On the anniversary of my high school graduation:
First of all, why are you still going by “Ronnie?” Have you noticed your friends are called Tom, Rob and Rod? They switched from Tommy, Robbie and Rodney in fourth grade. Unless you’re planning a career in professional baseball or bluegrass music, “Ronnie” has to go. If you still hold out a sliver of hope for pro sports or music, here’s a reality check: Your career Little League batting average was .137 and you sound like a constipated capybara when you sing. So it’s off to college you go, and you better be “Ron” when you get there.
Speaking of college, you were wise to avoid the disco era. Well done. I congratulate you on being one of only three people not to buy a Bee Gees album. Don’t worry. You’ll hear about punk and new wave very soon. Hang in there during this period of disco balls and oxymoronic soft rock. But the album Rock and Roll Over by Kiss will not go over well on your dorm floor, especially played on an eight track tape deck. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. You will encounter audiophiles for the first time who play their music on high-priced turntables and actual reel-to-reel tape decks.
Your first roommate will be heavy into Styx. Even typing that sentence so many years later leaves me a bit unsettled. Other than the single Lady, you are unfamiliar with the musical output of this band. Don’t worry. That will change. Your roommate loves progressive rock, and Styx helps him relax as he does his Trig homework. You will soon know every song on every Styx album. Sorry, but the seventh one will come out your freshman year. Also, your roommate will inform you that Carry On Oh Wayward Son was not the best song on the Kansas album Leftoverture. In fact, he will let you know that it was the worst song on the album. You will silently nod and take his word for it, because you don’t know any of the other songs on the Kansas album. You will decide fairly soon your freshman year that progressive rock is not your thing. (Except for a few weeks when you date that girl who loves Rush and is obsessed with their drummer. You’ll be a prog rock fan then. Oh, yes you will.) You will stow your opinion on Emerson Lake and Palmer and similar groups until you get a new roommate your sophomore year. By then, Darkness on the Edge of Town will be your antidote. (You will have a lot of roommates, by the way. You may want to do a little soul searching on that.)
About your chosen major of journalism, which you have had your heart set on for years. Consider this: Your parents have taught you to mind your own business, and prying into other people’s affairs is just plain rude. That pretty much defines the role of a reporter, doesn’t it? Good luck with that. And when that fledgling news operation CNN posts openings for news writers at your journalism school, maybe you shouldn’t voice the opinion that a national news outfit on cable will never succeed.
You’ll turn eighteen in a few days. In addition to all those cards from aunts and uncles, you’ll receive one from that girl you have a crush on. Inexplicably, you’ll think she’s sending you a card just to be nice. You’re too stupid to realize she’s sending you a very clear message, almost literally. This will not dawn on you for about twenty-five years. Such ignorance will be a recurring theme in your young life. You are a fool. Sorry to be so blunt, but the evidence is overwhelming from where I now sit.
I know you’re really excited to let your hair grow when you leave home, because your dad hates long hair and never allows it to cover your ears. You look forward to having cascading tresses, just like George Harrison. If you have to, you’ll stay on campus during holidays just so your dad won’t make you cut it. Here’s the thing. The preppy era — with short hair — is arriving. You just don’t know it yet because you live in Eagleville, Missouri where “prep” refers to the process of warming a Guernsey’s udders before morning milking. Because you’ll become a preppy, don’t spend any more money on bell bottoms and polyester print shirts, Ronnie. You’ll just throw them away when you discover overpriced Lacoste shirts. You’ll spend a lot of money just to have that little green alligator on your chest. And that denim jacket with the Woodstock patch on it? Unless you’re the bassist for The Grateful Dead, get rid of it.
You know how you say you won’t attend a high school reunion until you can come back in a Mercedes with a blonde on each arm? You will keep that promise, but maybe you should adjust the rules a bit. Maybe the car starts with an M? Instead of a Mercedes, perhaps you meant a Mazda. You’ll have one of those for awhile until someone rear ends it when your five-year-old daughter sits in the back seat. Don’t worry, she’ll be OK, but the car will be totaled. You’ll replace the Mazda with a Maxima. Maybe that’s the car you meant? You had a Malibu for awhile, too. In fact, you’ll own just about every M car but a Mercedes. And about those blondes. You’ll marry a Japanese-Filipino, and there’s not a lot of blonde hair in that gene pool. There’s still hope, though. At your fiftieth high school reunion, you could be escorted by two Norwegian home health aides named Stefan and Lars who keep your spare adult diapers for emergencies. Maybe one of them will drive a Mercedes.
Still, you’ll be lucky. You’ll fall in love a few times, and stay in love once. You won’t win any Father of the Year awards, but your kids will make you proud every day. You’ll never be rich or famous. But you won’t be infamous either, so there’s that. In all, life will turn out even better than you expected. I’m actually kind of excited for you.