I entered Korea’s Boryeong Mud Festival late; all of the youth were happily slipping and sliding and just caked in the stuff. My t-shirt was still white. Not a good look for anyone at a mud festival, but especially not for me–an old man in his mid-thirties–surrounded by kids nearly half my age. These kids needed the mud because they were stupid; I needed the mud just to fit in.
A few years ago, I had gone to the notorious full moon party in Thailand with my wife. I was new to my thirties then and my wife was still twenty-nine. But even there we felt out of place, as college-aged kids inanely dove through fire hoops or jumped flaming ropes. (Of course, I also did this, but I at least had the wisdom of my years to know it was dumb.)
The Boryeong Mud Festival
Now, at the mud fest, twice everyones’ age, I was on my own. I looked ridiculous. I was standing in line to run an obstacle course without any mud on me yet. A few signs suggested doing calisthenics before the event, but none of the kids were stretching their muscles. I decided that I wouldn’t either. On the other hand, I had pulled a hamstring a few days earlier. So I pretended to drop something in order to get in at least one good stretch.
The kids in front of me were pointing across the festival grounds; an old white couple was covered in mud and tottering about. While many of the younger people looked good splattered in mud, the elderly couple looked like they had lost bowel control. In an effort to point out the incontinent-looking couple, one of the college kids in front of me turned around and crashed into me, dirtying my shirt. What a relief.
When I reached the front of the line, where the entrance to the inflatable gauntlet was being replenished with mud and water, the kid working the moon bounce doused me with a bucket of sludge. Now I was one of them. But when I squinted, the creases of my crows’ feet sent mud into my eyeballs.
I had some last-second thoughts: Anyone have a handkerchief? Is this mud burning anyone’s eyes? Oy, I need some water. Now my hamstring is acting up. Is it too late to ask for a substitute so that I can stretch more diligently.
The whistle blasted and everyone was off. I hobbled across the moon bounce. I could sense the pointing fingers. But at least I had the good sense and my past mistakes to know that these were some stupid kids.