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How old are you/how dumb am I?
Let’s count the rings/around my eyes.
Time: it slips, it drags, it stalls, it clings, it snags holding on, and a minute can last an eternity – yet another moment has passed. Powerless in the greatest sense to halt the continuous continuum, there goes another second we never get back again. With each explosive silent tick, the great perpetual motion machine inches forward, adding yet another ring to the timber of my core. Then as time goes by, the rings eventually find their way to my eyes.
I’m three years away from turning 60; so far, I’ve never been older. As another birthday passes, life hasn’t become a study in reflection and meditation of “what it all means” the way I thought it was going to be, but an allegorical escalator that continues forward without any identifiable meaning except for the meaning we attach to it. Life is a ship launched without a known course, unabating in its advancement with total disregard for the fragility of the passenger aboard. Life’s unawareness of who I am could make a guy feel like he’s already a fossil above ground…That is, if you let Life get to you.
My problem was that I had so many demons and fears from growing up that needed to be resolved before I could find harmony from my deep-seated neurosis. When it comes to my initial fear of getting older, I think I know where it originated.
You’re born naked; that is okay. But when you start comparing body parts – worse, when you begin to wonder, “Am I ever going to look normal?”- that’s where all the trouble starts…
In the mid-sixties, before there were personal trainers or health clubs like ‘24-Hour Preening’ or ‘Gold’s Salon for Manly Breasts,’ there were recreational centers or clubs like the “Y” where everyone would go to “for exercise.”
For two years, ages 12-14, I played basketball at the Jewish Community Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. The place was horribly ventilated and smelled like old bowling shoes on league night. If they had a pool, it wasn’t working. Accountants, plumbers, salesmen and few people in the garment industry and their kids would pile into a building where you had your choice of exercise between hoops, racquetball or chess…Or laps in the pool if for some miracle it was open.
For Jews, the traditional hour workout is 5 minutes of shooting hoops, 25 minutes of chasing down the ball, and a 45-minute schvitz in the clothing optional sauna.
To my surprise, not only was the sauna clothing optional, the whole submerged locker room was the place for men to be men. Men who had very little pretension or caring when it came to letting it all hang out, and they should have. To be comfortable in one’s skin is one thing, but if your gall bladder scar is still fresh or if that rash hasn’t healed, throw a towel on. Makes everyone feel better.
I had never seen so many varieties of the naked male body before, and not just the standard nudity in the sauna. Jews, like many ethnic groups, feel a certain kind of freedom WASPs will never know. In a locker room, apparently this means it’s not weird to lecture a teenage kid about the declining values in society accompanied by a Mitch Miller bobbing of his genitals in agreement.
This was 1966, so the Jews I saw walking around freely, nude as a newborn, weren’t buffed or groomed like today’s metrosexuals. This wasn’t a bunch of Zac Efrons and Adrian Brodys working on their quads. This was Highland Park’s own Myron Lipschitz and Ronny Lovich trying to do a pull-up without getting nauseous. Ron would later go to “The Brooklyn School of Math” on an athletic (chess) scholarship.
But it was the older ones who worried me.
Some were thin-boned while others had stomachs resembling a beach ball hiding under a tablecloth. Old men with accents had oddly shaped bodies with unexplainable birthmarks and skin tags proliferating like a rummage sale.
I couldn’t figure out the male hair patterns either. Some guys had no hair on their bodies while others were weirdly hairy. Most of the future dentists and sales reps that came to the JCC didn’t have a mane of proud, thick chest hair to show-off under their turtlenecks. It was more like they were given leftover tufts for an isolated patch growing like it was a grand follicular mistake done by an angry God.
Some of the big machers would blow dry their hair in the community mirror and you could watch as their gigantic ears flopped and would actually grow larger while they spoke. A proud man of surely Mediterranean origins with one leg casually perched on the long wooden bench that ran between the lockers was talking about the ongoing war, unaware that he had butt hair like Abe Lincoln’s beard.
Who gets that? Does it start when you turn thirty? Who can I talk to about this?
