When I was eighteen I had a summer job selling meat out of a truck in what used to be called south central Los Angeles. A lot of good stories came out of that job, but the coolest thing was that I was paid in cash, a few hundred dollars a week. Sadly, I blew a lot of that money, but twenty years later I can only remember one specific purchase: a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers. I paid a hundred and ten dollars cash, and I fell in love instantly. You couldn't go wrong with Wayfarers in the 80s; Tom Cruise was wearing them, Don Henley was singing about them -- they were everywhere.
Since that first pair of Ray-Bans, I've probably owned twenty or thirty pairs of sunglasses, including a handful of Wayfarers and a ridiculously overpriced pair of Oakleys. Every single pair of shades that I've owned since the children arrived, however, have had price tags of twenty dollars or less, a necessary change made in response to toddlers and their grabbing hands. I still needed sunglasses, but they needed to be disposable.
When Kate turned four earlier this summer, I found myself thinking of the future, thinking of a time when I could confidently buy expensive glasses and know that they'd last for more than a week. I found myself looking enviously at other people's high-end specs, and I wondered if the Sunglass Hut was still around. (It is!)
But then it happened. One day last week I was scouring the house for my glasses, a pair of $14.99 Wayfarer knock-offs. From somewhere down around my ankles Kate's voice spoke up. "Here they are, Daddy!" I was relieved for the smallest moment as Kate handed them to me, but then she reached up and handed me... the rest of them. They were in two pieces. Suddenly I realized that the Sunglass Hut was closed for me, at least for another year or two.
All of which got me thinking about some of the things that I never would have known I'd be doing without once I became a parent. And that, of course, got me thinking about Marty McFly's DeLorean and the flux capacitor. If I could hop into that DeLorean and travel back to a time before Alison, Henry, and Kate were born, I'd love to give my pre-parent self a few words of advice about things to do before becoming a parent. Here are thirteen suggestions:
- Buy expensive sunglasses.
- Take naps. Every single day. The time will come when you'll be willing to exchange your first-born child for a thirty-minute nap, so take advantage now.
- See every movie possible, even if you've never heard of it or aren't interested in it. If it's showing in a theater and it's not animated, you're there.
- Read the paper in bed on Sunday mornings.
- Soon enough a simple trip to the store will require more planning than an Everest expedition, so for now, whenever you leave the house, just grab your wallet and keys and go.
- When driving in your car, only play music with lots of profanity and play it as loud as your eardrums will allow.
- You don't know what a TiVo is, but one day you will bow down in respect of its technological supremacy. Anyway, when you get that TiVo, fill it up with anything that doesn't air on Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel.
- While we're on the subject, drop everything right now and get the folks at Disney on the horn. Pitch a story about a girl who has the talent to be a huge music star. But since she wants to go to school and have friends and lead a normal life, she creates an alter ego in order to pursue the music dream while her "real life" persona leads the normal life. I know it sounds ridiculous, but trust me here.
- Have cereal for dinner. In fact, if you're feeling lazy, just skip dinner altogether from time to time.
- Go out and buy a few bottles of wine and drink enough to show that you're serious. When you're hung over the next day, lie on the couch and watch VH1's "Best 100 Videos of the 80s" from beginning to end, just because you can.
- As of right now, whenever you see a child misbehaving in public, never, ever, say anything like, "How can those parents let their children behave like that?"
- When you're at a restaurant and the waiter offers to bring you a cup of coffee at the end of the meal, take him up on it. Relax with that cup of coffee as if it were the last cup of coffee in the world. Don't drink it right away, though. First, cradle it between your palms, allowing the heat of the cup to warm your hands. Lift the cup to your face and breath in the aroma until you have to blink away the tiny drops of moisture caught from the steam rising up through your eyelashes. When you're finally ready, bring the cup to your lips and drink in the most dignified manner imaginable. Savor every sip. The time will come when none of this will be possible. Your coffee will come from a drive-through window and you'll burn your lips, tongue, throat, and esophagus as you hurry to pour it into your mouth while driving your kids from school to swimming lessons in fifteen minutes.
- Do laundry once every three weeks.
- Don't worry too much about all this. Sure, there are some tradeoffs, but you're about to be happier than you've ever imagined.
And so what about you? There must be someone out there reading this. What kind of advice would you give to yourself if you could? While you're thinking, I'll leave you with three quick clips starring my old Wayfarers. Enjoy.
They don't make an appearance here, but they get a mention, and this one seems appropriate as the summer begins to wind down...
And really, how can any discussion about sunglasses, especially Wayfarers, be complete without this gem?