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November 09, 2003

  • Thirty-Four
  • imageThis morning I dreamt that I had somehow found myself as a very junior employee at DC Comics and somehow I had managed to strike up a conversation with Dick Giordano, the Executive Editor during the 1980s. I had decided that I had to make the most of this opportunity. I was trying to pitch my abilities as a writer and specifically was trying to convince him to let me write Wonder Woman.

    “Wonder Woman is C.J. Cregg from The West Wing.” I explained enthusiastically. I’m not entirely sure if I articulated in what precise way Wonder Woman was like C.J. (even now that I’m awake, I can only postulate that both are strong women who are tall; perhaps I wanted Diana Prince to have a sharp wit when dealing with super villains and Steve Trevor) but I held to it tenaciously, while dismissing the deficiencies of the current creative team. “Let me write you a proposal on how I can do it.” I begged Mr. Giordano.

    “You should really show Alex and Bill,” demurred Mr. Giordano. I presume that they were the actual editors of Wonder Woman. I refused to let go, knowing that if Mr. Giordano saw my talent, he’d make sure I’d get a writing job. “Let me send it to them and cc you on the e-mail.” I suggested.

    My career as a potential writer of Wonder Woman in comics was interrupted by waking up and discovering that, in fact, Dick Giordano had left DC Comics in 1988 and I was not working in DC’s mailroom. In actual fact I was now 34 years old as of today.

    It was an interesting way to wake up on one’s birthday.

    One of the weirdest things that happened to me last year was watching The Guardian, and discovering that the central character, a deeply flawed young lawyer named Nick Fallin, was thirty-three, like me. I suddenly realized that I was now that age—the age that most central characters in TV shows are. When I was a kid, I used to watch Starsky and Hutch, Steve Austin (the Six Million Dollar Man), and Johnny Gage in Emergency! and idolize these people that were in their early thirties like my Dad. Now I’m old enough to be these guys.

    Except I’m not an ultra-hip detective, a paramedic or, sadly, a bionic super-spy.

    The hardest thing about finding myself entrenched in my thirties is sorting out the disconnection between what I perceived myself being at this age when I was younger, and what I actually am.

    When I was seven years old, in 1977, I remember calculating how old I would be in 2001 and realizing I would turn thirty-two that year. I pictured that birthday being a gathering not unlike my Dad’s birthday, surrounded by grown up versions of all my male friends and my wife and kids in a house in the suburbs not unlike the one I lived in. For some reason, I envisioned myself wearing a red v-neck sweater (like my Dad wore) on the occasion. I have no idea why.

    When I was a teenager, I remember learning of how my English teacher, who was then 33, had celebrated her 30th Birthday on a sabbatical in Katmandu. I wanted to be as super-sophisticated as she was, and maybe even be an award-winning journalist or even, if being the next Woodward and/or Bernstein didn’t work out, a comic book writer.

    And yet, here I am at 34—the same age as the lead characters in TV dramas and the target demographic of most commercials. I’m not super-sophisticated, I’m not a journalist, I’m not living in the burbs, and I have no wife or kids. I don’t even own a red v-neck sweater.

    It’s probably no surprise then that I woke up on my birthday dreaming of convincing Dick Giordano to let me write Wonder Woman.

    But it’s not like I’m disappointed by my life now, either. I have a good job, good talents and good friends and a pretty good life. It’s certainly a good deal different than how I envisioned it when I was younger; but then when I was younger I had no idea of the complexities of the journey of becoming an adult, and how fragile and insecure that passage actually is. I might have wound up being what I thought an adult was at 7 and 15; but it would have been a less exhilarating and less enriching process getting there.

    George Orwell wrote that everyone has the face they deserve by the age of 40. Perhaps part of getting that face is in the realization that in one’s third decade your life is different than the expectations you had for it when you were younger and realizing that’s not so bad after all.

    Thirty-Four is not such a bad age to be. There’s still plenty of time to convince DC Comics to let me write Wonder Woman.

    And I can still buy a red v-neck sweater anytime. Though I probably won’t.

    Posted by graeme | (0) Comments | Permalink

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