1 Almost 25-year-old

I AM AT THE THRESHOLD of 25, which I am told is the undisputed last great Party Age. Actually, I was never told that, although that inexplicably prolific virginal schlump who writes Maxim magazine (dead serious; there's no "staff," just one dude) may have planted the idea subliminally. Can you believe that guy is dictating popular heterosexual white male culture in 2001, or, better yet, that there is a popular heterosexual white male culture in 2001? But that's a story for another day.

Wait a sec. Now that I think of it (surprise, surprise), that's a perfect aside for this little Declaration of Incompetence. For much of the world, 25 is an unsparingly ugly car crash of passion, brains, fear, and inexperience. For me, it's all that as well as the experience of being hopelessly tangential and having an incomparably narrow and arrogant worldview that prompts dry heaves in anyone over 25.

I wonder if I'm kidding any more.

A good friend recently told me that her English professor referred to our generation (as if we had some unifying camaraderie other than an incurable obsession with the word "phat") as the "PlayStation Generation." It has something to do with the fact that we, the youthful foot soldiers a step away from the undisputed last great Party Age (an eye for an eye, empty rhetoric for empty rhetoric), are almost old enough to realize we're idiots for thinking we could ever "make a difference." Or something like that. I kind of stopped paying attention when it was clear that the theory had little to do with the actual, tangible PlayStation or the games contained therein. Despite not getting it, the assessment still hurt. I fantasize that words like "condescending," "naive," and "sellout" (and their many surrounding moons) will magically abandon my vocabulary on my next birthday. That's where I stand after almost 25 years. I have little idea what's happening to or around me, and it's hilarious.

It is, I fear, predictably contradictory that I find it hard to celebrate this and other seminal time-passing realizations. The nature of my Just-About-25-edness dictates that I hyperanalyze the minutiae of myself and my moons, but claim no joy in doing so, even in the context of an innocuous, qualitatively insightful anniversary issue. I falsely posit myself as a sniveling elitist, throw in a curveball of irony and charm when somebody calls me on it, then look weird for taking such a hard stance in the first place. My unconscious 25th birthday resolution: Set the ship on fire, lock myself in the brig, then claw at the doors screaming for mercy.

For the purpose of empathy, internal revolution, and sheer self-importance, this paragraph will be written in gleaming first person plural. The Big Events of our lives have made it no easier to ascertain sanity or decency. We have no felled leader like a Dr. King or JFK to say anything heartbreakingly poetic and true. Our lives are bookended by disgraces to our highest political office: Nixon dealt a fatal blow to the popular perception of the president; the great Bush conspiracy—not to mention Clinton's redefining of everything from "sexual relations" to "the"—pissed on the corpse. We collectively lost our innocence (god, what a priceless expression) the first time we laughed about the Challenger explosion. Our self-esteem is rooted in Gap ads, not the Great Christmas of '84 when He-Man was Jesus with pecs. Some of us made faggot jokes, felt terrible about them, then maybe grew up to become one. We escaped high school well before the epidemic of shoot-'em-ups, and damned if we don't deserve a few flesh wounds. As evidenced by the last few sentences, we generalize in a time when only specificity can lead to salvation.

None of this is any more disturbing than the tornado anybody else has weathered en route to maturity, but ours has a particularly creepy streak of malice.

Here is the tiny but gorgeous pot of gold: Barring untimely death, I'll spend my 25th in a city of staggering cultural depth. I never thought enlightenment on any level was a real possibility until I abandoned Ohio for this city. This is a great place for young people to revel in their insane zest for life, if nothing else. And take it from me, sometimes there really is nothing else.

Andrew Bonazelli is a contributing writer to Seattle Weekly.

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