Dude No More

The Dude sitting in a bar.

Sir, I think you are next.

I was spacing out at a crowded deli counter the other day thinking about something really important that I have since forgotten. I held number 67 in my hand. Or maybe it was 34. Or maybe I forgot to take a number. I can’t really remember.

Behind the counter a harried server yelled repeatedly for the next customer. “Who’s next?” she barked with restrained contempt because some oblivious nitwit was holding up the long line of hungry, paying customers. I know this because a young wiry guy in an afghan sweater tapped me respectfully on the shoulder to remind me that it was my turn.

And he called me Sir.

Not that long ago the guy would have nudged me with his elbow and simply said one word: Dude.

In the guy code of inclusive brotherhood I would have known instantly that I was being casually summoned back to my surroundings by one of my own. Like it could happen to anybody.

And if I had failed to respond, he would have asked with concern: Dude?

And if I hadn’t taken a shower and smelled of work out clothes and old gym socks, he would have surreptitiously informed me that I had crossed the line by taking a step away and saying curtly: Dude.

And if I placed a lengthy order of specialty sandwiches for my whole family, which from experience generally holds up the line for about 20 minutes, he would have lightly registered my bad form with a quavering: Duuude.

But he didn’t, he just thoughtfully reminded me after I placed the lengthy order for my whole family that as a time saving convenience I could call ahead and order deli platters for pickup.

And in the process he again called me Sir.

Since when did I become a Sir? Since when did all of my man bros kick me out of the dude club and start treating me like I was an out-of-touch adult?

I am sure it probably occurred sometime when I became an out-of-touch adult, but that is entirely beside the point.

No, I am willing to bet the young man explained to his wife or his girl friend or whoever when he got home that “some old dude ordered like one hundred friggin’ free range ham sandwiches with asiago cheese and kale or some crap like that and that is why I forgot to get dressing for your salad”.

He could at least have had the decency to call me an old dude to my face instead of politely tapping me on the shoulder and then waiting considerately for me to order.

At least I would still be in the community of dudes.

Instead, I am now a Sir. Being called sir is like being older than an old dude. It’s like being a way older old dude without the benefit of being an old dude.

You know what I mean?

No one calls me Bro anymore either. Not my friends. Not my close acquaintances. Not even my sister who has a legitimate right to call me Bro. Instead, they call me by my name. My name! What am I, respectable?

John,” those close to me will say when appealing to my wiser, mature self, “you are being an idiot.”

Why can’t they accommodate me with a little more sympathy? Like, say: “Bro, you are being an idiot.”

Or even better: Dude. Really?

At least I would feel like I am not being singled out for behaving like an idiot. I mean, c’mon, there are other dudes out there who are idiots too.

Aren’t there?

And what about just playful camaraderie among my brothers and sisters at large?

When I was at the gym and lost my footing on the treadmill and jetted off the back at like 50 miles per hour smack dab into a stationary bike ridden by a ninety-year-old woman listening to an iPod, do you think anybody laughed out loud at my antics and proclaimed: Whoa, Dude!

No way. Instead they swarmed above me as if I were a 911 in progress and asked all concerned-like: Sir, are you all right?

Dudes! What’s wrong with you? I meant to do that!

I guess what bothers me is the expectation by those around me that I am somehow mature and responsible when I know that this expectation is entirely misplaced.

Still, I am also old enough to know how to behave maturely and responsibly. And for quite some time now this seems to have occupied most of my attention.

So I suppose that circumstance coupled with challenged hair follicles now officially qualifies me to be a Sir. At least in polite public.

That’s OK. My kids tell me, no one ever uses dude much anymore anyway. It’s old school they say.

The way totally out-of-touch dad dude abides.