age, but it's really not even about that. It's more that as we age, we finally start to develop tastes, rather than having our interests dictated by friends, the media, etc.
All I need to do now is find a barbecue competition to enter, and then I'll be in full-blown dad mode.