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Confessions of a dirty old man

OPINION

  • Vanessa Hudgens stars in "Spring Breakers," which hits theaters March 22.
Vanessa Hudgens stars in "Spring Breakers," which hits theaters… (Getty Images )
February 24, 2013|By Ernest Wilkins, @ernestwilkins | RedEye

When did you first realize you were getting old?

Was it when you couldn't compete as hard as you used to in hoops? Or when you went out for a night of drinking and ended up so hung over you had to call in to work with a "stomach flu" two days later?

For me, the moment of realization occurred last week, and I have Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez and a red-band movie trailer to thank for it.

In their new film "Spring Breakers," which drops March 22, both follow the trail blazed by former child stars Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus and Christina Aguilera by shedding their goody-good images and vamping in as little clothing as possible. Hell, Dakota Fanning, whom I still thought was 9 years old until yesterday, recently revealed she'll be doing her first nude scene in her next movie, "Very Good Girls."

I know, I know: None of this behavior is new by any means. I grew up with Britney Spears in pigtails and Catholic schoolgirl outfits and Jessica Biel getting booted off of "7th Heaven" for that weird kinda naked photo shoot she did where she sat in a sink. This whole exercise has been done before.

However, for the first time, I'm older than the child stars "breaking out" of their traditional Disney Channel shackles to expose skin and dance with boa constrictors at the MTV Video Music Awards.

If we're being honest, it's a terrible feeling. The other day, I found myself thinking, "Boy, that girl sure is smoking hot considering she was born after the Bulls' first three-peat."

Am I a creep? Should I exile myself to some kind of island? What a weird spot to be in.

See, I'm still young enough to date a 21-year-old without it being super-weird, but I now worry about being the old dude in the club. I'm not trying to be the guy in the Kangol hat and leather vest trying to buy some DePaul sophomore a vodka soda.

I asked a friend who recently turned 30 about the feeling. Does it get less weird? He responded that it's the exact opposite. After a while, he said, you start looking at hot young things as just ... young things. It's the first stop in the death march of time that ends with you being a father of four in your garage pretending to fix something but actually drinking like 11 beers because the stress has just worn you down. I'm scared as hell, you guys!

Maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way. Maybe it won't be so bad? If I just embrace that yes, there were people born after 1990 and yes, some of them can legally drink now, I'll find peace.

The best idea might be to embrace what smoldering ashes of my youth I have left so I don't end up having a midlife crisis. Can you imagine? I'd be 40 dating a girl who was 22 ... which means she would have been born in 2005. Oh, God.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go throw up into my hand and then cry myself to sleep while listening to the "High School Musical" soundtrack.

Ernest Wilkins is Chicago's wingman. erwilkins@tribune.com

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