As these were the only older bodies I had ever seen en masse – and they were mostly Jewish – I was sure I would be genetically disposed to inherit any one to thirty of these diverse aging traits I noticed as my culture walked by for talcum powder.
Barely a teen who was experiencing daily tempestuous bodily changes, I wondered amid these far from perfect bodies: is this what happens to you when you grow old?
Then there’s that episode of Sex and the City where Samantha is about to go to bed with a rich, elderly gentleman, who she believes she really cares for and isn’t just seeing for his enormous bank account. They’re undressing in his penthouse, high above Fifth Avenue, ready to make sweet geriatric love on his majestic ‘Sultans of Kuwait” mattress, when the naked Daddy McBuckington excuses himself to use the little millionaire’s room. He turns to the door, and idealism and best intentions are stripped away when Samantha spies the 50 shades of dough that constitute the elderly man’s drooping ass. The reality of the situation slaps Samantha back into her shallow, egocentric world.
The man urinates sporadically through the slightly ajar bathroom door. Sam, now having come-to-her-senses rid of any further romantic notions, silently collects the rest of her clothes only to pause as she composes herself before exiting out the hotel door.
The image of the rejected older man by a sexually available woman haunts me, especially since I’ve recently become the invisible man to women under 40.
I accept this as a part of life. As the plumage wanes and the old man smell rises, there will be those who unconsciously through no power of their own seek the seed of those more robust and better able to defend the cave at night. These younger girls on hormonal hunt shall stroll by we of thinning hair, to sniff out the Axe-scented cock-of-the-walk roosters whose crests remain true and upright, for now.
With that being said, and me still processing defined marble butt, I wouldn’t know what to do with a young woman. Whatever your dreams or the fantasies are, at my age, I don’t want to fuck. I don’t need to get laid. I need something more now.
Growing up, I had a hard time discerning the difference between catching a bus and having sex with a woman. I related to both as a conveyance. I was always afraid another bus wasn’t going to come by, so I should hop on the first available vehicle in front of me while I have the chance. I had an inability to trust that there would be something else coming my way.
Sex is intertwined with life. For me as a guy, sadly it becomes like a measuring tool like comic books and action figures to determine how far away from your youth you’ve come.
I say sadly because unlike the symbols of your childhood that become part of your growing up process, you know when it’s time to put away your toys. When it comes to being a sexual being, you’re powerless to find your place if you allow it to be determined by others.
Everyone knows you’re getting old when the little faux-hawks start calling you “Sir” or “Mister,” but nothing piles on the years quicker than when the young women in your life begin to refer to you as “Uncle.”
Translation: “Hey Old Man, I am now a sexual being and not a kid anymore. Whatever kind of crush I had on you growing up—to think of you that way now makes me gag. Even this conversation is creepy.”
Natural selection occurs when you’re not selected naturally.
But I actually like getting older. There are benefits like not wearing out my clothes in a month. I like accumulating stuff and having the right tool when I need it. Money’s tight, but I’ve seen it come and go. Life seems more as hopeful. I’ve been around long enough to know that I wasn’t the problem like she tried to have me believe.
My eyes have adjusted with age. I find a woman who shows signs of childbearing sexy. There’s something about a woman my age that looks healthy and has a good disposition that clues me in to who they are. They’re not giving up on Life.
Like me, they’ve look forward to the new chapters to their ongoing book.
Getting older means having to let go of the shit you caused but blamed others for because you were too chicken-shit at the time to take personal responsibility for your actions. Being wrong isn’t as hard as it was.
Being right isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be either.
Before my wife and I were married, I persuaded her to go to couples’ counseling to be sure that she knew what she was getting into. My intent wasn’t to go to therapy for relationship advice but to have possible witnesses for court that could be used as evidence, if we ever had to go in that direction.
After therapy one night, we’re shopping at Asshole Foods for some kale and quinoa raviolis. At the checkout, this college-age clerk and I are discussing which of the charities aligned with AF should I donate my ten-cent bag charge to. The charge was waived because when you’re old, you remember to bring the stuff you’ll need for the day like cloth bags, umbrellas, and quarters for meters.
