Wherefore Art Thou, Youth?

Sandra Beasley is working on "Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales From an Allergic Life," forthcoming from Crown.
Sandra Beasley is working on "Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales From an Allergic Life," forthcoming from Crown. (Courtesy Author)
By Sandra Beasley
Sunday, September 20, 2009

Some days, nearing age 30, I think, This must be adulthood. I worry about health insurance. I own guest towels. I play "Auntie" to five babies.

Yet on the night of my housewarming -- to celebrate the first rental to feel like a real home -- I was a kid wobbling in my mother's high heels. Determined to take an evolutionary step beyond beer pong, I'd declared the party's theme would be pie. Earlier that day I'd dutifully put Marie Callender's frozen handiwork into the oven. Perfect, I'd thought, lining up four pies on the counter.

But my oldest friends, who used to polish off scores of pizza slices without a second thought, now counted calories. We had made progress only on the pecan. The razzleberry's crust, which had split to reveal a volcanic bubble of juice, was untouched. I plated some Dutch apple crumble.

"Anybody?" I offered. "C'mon, anybody? There's Key lime, too."

We were all exhausted, preoccupied with work. The conversation meandered from billable hours to the Fairfax County school system. I'd been so worried about hosting a grown-up party, I hadn't thought to worry about hosting a boring grown-up party.

"Hey, Sandra," Dave said. "Come out on the balcony and hear this."

A melody rose above Dupont Circle's Friday-night revelry: "See-ya-HAHM-ba koo-ka nyeh-ne kwen-kos . . ." I grinned, recognizing the lyrics to "Siyahamba." Most of the girls at the party had met in high school choir; we'd bonded over heartbreaks caused by earnest tenors and curly-haired basses. I scanned the street for the culprits.

"Hey! Hey there!" I shouted. They looked up: college Romeos in shaggy haircuts. What makes a capella boys so crush-worthy? Maybe that there's no dub, no remix, just the vulnerability of naked voices. I felt like Juliet, a teenager leaning from her balcony. "Want to come up and sing?"

"Uh," Dave said, "What are you doing?"

"What's in it for us?" one of the singers asked.

My Capulet name. "Beer," I called down.

They conferenced for a few seconds. "Okay."

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