MAD DOG: Growing Up Is Highly Overrated

As we grow older our tastes change. And well they should. After all, while it's healthy for a child to enjoy chewing Strawberry Snot Shots gum while sitting in a mud puddle and trading Dead Rock Star(tm) trading cards with their friends, these same activities take on a whole different feel when they're done at a PTA meeting, job evaluation session with the boss, or the adult table at Thanksgiving dinner. A shame, isn't it?

It's called maturing, and anyone over the age of twelve with the exception of Richard Simmons and the guys who created South Park has felt its grip. It comes in stages, or phases as parents like to call them. Psychiatrists prefer the term "crises", but that's because they're alarmist by nature, a trait which the rest of us call self-serving. It perpetuates business, keeping them stocked with plenty of Strawberry Snot Shots gum to chew while scribbling in their notebook trying to calculate exactly how much per second they're earning to hear that you think your dog peeing on your foot when you were six years old might be behind the failure of your three marriages. How ridiculous! Everyone knows those personality faults are cast in stone by the age of five.

There are four stages of maturing, and they're technically known as: Less Fun, Even Less Fun, Cranky, and Death. Like television programming, maturing is a degenerative process with no cure in sight. There are no telethons, actors wearing colored ribbons at the Academy Awards, or pieces of stale candy for sale at restaurant counters to help raise money and awareness for this problem. And it's a shame, since we all suffer from it.

Thus people go on, blindly continuing to mature, knowing full well what's in store for them at the end but not doing anything to stop it. It's like watching "Titanic" for the umpteenth time and still being surprised when the ship goes down. Yes, there's a fine line between innocent hope and masochism.

Most changes caused by maturing are benign, like what happens to our taste in food. When we're young very few of us like to eat Brussels sprouts, liver, and anything that doesn't come in a bag and include chocolate in the ingredients. Then we grow older and mature, discovering that Brussels sprouts and liver really aren't so bad after all. Well, as long as they come in a bag and include chocolate in the ingredients.

Another example: Many of us enjoyed getting drunk and throwing up during our college, or hazy years. If you don't remember this ever happening to you then you're definitely one of those people and you should listen up. Again we age, mature, and grow older and wiser. One day we wake up and, when we finally stop hacking out lungs out, realize that the two don't have to go hand-in-hand. Yes, there are ways to enjoy throwing up without having to get drunk first. Like eating chocolate covered liver, for one.

Our taste in clothing also changes, which is a good thing since after a certain age wearing diapers, Mary Janes with ankle socks, and cheerleader outfits is considered a fetish, not a fashion statement. As we mature we find that our clothes get brighter, contrasting patterns and vibrating color combinations start looking good, fit isn't important, and polyester is. Even off the golf course.

And yes, our choice of games changes radically. No self-respecting kid who isn't named Tiger and doesn't hope to one day tell the PGA that he deserves a cut of every dollar they make would be caught dead on a golf course. Well, not unless they're stealing golf balls, teaching the cat that sand traps are litter boxes, or filling in the holes so no one gets hurt by stepping in them and turning their ankle.

Kids like to play games such as musical chairs, kickball, hide and seek, and calling people on the phone to ask them if they have Prince Albert in a can. Adults prefer musical beds, kick the dog, hide the money the IRS seeks, and calling people on the phone to ask to be bailed out of the can.

Oddly, one thing that usually doesn't change as we age is our taste in music. For most people it gets stuck in high school. That's why your grandparents still listen to Benny Goodman, your parents love Elvis, you don't inhale to Led Zeppelin, and your kids will listen to Eminem for the rest of their life, even long after you're dead and they can no longer piss you off by blasting it so loud it rattles your lower bridge out.

That proves that old habits can be hard to break. Well, unless you have dementia, which is a technical term for the cusp between Cranky and Dead. Researchers in Italy have discovered that people with dementia make good pets. Just kidding. Actually what they found was that people with dementia can have sudden shifts in musical taste, like the classical music buff who started blasting CDs of an Italian pop band she used to hate.

They suspect this may be caused by lesions in the brain. These are little -- oh, I don't know what the hell they are, but I do know I don't want them inside my head. Well, not unless I get them on the right hemisphere of the brain which can cause gourmand syndrome. This is when people who never cared much for food suddenly spurn Strawberry Snot Shots gum and instead start craving gourmet cooking.

It's real. And it may help explain why Nathaniel Bar-Jonah of Montana suddenly took a liking to butchering children and turning them into spaghetti sauce and stew. On the other hand, maybe he was just maturing and took a newfound liking to liver. Hopefully not chocolate-covered. Yuck!

More Mad Dog can be found online at His novel, "Skywriting at Night" is available from Xlibris Corporation.


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