Excerpt from Man and Boy by Tony Parsons, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Man and Boy

by Tony Parsons

Man and Boy
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2001, 340 pages
    May 2002, 340 pages

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Print Excerpt

Chapter One

Some situations to avoid when preparing for your all-important, finally-I-am-fully-grown thirtieth birthday.

Having a one night stand with a colleague from work.
The rash purchase of luxury items you can’t afford.
Being left by your wife.
Losing your job.
Suddenly becoming a single parent.
If you are coming up to thirty, whatever you do, don’t do any of that.
It will fuck up your whole day.

Thirty should be when you think—these are my golden years, these are my salad days, the best is yet to come and all that old crap.

You are still young enough to stay up all night, but you are old enough to have a credit card. All the uncertainties and poverty of your teens and twenties are finally over—and good riddance to the lot of them—but the sap is still rising.

Thirty should be a good birthday. One of the best.

But how to celebrate reaching the big three-oh? With a collection of laughing single friends in some intimate bar or restaurant? Or surrounded by a loving wife and adoring small children in the bosom of the family home? There has to be a good way of turning thirty. Perhaps they are all good ways.

All my images of this particular birthday seemed derived from some glossy American sitcom. When I thought of turning thirty, I thought of attractive thirty-nothing marrieds fooling around like teens in heat while in the background a gurgling baby crawls across some polished parquet floor, or I saw a circle of good-looking, wisecracking friends drinking latte and showing off their impressive knitwear while wryly bemoaning the dating game. That was my problem. When I thought of turning thirty, I thought of somebody else’s life.

But that’s what thirty should be—grown-up without being disappointed, settled without being complacent, worldly wise but not so worldly wise that you feel like chucking yourself under a train. The time of your life.

By thirty you have finally realized that you are not going to live forever, of course. But surely that should only make the laughing, latte-drinking present taste even sweeter? You shouldn’t let your inevitable death put a damper on things. Don’t let the long, slow slide to the grave get in the way of a good time.

Whether you are enjoying the last few years of unmarried freedom or you have recently moved on to a more adult, more committed way of life with someone you love, it's difficult to imagine a truly awful way of turning thirty.

But I managed to find one somehow.

The car smelled like somebody else’s life. Like freedom.

It was parked right in the window of the showroom, a wedge-shaped sports car that, even with its top off, looked as sleek and compact as a muscle.

Naturally it was red—a corny, testosterone-stuffed red. When I was a little bit younger, such blatant macho corn would have made me sneer, or snigger, or puke, or all of the above.

But now I found that it didn’t bother me at all. A bit of testosterone-stuffed corn seemed to be just what I was looking for at this stage of my life.

I’m not really the kind of man who knows what cars are called, but I had made it my business—furtively lingering over the ads in glossy magazines—to find out the handle of this particular hot little number. Yes, it’s true. Our eyes had met before.

But its name didn’t really matter. I just loved the way it looked. And that smell. Above all, that smell. That anything-can-happen smell. What was it about that smell?

Among the perfume of leather, rubber and all those yards of freshly sprayed steel, you could smell a heartbreaking newness, a newness so shocking that it almost overwhelmed me. This newness intimated another world that was limitless and free, an open road leading to all the unruined days of the future. Somewhere they had never heard of traffic cones or physical decay or my thirtieth birthday.

Copyright Tony Parsons, 1999. All rights reserved. Reproduced by the permission of the publisher, Source Books.

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