The WordPress Daily Prompt for September 2 asks, “In a reversal of ‘Big,’ the Tom Hanks classic from the 1980s, your adult self is suddenly locked in the body of a 12-year-old kid. How do you survive your first day back in school?”
(Like Hollywood movie makers of the late 1980s, the WordPress Daily Prompt prompters appear to be quite taken with the age-transfer/”Be careful what you wish for” theme.)
“Big” came out in the summer of 1988, and that year I was neither 12, Josh’s age in the movie, nor 30, the age of grown-up Josh (Tom Hanks). I was 19 going on 20, so the movie was really made for someone like me.
Like almost every American, I love that movie even though I have seen it only the one time, in a movie theater (the details are perhaps: Poughkeepsie Galleria, probably with a high school friend, $5 for a ticket). It has a 97% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Being almost exactly between Josh’s two ages means that I was adult sized but with no clue what being an adult meant or—and here is the kicker—what it was going to mean. I knew that 19-going-on-20 felt like being Tom Hanks in the movie and 12-pretending-to-be-30, but minus his good looks and charm.
I was still living at home but working for a living and a college student, single but not dating and falling into epic, private crushes; my frustration tolerance levels were at my all-time low, I think. I had a crush on Elizabeth Perkins after “Big,” but she never responded to my never moving to Hollywood.
The year that I was 12 was 1980, and it was around then that the attitude that disquieted me into my adult years began to develop; it was the year I discovered that wherever I was I did not want to be. Orville A. Todd Junior High School was the place, and to this day it is one of the school buildings I dream that I am wandering, as I wrote about recently. It haunts me, which is why it is the photo accompanying this. (What do you mean you can’t see the ghosts in the windows? They’re there.) And I think I just figured out why I have dreams in which I am ever searching for something and it is often in this building here: my locker was frequently (okay, always) on the opposite side of the building from classroom I was next due to visit. Todd Junior High was (is, I would surmise) one long, narrow hallway with a couple bends and staircases that bottleneck the traffic. It was a living nightmare and I dreamed logistical dreams about it even back then.
I had as much difficulty talking with 12-year-olds then as I do now (I am not yet a father); it is an age I do not get, and being 12 did not mean that I got it then, just because I was living it. To be clear, I was no help for myself in this matter at all. I was interested in the news, already had a subscription to Time magazine for most of 1980, started a student newspaper, and I remember conducting a poll of my fellow junior high students regarding the upcoming presidential election, Carter vs. Reagan. (I think J.R. Ewing, Reggie Jackson, or Mork won.) I was no help. I was the only correspondent for the publication; something I certainly relate to now.
So the idea of waking up tomorrow nearing the ripe old age of 12, with one hair growing super-long from my chin but the rest of my face peach-smooth (shaving meant lathering my entire face with my dad’s brush, even my forehead, just to get that one long whisker), with thick plastic-frame glasses that were always one growing pains stumble or bullying shove into my locker away from breaking apart on my nose and requiring “nerd” tape to hold them together, which would result in more bullying shoves into my locker, this does not appeal to me. At age 12, I knew that I was already counting down the days to turning 18 and grown-up-hood, much like Josh in the movie, but six years looked like an enormous trek.
I still suffer from not wanting to be wherever I am, though. I am 45 going on 46 now, but 1988 looks like a more plausible date for me to write or look at than 2014.