My Father's Suit
It was a gray size 40 that draped down below my knees. In fact, there was no need for pants. What should have been a tight-fitting, European designer suit looked more like a parka on my six-year-old frame.
It became our routine. My father would return home at night, hand me his suit jacket and briefcase, and I would walk around the house pretending I was on my way to work. Adulthood was a distant dream, nothing more than a momentary figment of my juvenile imagination.
As time passed, I was given a suit of my own. My first one was a double-breasted, blue pinstripe ensemble that I wore for my bar mitzvah. After a generous application of hair product, I resembled a 13-year old mobster. Seven years later, corporate recruiting forced me to purchase another suit. This time it was unnecessary, if not inappropriate, to buy a jacket that could safely conceal a Beretta. I settled on a beautiful charcoal brown single-breasted piece that would, supposedly, guide me into the real world.
After a combined six months of employment in the business world last year, I still cannot take myself seriously wearing a suit. Each morning I would ride the subway to work with a strange feeling of paranoia. I feared those sitting around me would see me for what I was -- a kid hiding beneath adult dress clothes. Every time I put on my suit I felt as though I was, in reality, kidding.
As I stand with the Class of 2008 at the precipice of the rest of my life, one question has beset my core: At what point in my existence will I finally feel like an adult? After 22 years of youth, I have come to terms with the inevitability of growing up. Yet while I may have to start shaving every day come August, my soul is still far short of maturity.
Is there a defining event after which we say, "Alright, we're old"? Or is it less epiphanic and more of a gradual realization that our days of innocence are behind us? Undoubtedly, the moment of recognition differs per individual. For this writer, however, such a juncture remains a plaguing and distant mystery.
It seems most likely that adulthood will arrive in the form of a certain life milestone. But which milestone will that be?
Will it be our first day of work after graduation? I have my doubts. I fear that my first year away from Hanover will be characterized by a constant longing to return to the carefree days of college. The emotional separation required for a genuine transformation will most likely elude me during those initial months in the "real world."
What about when the first of our friends ties the knot? Or will we just ridicule our buddy for taking the plunge too soon? My money is on the latter. Besides, the wedding party will not be conducive to the refined behavior befitting an adult.
Perhaps, then, our own weddings will trigger the psychological conversion to adulthood. Marriage is, after all, one of life's greatest commitments. If you are ready for "till death do us part," one would assume you are prepared for all of life's responsibilities. Yet a symbolic progression to familial life does not necessarily mean you are really there. Young, blissful couples can be just as naive about what lies ahead as a recent college graduate.
Our adolescence has been defined by the freedom to be self-centered. Parenthood will signify an end to self-absorption. Our primary obligation will no longer be to ourselves. How can one still feel like a child if they are a parent? When one is responsible for another living being they have, once and for all, crossed the threshold into adulthood, right?
Not so fast. While I hope that by the time I am a parent I will be primed to bear all of life's burdens, I imagine it will still be difficult to envision myself as I perceived my own father while growing up. We never want to see ourselves as the old-fashioned beings our parents represented to us.
But if the ultimate moment of maturity doesn't happen at parenthood, when will it? When our kids go to college? When we retire? When our children have children? Is a self-recognition of adulthood even possible?
As I slowly prepare myself for graduation, I can't help but wonder when it will no longer feel as though I'm wearing my father's suit.