People love to complain about feeling old. I'm guilty of it, too. This dreadfully annoying epidemic of early-onset senescent curmudgeonism is rampant.

I very recently turned 29, but I'm not complaining one bit about it. As Fred Armisen, playing Joy Behar, says in Saturday Night Live sketches spoofing The View: "So what who cares?" Next year I'll be 30, and I'm sure I'll have a few things to say about that when the time comes. With this birthday, I decided to kick off the swansong of my 20s with zero cares and a bang.

So, just four days after my birthday, my dance card had "Shred like a motherfucker at the U.S. Air Guitar qualifier competition" written on it. What better, more unabashedly juvenile way to begin the end of my 20s than by ripping into a hair-metal jam with nothing but my miming skills and a lack of shame.

But first, I had to prepare. I consulted the greatest air musician I know, who also happens to be my boyfriend. Watching him air-rip through Big Star's "Radio City" on imaginary drums at our kitchen table is one of the best gifts I've ever given my eyes.

Together, we mulled over which song would a) get the crowd going, b) allow for optimal shredding and c) be rife with options for ridiculous theatricality. We landed on Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher."

I can't play a lick of guitar, but I wasn't going to let a little technicality like that deter me. I spent hours learning how to air-two-hand-tap through Eddie Van Halen's beginning solo of that cock-rock masterpiece.

I vigorously practiced until I was sweaty and limping. My personal Béla Károlyi drilled me on the proper formation of my fingers but also gave me an encouraging "You can do it," just as the real Károlyi told his own limping ingénues. While my dude is the king of technical prowess, I excel at theatrics. I dusted off my theater degree and came up with a game plan.

I arrived at The Casbah a few hours before the show to check in. As host Lt. Facemelter went through the rules, I sized up my competition. The 12 of them were a zany, fearless lot, most already in costume. A few had traveled far to be there. I was going to have to bring it hard if I wanted to be near their level.

That night, I returned in character. I figured if I was going to do "Hot for Teacher," I should come as the naughtiest school teacher of all time: Mary Kay Letourneau, the notorious middle-school educator who got popped for teaching her 13-year-student a little too much about female anatomy.

Dressed in a pencil skirt, cardigan and glasses, I made my way through the packed crowd. I quietly drank a beer in the corner and watched my fellow competitors impressively rip through their performances until "Mary Kay Guitarneau," my alter ego, was summoned to the stage. I grabbed my notebook and backpack and made my way up, looking sheepish. I had one minute to perform, and I was going to milk it Stanislavsky-style.

If I've learned anything from watching world-class entertainers like Beyoncé and RuPaul, it's these two things: You have to sell it in the face, and you betta wurk that stage, bitch. I could hear Ru whisper in my ear, "It's time to air-guitar for your life. Good luck and: Don't. Fuck. It. Up."

I threw the notebook against the wall, pointed to the DJ to play my track and worked my way out of my costume. I sauntered like a coquettish child-pageant contestant, pulling off each item of clothing to reveal a torn-up leopard-print lingerie top and booty shorts. Go big or go home, right?

My shoes went flying, my glasses whipped off my face and I shredded. I climbed the speakers. I snarled in people's faces. I thrust as though my soul had been possessed by Tawny Kitaen. For the grand finale, I pulled out a bottle of Elmer's glue and poured its sticky white contents on my body. The crowd went wild.

The judges applauded my commitment and gave me scores of 5.3, 5.6 and 5.4 out of 6.0. I gracefully accepted those awesome numbers as glue dripped into my belly button.

My stage antics advanced me to round two. I'd like to thank God, my awesome coach and the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance. I felt on top of the world.

For round two, our performance song was chosen with a game of Plinko. Anyone who's ever stayed home sick from school knows that staple from The Price is Right. You drop a thin puck down a large board covered in wooden pegs until it lands in a slot. Here, each slot had a different genre of music.

My puck landed in the "Player's Choice" slot. I went with alternative rock, figuring I'd most likely know the song given to me. Muse's masturbatorial prog-rock melter "Knights of Cydonia" came blaring out of the speakers. I'm not a Muse fan, but I quickly studied it and performed immediately after.

Once again, I sold it as hard as I could, running, kicking and jumping like David Lee Roth high on a potent dose of the devil's dandruff. In the end, I earned 5.2s across the board.

Despite my stickiest efforts, I came in fifth place, which I actually consider a huge achievement. The farewell tour of my 20s started exactly how I've always expected it would—loud, ridiculous and covered in a weird substance.


Write to alexz@sdcitybeat.com. You can also bug her on Twitter.

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