There are a great many wonderful cognitive changes that one undergoes in their early thirties - which is not to say that people at other ages aren't also making internal discoveries and realizations, but it seems that a great deal of the sharp editorial and most eloquently shared bits of internal reflection come from my particular age group. And while I lament the increased recovery and healing times my body now requires, and the new, marginal reliability of my most often used ligaments and joints, I cannot imagine a better time, mentally. The tremendous perspective of having completed youth (although, as my friends will advise, not necessarily having shed all its behaviors and distractions), the ability to appreciate the responsibilities of adulthood, and the rich satisfaction of knowing you can enjoy them both simultaneously, make this the best time to BE.
There is one fear, however, that has continuously accompanied this maturation process, which looms largely over my otherwise fantastically satisfying life: that being that there are no more simple nights. I remember simple nights. I remember sitting outside with friends, talking about the biggest things in our world, which weren't big at all. I remember parking lot conversations, declarations and protestations. I remember when the only requirement for a great night was great company, and when great company seemed to abound. After years of education, a higher credit score and moving my overly observant behind to the materialism capital of the world, nights are no longer simple.
Going out means dinner meetings, networking, schmoozing, or even worse, trying to meet new friends in a city whose dominant personal paradigm for friendships is "what can you do for me?" The value of a venue for a night out is measured not in the company you personally kept there, but in how many other "important" people were there (and it's under this very value structure that Paris Hilton has been determined, defying all logic and proof to the contrary, to have value of some significance). Rather than whether you looked sharp and were comfortable, it's how much you spent, what designer dictated the way in which your jeans were "distressed", and the ever-popular, what kind of shoes you were wearing. What's more, two generations of hyper-inflated self-importance have driven the interpersonal drama levels so high that even a moderately sized group of friends seems to always be knee-deep in it.
But it's not just the locale. Getting older means evaluating relationships in a different light. As you become a more independent and complete person, you begin to evaluate that same framework in others. It's simply no longer adequate that your company be relatively attractive and smell like flowers - nor that they seem like "pretty cool guys." All of a sudden you're finding out what everyone does for a living, what part of town they live in, and what schools they've attended. Conversations aren't the sharing of ideas, they're thinly veiled posturing and name-dropping. Everyone's either "running game" or running their mouth. There are no amusing anecdotes, no witty banter, no good-natured ribbing. Insults are thrown about with the specific intent to be harmful, and harsh judgmental whispers are exchanged under the sounds of collectively-deemed-to-be-cool-but-no-one-really-knows-the-artists down-tempo ambient music.
I'm not a pessimist by nature - but I had become increasingly convinced that the confluence of events which could produce a simple night for me nowadays had become nearly impossible, and that I was best advised to try to find joy in the moderately amusing nights that my life currently supplies. Last night (hold your applause for timeliness until the end, please), I headed off to meet with a new friend, fully expecting - even anticipating - the sort of disappointing and vapid interaction that seems to be the hallmark of this place, and my current station in life. And lo and behold, I had my first "simple night" in as long as I can recall.
I walked comfortably close to her, my arm around her shoulder, and hers around my waist. The street was mostly quiet, devoid of much, if any, vehicle traffic. The night was warm, but just cool enough to make her proximity inviting, if not wholly necessary. The street and window lights were positively suburban, and smell of trees and grass was wistfully carried on the slightest of summer breezes; just enough to keep the air fresh. There was not an ounce, not a single ounce of pretense. The minutes passed, rife with subtlety, and literally, my only concern that this simply beautiful moment would have to, at some point, give way to the reality which, no doubt, lurked just beyond my sight. The music of footfalls and laughing sighs was trailing behind us - and it may very well have been, just for a second or two, the summer of 1992.
Previously, I had sat in a sparsely attended restaurant bar, shared a stiff drink and a few rounds of surprisingly personal and comfortable conversation. I believe I smiled for the balance of my time there. I forced down my own prejudices and pre-conceived notions, and suspended my disbelief long enough to truly find out about someone - and for the first time in recent memory, let them find out about me. We shared weaknesses and strengths, accomplishments and goals, fears and hopes. I had nearly forgotten how amazingly refreshing it is to see the light in someone else. It quite literally warmed me all over - well, in fairness, that could have been vodka-assisted.
Subsequently, I sat in a living room amongst new friends - and shared two hours of wonderfully amusing conversation with people whom I had met only a few hours earlier. We bantered back and forth, and rather than competing with our witticisms, allowed them to be complementary and built to a wildly amusing comic crescendo, which included at various points, a discussion of the relative wisdom of consuming the better part of a year-old container of "Spicy Barbeque Bar Snacks" after 1 AM. I drifted in and out of consciousness - brought on by little more than a satisfied exhaustion, and ultimately fell asleep fully-dressed beneath a well-worn and unbelievably soft "couch blanket".
With a little less than 4 hours of sleep, I finally trundled off this morning, back into my complicated world; my business-casual, documents and e-mail, conference call world. In reflection, I realized, even better than reliving a cherished experience from my past, that I had participated in my "simple night" as I always wished I could have, back when they were plentiful. I was carefree, but contemplative. I absorbed it without searching for meaning or consequence. I talked a little and listened a lot. I gave something and I got something. What's more, I learned yet another lesson about prejudgment, and ended up making the sort of friends I hope that I will keep for years to come. I watched others shine and enjoyed their glow without worrying how brightly my own light was burning, which was simultaneously both inspiring and relaxing.
Most importantly, as I hope to share with you, dear readers, I learned that you needn't fear that age, station or location will prevent you from having simple nights. They are only as extraordinary as you allow them to be, in that they are all around you for the taking. You merely need good company, a good place, time to spare, an eye for the everyday beauty that certainly surrounds you, and a mind to see the light in all people that shines behind their weaknesses and shortcomings. It's actually quite simple.
WORLD - CITY LIVING
Copyright © 2010 Glenn T
A Simple Night
Copyright © 2010 Glenn T
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