Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Adults at the Kids’ Table

I’ve always hated the idea of the “kids’ table” at family functions and holiday events. Since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be older than I am, and as a kid I always resented being placed at the kids’ table.

The kids’ table – it’s usually a shorter, smaller table (maybe a card table or a cheap folding table) that’s crudely dressed in a matching table cloth, surrounded by mismatched folding chairs, old kitchen chairs, and even sometimes a stool.

I remember sitting at kids’ tables as a kid, and it seems that I’d always be stuck sitting with other kids I wouldn’t know. It’s like the adults assumed that we’d have fun sitting together just because we’re kids. Instead, it was more like a dinner party for the clinically antisocial and neurotic. There was the kid with ADD who wanted attention and shoved vegetables up his nose, the clumsy kid who would continually fall out of his chair, the only other girl who was too shy to talk, and me. It was uncomfortable, to say the least.

As per usual for Christmas dinner in Boston, I sat at the kids’ table, only this time it started out with a joke that the kids’ table was the regular table and the other one was the “old persons table”. Most of us at the kids’ table were working professionals (a Project Manager, an Ironworker, an Army employee, and a CIA agent), and all of us had graduated high school (two cousins were still in college). We talked about what we’d been doing, new tattoos, roller derby (of course), and our plans to tour the Sam Adams brewery on Saturday. We weren’t kids, per se, but when you consider that the other table contained our parents, you could see that we definitely had the youth on our side.

After dinner we did the Yankee Swap (gift exchange) and then played Trivial Pursuit, Pop Culture Edition.

“Adults versus kids,” someone said (the CIA agent).

“Great idea,” I thought, but that brief thought was interrupted with one of the “adults” asking what team J and I would be on.

The “kids” said they sacrificed us, so the adults would have a chance, but I’m not so sure that’s how everyone saw it. For the first time in my life, I was older that I wanted to be.

I’d like to say that my youthful presence brought something to their team, but I consistently answered one wrong question after the other. Back at home this board-game flaw is easily remedied by turning the traditional Trivial Pursuit into Drinking Trivial Pursuit, where when you answer a question right, you drink so that it levels the playing field. Tonight I had to drink to cope with providing wrong answers.

Then, just at the end when both teams were tied and trying to win, the rest of the “adults” abandoned us. All game they sat there, answering or giving away answers to questions we had asked the other team, something the kids exploited all night, and now they were washing dishes, putting away food, and folding up the kids’ table. Actually quite relieved that no one was around to give the answer away, we read the kids a question for the win: “Pam Anderson changed the tattoo of her former husband’s name, Tommy, to what when they got divorced?”

Seriously? This question is for pie?! Fine.

“Mommy!” they all yelled. Fuck.

As we got ready to leave, we all exchanged the usual extended-family semi-uncomfortable kisses and hugs, between us and the parents anyhow. “Sure,” I thought, “I’m old enough to play with the adults, but I still sit at the kids’ table and I’m still not old enough to feel confident knowing which uncles I should make a move to hug.”

I’ve always hated the term “young adult” and now I think I hate it even more, but for different reasons. I always swore I’d grow old gracefully, and I still will, but now I have an idea why everyone has a problem with getting old.

Regardless of how I feel, I refuse to let go of the kids’ table – for the first time in my life, it’s the table I want to sit at, and you can bet two wooden stools and a folding metal chair that my adult ass will still be sitting there next Christmas.

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