The only good thing about war is that it gives you an excuse to behave badly. If you think the world might end, what's to keep you from drinking too much, staying up too late, and falling in love with the wrong people?
My first war was Vietnam. I was a toddler during the height of the war, but that didn't stop me from making powerful political statements. For example, I simply refused to be potty trained during the conflict. 'What's the point?' I asked my parents as they tried to lure me to the training potty with promises of how rosy my future would be if I'd just stop wearing rubber pants.
Escalating tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Reagan era happily coincided with my teen years. Each time the nuclear clock inched closer to midnight, I comforted myself by sampling the self-destructive delights of exotic tobaccos, foreign kissing, and marathon Ms. Pacman sessions.
When the madcap triumvirate of the U.S., Britain, and Spain announced that they were preparing to bomb the hell out of Iraq, I was in northern England. I suppose the responsible response to this troubling news would have been to join a peace rally or perhaps sing some folk songs, but I only felt the need to misbehave.
I quickly assessed my options, which seemed to be limited to drinking myself silly and getting involved in an ill-fated romance. So I slipped on a pair of new socks and headed out to a pub to find an Ingrid Bergman look-alike who was destined to leave me for a resistance fighter.
I've seen a lot of World War II movies, so I know how love during wartime is supposed to work. Allies are required to be hopelessly attracted to each other. That's one of the great selling points of being Allies. 'Fight on our side and we will guarantee you enough tragic love stories to fuel your film industry for decades.' How else do you think we won Bulgaria to our side?
So, naturally, I figured that by the time I ordered a pint I'd win the attention of a flock of British lassies who were drawn to my romantically flat Midwestern accent and my American sense of entitlement. But it didn't work out that way.
I didn't realize until I walked into the bar that the entire British population holds me personally responsible for George Bush. I think this is very unfair, especially given the fact that I refer to him only by complex nouns that either start or end with the prefix/suffix 'ass.' (Or just plain old 'ass' if I'm feeling weary.)
After experiencing the drunken vitriol of our reluctant allies, I briefly considered switching over to the Canadian accent that I hold in reserve in case of social emergencies. This would have allowed me to join in the American bashing and win the affection of a certain landed, horsy type who eyed me with suspicion from the other end of the bar.
But, finally, I decided that the decent thing to do would be to quietly drink my beer and let the girls hate me for the collective sins of the U.S. government. It was my first selfless act during wartime, and it was the least I could do for my country and the world.