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Thursday, January 22, 2009



As I get older, I lower my expectations, and apathy becomes more and more a part of my life. Things that were important to me at 25 are now frivolous, even forgotten about. It used to be important to me to make a lot of money, travel to places no one else visited, and have a beautifully decorated home. Now I’m grateful just to have a job with health insurance, and I am content just to stay home in a house that has dog-chewed furniture and homemade curtains. It would be easy to deny, but these clearly are signs. Signs of age. Signs that read, “You’re not kidding anyone anymore.”

The first sign I saw was when I last went to an amusement park, probably nine years ago. Formerly I had been an avid roller coaster fan. When I was in college, I had a season pass to Busch Gardens. Every Friday after school we’d go, drink lots of free beer and continuously ride the Python, the Gardens’ first upside down, corkscrew roller coaster. It was not unusual, if there wasn’t a crowd, to take over sixty spins in an afternoon.

Then, nine years ago, I took one short ride on a roller coaster, and that was it. I got off the ride, and I was hit with nausea and a headache that lasted for hours. A sign popped up in the shape of the number “30” that read: “You must be this age or younger to ride this ride.”

When I moved to Florida, I ran into a sign in the left lane of Interstate 95. The sign read, “You have no business being here.” And it was true. Not so long ago, I flew around to get to places as fast as I could. I even got speeding tickets. But when I ventured onto a superhighway with speeding sport bikers and dangerously daring people who drove a lot faster than my puny car could even think of going, it was time for me to pull over. I’ve been in the right lane ever since. Recently, when a friend ten years my junior commented, “How come you drive so slowly?” I told him that I’m just not in much of a hurry anymore. Another sign, I thought.

There are blatant signs of age: hair, hearing, strength and libido loss. Wrinkles, health issues. These things don’t bother me as much as the subtle ones.

For instance, recently I was at a fast food place with my partner and noticed two young men in their early 20’s in line ahead of us. The two young men were openly, but not inappropriately affectionate, which I always find refreshing, so I smiled at one of them when I caught his eye. He gave me a look back that was so sour you would have sworn he had just run face first into a dirty diaper. It was like: “Ew. That old, wrinkled guy wearing uncool clothing just cruised me.”

It’s a good thing that with age comes apathy; otherwise, I’d probably never leave the house. A few years ago I was appalled when I was in a thrift store, and the cashier asked me if I was eligible for the senior discount. SENIOR discount! Why of all the unmitigated gall, you little minimum-wage hussy! I wanted to grab her by her collar and shout, “Do I look 55 to you?”

These days, I’m not so sensitive about it, but that day, at age 45, I came home and looked in the mirror at my sun-damaged, sagging skin and salt-and-pepper hair (what’s left of it) and realized, yeah, I could pass for 55. Now when they ask if I’m a senior, I always say yes. When there is a serious discount involved, I lie. Most young people don’t think geezers are liars, so I get away with it. And if they ask me for my driver’s license, I’ll tell them, “I only take the bus now, sonny.” Even if they’re female. These days, most people don’t even ask, it’s just assumed that I’m a senior. Who says that spending your youth outside without sun block is harmful? So, kids at home, next time you’re at the beach, fry yourself extra crispy as I did. It’ll pay off when you’re middle-aged.

Here’s another sign. Out of nowhere, I have discovered a habit that when I was younger found completely reprehensible. To me, nothing said “old fart” louder than a man who smoked a cigar. Yet after being around some stogie smokers and growing fond of the smell (as well as visiting some related Web sites of questionable taste,) I have been seized with the occasional urge to light up. I guess I can pin it down to one incident following Hurricane Wilma. I worked 14 straight days of 12 hour shifts, and one morning a cop buddy of mine was relaxing with a nice cigar after another night of havoc. I told him, “Why don’t you bring one of those for me next time?” And sure enough, the next day, I was puffing right along. Like Bill Clinton, I don’t inhale (or use the cigar for non-smoking entertainment,) but there is something relaxing, quieting, and sickly soothing about it. Not to mention a complete sign of geezerhood.

What is frightening, though, is that things I found intolerable at 25, such as the absence of amusement parks, driving slowly, and cigar smoking, are perfectly acceptable for me now at 50. This must mean that things I now consider out of bounds now will be totally satisfying should I live to be 75. So I’m looking forward to the days of wearing black knee socks with sandals, comb-overs and/or toupees, unstainable polyester clothing, and white belts. I’ll have no qualms about running around without my dentures, showering only twice a week, paying people 50 years my junior for companionship, and proudly wearing my colostomy bag to the nude beach.

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