The other day, my doctor said to me, “you aren’t twenty anymore, what do you expect?”. I didn’t know if she was insinuating something about my soaring blood pressure, my sagging pectorals or my stagnating dreams. Then it dawned on me, if I can begin an anecdote with ‘the other day my doctor said to me’, I have become another statistic in the plague that goes by the lurid name, aging.
She told me I needed to reduce my fat and salt intake, lose half my body weight, cut out alcohol and caffeine altogether, and eat green vegetables.
“Green vegetables”, I said, “I am way too old to form new habits now”!
Not understanding that a rich sense of humour is the only effectively proven method of attaining immortality, she scowled and said, “If you don’t do these things, you will never see your hundredth birthday”. My face went ashen: my one true fear is going blind.
Using what I clearly recognized as the patented Bruce Lee Two Fingers of Death, she jabbed me in the side and asked if it hurt. She just got angrier with me when I whimpered and asked if it was a trick question. Aging, I am quickly learning, is a condition of fear and vulnerability where people are always angry at you and may abuse you out of some twisted transference of mortality dread.
I tried to placate her with good intentions, but by this time she was hell-bent on my getting comeuppance, and so, ordered a battery of tests.
I found myself with a requisition for an ultrasound, something that up until now I thought was simply part of midwifery witcheries. I feel pretty certain it was to confirm that I have in fact been the victim of organ theft. During my half day layover in the waiting room of the clinic, I pictured the jelly lube, the little rubber gadget, and a cute technician and had just about consoled myself that it was going to be pretty much like sexytimes when my number came up. I was made to put on a paper dress that was obviously stolen from a fashion blind pygmy. On me, it shredded instantly, and if it weren’t for my nervous sweat gluing the bits on, I would have been the next Chippendale patient. Dignity, it seems, is just another sacrifice on the altar of aging.
Alas, sexy times were not to manifest. The technician, whose forearms I envied, employed all the enthusiasm and fervor of a dog digging for a bone and set to work attempting to reach my spine through my abdominal wall. It was a clever technique really: by systematically tenderizing my organs one by one, she verified their continued presence.
At the x-ray clinic, again denuded and crepe papered, I was ridiculed over my nipple ring. I was fuming with the injustice that Keith Richards can do what he does, but suddenly I am relegated to the high riding plaid pants section of the store. No urban primitive jewelry for old people! Actually I think she wanted to make sure I didn’t have a tumour shaped like a mystical symbol, fearing that if I had some proven sign of being the antichrist I might wind up a rich tv evangelist. I am learning that the medical community is a caring community.
The testing gauntlet, worse than those humiliating Canada Fitness Tests they used to break the spirits of children from the seventies, accomplished it’s morbid task: I am now acutely aware that I am becoming an old fart.
It’s like a wall of denial crumbled and now I notice ringing in my ears, flattened arches, and the end of a pee is becoming an increasingly vague and variable period. In the ongoing bickering between my bed and my back, I realize it is me, not my bed. My vision is going, my teeth are hanging on by a thread, and today I used the word ‘piles’ in its euphemistic sense.
Part of the onslaught is I am losing my powers of language. More and more, in a state of confusion, I find myself consulting my dictionary and thesaurus. While I find the activity soothing and always have, I feel paranoid that simply owning a dictionary and thesaurus is a sign of aging. From there, I start to question if being paranoid is a sign of aging. It’s like going down the rabbit hole.
The language thing is real. I can’t spell anymore, I forget words and names. I stumble and stutter and lose my train of thought mid sentence. I found it really embarrassing until I employed the brilliant strategy of heavy drinking as a scapegoat. Pounding the potables, or dedicated dipsomania, as the thesaurus might put it.
It’s sad too, the things you lose as you age. I used to enjoy interjecting ‘get off my lawn’ and ‘when I was your age we had to walk through 3 miles of broken glass and lava to get to school’ as playful ironic banter. Now, all that playful irony is gone, and people nod and smile while ignoring me. I used to get angry that I should be expected to give up my seat on the bus just because someone was ninety, even though I actually paid more for my fare. Aging has robbed me of my righteous anger as now people offer me up their seats.
It’s not all bad. It’s like the motto for that thing I can’t remember: Membership Has Its Rewards.
When I was young and would flirt with girls, I was laughed at because they all wanted someone more mature. As I aged, the reaction turned to scorn and occasionally being maced because I was perceived as a skeevy pervert. Now, I am on the cusp of my golden years, where if I flirt, girls think it’s just adorable.
Aging also brings you to the laurel time, you gain respect and your achievements are acknowledged. When I was younger, I enjoyed the obsessive vice of cross country running. That pleasure I was soon denied as I was told I had the knees of an 80 year old. I laughed—not only is the notion of an 80 year old running pretty unbelievable, but I had my doubts that some skulking octogenarian could pull a switcheroo with me without my even noticing. Still, I was pretty bummed for the next 25 years until I realized it wasn’t a literal statement, but a reference to a bizarre genetic aging anomaly. After some quick back of the envelope calculations, my pride was rejuvenated—by my estimation, my knees are now 227 years old. Most people’s knees are one with the cosmos at that age, while mine continue to demand glucosamine and tremble when my blood sugar is low. Surely someone could get a grant to study my achievement? I’m still waiting to hear back from Ripley’s.
Aging is a great equalizer too. I may have been ugly when I was young, but we all look like dilapidated potatoes as the years go by. And while I never excelled at sport and suffered the stigma that accompanies, there comes a day when simply maintaining continence puts you ahead of the curve.
So, it’s not all bad. I find myself at a Starbucks, ordering my decaf, and on a whim complement my barrista and give her a wink. She beams a great smile back at me and says “you’re so adorable” and I realize I am living the dream.