Suburban life is tough these days. Although we were hooligans growing up, the only things that could get us in trouble hadn't changed much since our parents were young. So the run-ins with booze, sex, dangerous/moronic driving, gateway drugs, mild vandalism (no mailbox within a ten-mile radius of our neighborhood was safe) and sex were known entities for Mom and Dad. Mothers tended to freak out and threaten/bribe us not to smell alcohol, look at girls, touch cigarettes or drive in Steve McAlpine's boatish, yellow Mercury station wagon with the V8 (also known as the "Banana"). Fathers, on the other hand, were more likely to realize what was really going on, and take the opportunity to relive the old days vicariously through their sons -- or plot elaborate murder-suicides in the defense of their daughters.
Today, parents have a lot more to worry about. Kids look up to people with the social mores and ambition of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Tom DeLay. Hemlines end just south of South America. I regularly spy teenagers in Victoria's Secret buying stuff that would strike me instantly blind if I ever saw it in my daughter's dresser drawer -- even though I know my wife will take her there when prom time comes and, by federal law, I will have to let them go. Overall, fashion has dipped to such a low point that the current trend could be called something like "Olde Time Colfax." Young people drive around in Hummers and sports cars without knowing how dangerous they are, or when it's okay to speed through a yellow light. They listen to music that, with the exception of the White Stripes, sounds like cats having their claws pulled out with pliers (not that this would be a bad thing); meanwhile, we parents are more concerned with whether the Who will come to Denver on their current tour so that our kids can get an idea of what real (or good) music is truly like. Instead of drinking in abandoned lots at parties that inevitably got busted by the cops so that everyone made it home safely, kids now party at raves, where they take who-knows-what, wash it down with bad beer and end up having group sex.
True, we would have loved being exposed to many of these things when we were teenagers -- but as parents (responsible or not), we need solace from the storm. This is why God dropped an Olive Garden Italian Restaurant at 2390 South Havana Street, near the Latin Representative's home. At this and every other one of the bazillion other Olive Gardens, we can eat a mediocre Italian-American meal (the food is not what my Sicilian ex-grandmother-in-law would technically call "food"), knock back ten or so Morettis and/or some house wine, and forget that our kids are eventually going to drive us insane and then put us in a home. If we last that long: Our bartenderess got a murderous look in her eyes when the Latin Representative ordered a more palatable wine. She slammed down the glass in front of him, sloshing wine everywhere and offered only a halfhearted apology that seemed to suggest she was simply sorry that she hadn't smashed the glass against the side of his head. She probably has a teenager, though, so we forgave her.
Olive Garden Italian Restaurant
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But all ended well with bellies full of breadsticks, salad and Alfredo sauce denser than enriched uranium. The other diners who appeared to be our age looked perfectly content as well. We'd all managed to go out and behave like grownups -- even though the majority of us still secretly act out like Frank the Tank from Old School and drink beer from bongs and streak and wife-swap as often as possible. But as long as we frequent places like the Olive Garden, we'll hold the moral high ground with our kids, acting like boring old farts who never kissed before college. And if they ever do realize that we did the same type of crap at their age, the prospect of winding up like us now, raving about how nice it was to eat at Olive Garden, may just scare them straight.