Big was on this weekend. Tom Hanks. Great role and second only to Bachelor Party. Who didn't want to be big in sixth grade? But what no kid can understand in sixth grade is that becoming older, turning "big," actually means becoming an adult. If someone had told me in sixth grade that when I was "bigger" I would care about war in Iraq because Iraq is where we get oil from and a war there would mean higher gas prices and higher gas prices mean... I mean, it's exhausting just to write it.
If so much of who we are as adults is formed in our youth, which years are the most influential in determining just who the hell we are? It has to be when you depart for college and ends when you make your first mortgage payment. What's the difference between the opposite ends of that spectrum? Well let us use our good Russian friends as a guide to the subtle, yet important, difference. When you leave for college, you think, "How many shots of vodka would I need to make that fat chick look smaller?" When you write your first mortgage check, you think, "How many shots of vodka would I need to make that fat check look smaller?" One letter, I know, but one letter can make all the difference. Ask Hester Prynne.
College can also serve as an escape from problems. It can be friends or parents or your own self-confidence. That is unless you're so well-rounded and disciplined at the age of 18 that you know exactly what you want and what education you need to get there. Congratulations if I just described you and your silver spoon. Only now, 15 years after graduation, can I look back at the person I was then and say loudly and without doubt, "You schmuck! Do you have any idea what you're doing? Don't you know that this is all going to end? Get out of bed, put down the bong, go to class and do SOMETHING! You're blowing it, blowing it..." Regrets? Yeah, we've had a few...
At some point after becoming an adult, most people think about regret. Now, this so-called point of "becoming an adult" happens at different times for different people. My grandfather became an adult at the age of 18 when he went to war. He had no choice; become an adult or die trying, literally. We all know people who become adults when they get married for reasons that aren't entirely about love. My parents got married young. Neither of them was going to war (go ahead and insert your own off-the-cuff marital quip here). They were still children who in a short 20-minute ceremony at the Hotel Knickerbocker in downtown Chicago became adults. It was like a second Bar Mitzvah. "Mazel Tov! Today you're an adult. No go out there and pay your mortgage."
Do you think that is what Mr. Hanks meant by wanting to be bigger? That the 11-year-old boy who asks a gypsy arcade game to make him big was really asking for stress over the economy, money and his aging parents? "Please make me big so that I can spend every Friday chauffeuring my mother to the beauty shop and worrying about retirement." No, of course not, but Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin might have been on to something when they told their band of loyal Yippies not to trust anyone over 30. Personally, I like Homer Simpson's advice to "always remember to rebel against authority."
The question is this: If Hanks' character in Big struggled like most Americans are struggling today, rather than making toys and living in a cool loft and feeling up Elizabeth Perkins would he have regretted it? Would he have regretted being big? Do you?
There is a progression from packing the suitcase with the State U sweatshirt on the top to packing the diaper bag 10 years later with the anal thermometer on top. When you graduate high school, it has begun. Whether you're going to college or war, starting a job or a family, you will have decisions to make -- family, marriage, careers -- you name it. I guarantee you will (or already do) regret some. Hopefully, though, one thing is clear. Your wish has been granted and you're big now. But, unlike Mr. Hanks, there's no going back.
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