Watching “Trainspotting” at 40

I hadn’t seen it, except in posters on dorm room walls

A pithy monologue, a list of goals for squares;

Youth in false revolt against “the system.”

Not my cup of tea.

As a square youth, I knew I would never understand it.

Never get the “better than sex” jive of junkies

Sticking it to the rules and dying full of cancers and substances

Grinning like idiots until their lips forgot how to move at all.

Turns out, I was right.

As a square adult, I could only cry.



I patently and patiently would not watch “Trainspotting.” As a star pupil of the D.A.R.E program, I knew in my bones I wouldn’t get it. Why watch a movie about failures failing, gaming a system that also failed them, and dying? Well, when it’s one of your partner’s favorites and you’re feeling ready to be challenged, you think “why not?” I’m almost forty. I’m past feeling anything other than judgment and pity for young fools. I’ll see myself in the boring grown-ups telling Ewan McGregor to clean up his life, in the judges and shop owners giving side eye. I’ll roll my eyes at the delusion that drugs are any sort of rebellion against the system.  Watch it through a far, panoramic lens and check a box long left unchecked. Join the club.

I was warned about the baby. I didn’t know it would hold on that little form to a soundtrack of addled screaming. It kicked me in the gut all the same and left me breathless and weeping. I could only sit in a stupor as the rest of the film played out, numb. And the film wanted me to root for anyone? Surely not. How could college kids put this on the wall and think it brilliant? Because they’d never put a child into a bed and watched it fall asleep. Not my child in this case, but close. And yes, it’s a good movie. It’s really well made and just ambiguous enough that a rebel would love it and a square would chide and hope for the best.

That’s what we squares do – we try to fit in and we hope for the best.

I don’t think I’ll watch it again.