Last night, my boy turned into a man.
It's his 21st birthday.
To celebrate his rite of passage into manhood, Seth Anderson wanted to drink the best made Manhattan, with his dear old dad, in Manhattan, where he was born as a native New Yorker exactly two decades and one year ago.
So, just before the stroke of midnight, last night, Seth and I drove from Brooklyn across the Manhattan Bridge, with the top down of my 1995 BMW convertible, as we listened to his song of choice, "Manhattan," the Rodgers and Hart 1925 classic performed by the First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald. As one close friend said, Seth is either an old soul, a sentimental one, or both. Or as his Mom said it better, "Seth's been waiting to be 21 for years."
When we hit Manhattan's terra firma at Canal Street, Seth turned on his iTunes shuffle to let the fates decide what his new theme song would be, moving forward, as a newly minted man. "Love is the Drug," performed by Bryan Ferry, from the "The Great Gatsby" soundtrack began to play. Special songs always seem to come to us at just the perfect moment. "Love is the Drug" was extra-special because we were heading to one of the best '20s-inspired speakeasy bars anywhere, the Little Branch, in the West Village.
We parked the car, and walked up to Little Branch's unassuming, unmarked door, guarded by a doorman. The doorman nodded to Seth, as if he was a regular patron, and we went down a set of concrete steps and into a dark intimate bar that felt like we had been transported straight back to the Jazz Age, thanks to the Deco styled interior and live jazz quartet.
Seth bellied up to the bar. It was time for him to order his first cocktail.
Seth placed his order, two Manhattans, with Ted, the bartender who was dressed in a classic white shirt, vest, suspenders, and sleeve garters. We watched Ted pour jiggers of Old Overholt rye whiskey, vermouth and bitters into two shaker glasses, fill them with hand cracked ice, hand stir the drinks for five minutes, and then pour the velvety liquid through strainers into two cocktail glasses with a cherry resting comfortably at the bottom of each glass.
We wandered over to a banquette at the corner of the bar, sat down, and clinked glasses. I gave a little toast about how proud I was of my son, and then Seth took his first whiskey sip, as a man.
This pivotal moment, arguably, was never supposed to happen. To say that Seth's birth was complicated is an understatement. When he came into this world, at Columbia Presbyterian hospital back in 1993, he wasn't breathing. His heart wasn't beating. Seth was resuscitated by neonatologist Dr. Mary-Joan Marron, who brought him back to life, literally. Dr. Marron, at the time, told me that Seth was within 3-5 minutes of either permanent brain damage, permanent disability, or possible death.
Now, 21 years later, Seth is a going into his senior year at Cal Berkeley, majoring in computer science major. He's working this summer as a paid intern in the creative department of a digital agency in New York. He just got elected as president of Cal's advertising club, Imagical. There is not one single day that I don't give thanks to the heavens above for my incredible good fortune as Seth's father.
So, what's next? Well, for Seth, the real questions begin for him, as a man:
What does it mean, for him, to be a man in today's society?
What expectations does he have, for himself, as a man?
What expectations do others have for him, as a man, in romance, in the workplace, in family matters, and in society at large?
Then it dawned on me that these exact same questions apply to me at age 54 as much as it did when I turned 21. What is expected of me, in all these areas, as a middle aged man? Are these expectations different, or the same, as those imposed on my son?
Taking this thinking one step further, what then is expected for and from the generations of men that exist between Seth and I, in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, from those near my age in their 50s, and then those beyond me, in their 60s, 70s, and 80s?
It's my belief that many, if not most men really don't know what the answers are to these very important questions. Isn't it high time, for ourselves and everyone else, for us to know?
So let the journey begin, for not only my son Seth, but my other son Isaac, myself, and the millions upon millions of the men out there. I'm calling this journey "The Return to Man."
Tonight, Seth and I are celebrating his personal journey with his brother and mom at the 21 Club on his 21st birthday -- his first day, as a man.