My soon-to-be-forever-gal impatiently bellows to me to pick a charity and, “Let’s get moving!!!”
College Clerk: She seems pissed.
Old Guy with defined marble-like butt: Our couples’ therapy went long. Then we couldn’t find lime-encrusted quinoa. I told her she was wrong, “That’s at Trader Mo’s. You’re getting the stores confused.”
C.C: How did that go?
O.G: Not good.
C.C: I’ve learned in relationships, you can either be happy or right. Can’t be both.
That was the last time night my wife-to-be and I attended couples’ therapy together. It also gave me faith in the checkout lines of life.
Here’s the other part of getting older: no one really cares. In the same way you have to live life for yourself—we’re all on our own separate paths. Getting older means what’s the point of lying to yourself now? For whom? No one cares about the lies but you.
Life is one-way. There’s no going back. You can have regrets, but you’re the only one who cares unless your regrettable act occurred during a World Series game when the final out was a grounder that slid between your legs on national TV.
I actually only have one regret. During my early days of comedy, I had the great fortune to be on the stage with Mr. Robin Williams. I held my own with the master of improv and grand manipulator of reality-bending comedy. A few nights later after paying gig, I returned to our local comedy club that also doubled as a clubhouse for wayward comics, very high from the two-doob ride from Berkeley. Entering the club, Mr. Williams was again on stage killing for about 16 lucky patrons. The King of San Francisco Comedy beckons me to come on stage and play. I had walked in immensely ripped, unprepared to perform when the chance of a lifetime presented itself. My body’s reaction was for my brain to begin immediately thumbing its way out of town. The only sound left in my head was in the form of a dial tone: NNNNNNnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn…
Some 30 years later, I’ve learned how to accept my regrets with the knowledge that the only thing you have control over is you and your actions. You’re the only one who knows why you hang on to old shit that makes you physically shudder when the long-gone memory pops in for no apparent reason.
Think about aging like this: Your skin begins to sag and wrinkle; that, you cannot change without science. Past poor decision-making? You have a choice when to let that go.
Let’s say for example when you were young, home alone watching your little brother, you accidentally shot him with a BB gun to see if it would hurt. Two things: it obviously does hurt and you can only feel bad for so long before you accept that it happened.
Getting older is accepting not everything is where it once was, and knowing it is okay. When you cannot see or hear the way you used to, it’s easy to become Uncle McCranky. Enjoyment takes a little more vision.
Soon we will be dancing under a cannabis moon, made possible partly by the efforts and diligence of a tie-dyed generation that believed they could change the world.
Our space program is closing due to lack of interest. When you go for a swim in the ocean, you now receive a free Fukushima complimentary x-ray with each dip.
Maybe the new frontier is the exploration of Elder Advancement. Instead of the traditional fast track to the Old Folks Home, why not have the generation that drove the campaign for cannabis liberation steer us in new direction, in a world that’s left still uncharted.
As we live longer and we’re able to sustain a better quality of life, what generation is more qualified to test the boundaries of ‘what could be’ than the aging Woodstock Nation?
Instead of ‘Shady Acres Home For The Dissipating,’ how about an assisted living village called, ‘The Rainbow Place For Living’?” Part camp, part never-ending road trip contained within 40 lush acres full of organic gardens, computer labs, dog and yoga parks, small businesses and cannabis cafes. A spirited community with dignity and respect for the long, strange trip that brought us all together opposed to living in a box where you’re expected to sit and wait while you watch your stories on TV all day.
In a different world, children, teenagers and those with life lessons still to learn, would be lining up outside the homes of those with experience, years of know-how and tales about what happen before. Instead of reinventing the wheel with every generation, we could listen to those who had been there and done that, for reals.
Best part of getting older: there’s a new world waiting for us everyday. The Boomers have the opportunity to change the notion of what’s possible just like they did in the Sixties.
Nothing is written until we write it.
Skin, moment you aren’t proud of, letting go: getting older allows distance and the room to move into who you really are, sagging butt and all.
Special thanks to Pebbles Trippet for editing Jack’s article.