There’s something that’s been bothering me for a while, but I’ve been reluctant to bring it up until now. At first I wasn’t sure if it was a fluke — weird things happen in Manhattan, you know? A penguin once told me he’d tested positive for Hep B over a Tom Collins at Pravda. I don’t judge. But when I started seeing it in the outer boroughs — when it came to my favorite corner bar in my neighborhood — I knew I had to say something about these hip young adults who think it’s appropriate to bring their aging, enfeebled parents into bars with them.
Listen, I get it. Your father, who was once the strongest and the bravest man in the world, is slowly being replaced by an old man you can’t recognize, and the fact that he no longer heads for the driver’s seat automatically when you go out to dinner together floods your veins with ice and your eyes with tears. But that’s no excuse for taking up an ENTIRE BOOTH at Tricky Jimmy’s No. 41 just because you’re horrified at the idea of the young man you remember teaching you to ride a bicycle having trouble unfolding the napkin into his lap.
I get it: his hands are shaking, when they were once the sturdiest force on earth. But guess what, pal? Not all of us choose to have parents who grow old and die. And frankly, we don’t appreciate being forced to support your lifestyle choices. That’s not what I signed up for when I moved to New York City. When I’m out with my friends, I don’t want to have to watch my language because some random word might jolt your foggy-eyed mother back into the present for a few lucid, anguished moments. Just because we’re in the “greater walker zone” of Park Slope doesn’t mean your dad can park his tennis-ball-capped cane on my barstool.
And when I go to the bathroom after a few too many rum-and-Jäger martinis, the last thing I want to see is you leaning against the wall, sobbing so hard you can scarcely catch your breath as your mother whispers “I think I had an accident,” in the kind of cruel role reversal time forces on us all while you moan, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this, come back to us, Momma please.” Ex-cuse me, some of us were hoping to get lucky in the handicapped stall with the cute bartender with that lazy eye.
Also, it’s kind of unfair to the servers.
I get it! I realize that having parents slowly (God, so slowly) succumbing to the aging process doesn’t mean you love going out any less, and that just because your parents had to sell the house and it turned out your mom slipped in the shower last September and your dad couldn’t help her get up until you came over and they said “It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s nothing, don’t worry,” but you still did worry and now they live with you and it’s a burden and you know it and they know it only you won’t admit it, just smile tightly and cry every second you think you’re alone because you never expected that your parents would dwindle like this, you hoped they’d be vigorous and present right until the end, but they’re not, something’s taking them before they go, they’re dwindling in spirit and energy and hope and frame right in front of you, you don’t think you should have to stay home. But there’s a time and place in your life for finding your fun at bars. And that’s when you find an in-home nurse who can lift 200 pounds and knows how to deal with noncompliant patients.
I’m not a monster. I’ll give up my seat on the subway for your shuffling, diminished-capacity-ass parents. I’ll even tolerate waiting in line behind them at the Urgent Care Center because your dad’s liver medication is interfering with the stuff he’s been taking for his glaucoma that he can’t remember the name of (another MINUS in the parents category — their pills suck). But I have to draw the line: Not In My Bar.
Honestly, it kind of feels like you’re clinging to adulthood, and it’s not a good look.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.