Monday, June 9, 2003

stop me if you've heard this one before

The signs are unmistakable.

First, I began to notice the physiological effects. There was the slowing of my metabolism, a gradual transition from ‘girlish figure’ to ‘pregnant-and-starting-to-show’ that has begun to challenge the strength of the stitching in the waistband of every pair of pants that I own. Then there is my head, whose melanocytes, while not officially on the endangered list just yet, are certainly displaying the effects of lower melanin levels, as evidenced by my silvering temples and their curly rogue counterparts in locations scattered all over my scalp.

There are other indications, though (fortunately) less evident to the casual observer. I used to subsist on the sole blackbrown nutrition of coffee and cigarettes and needed only two or three hours of sleep per night to be right as the mail. Now my eyes feel heavy at ten-thirty, and any more than one cuppa joe attacks my sad bladder with the fury of swarming bees.

Most disturbing, however, are the psychological symptoms. I have begun to notice myself complaining about how much better things used to be. I bitch about the economy; I bitch about Hollywood; I bitch about “those damn kids and their miserable excuse for music.” I am developing a penchant for bad puns and have also begun to be drawn in by the sirenic allure of gardening as a gratifying recreational activity.

These are not psychosomatic indicia brought on by my recent birthday. It is not my imagination. These are facts, and facts don’t lie. Each example points unsympathetically in the same direction—namely, I am getting old.

Nothing could be more surreal than witnessing the many clichés about aging materialize in so many aspects of my being. I’ve always been lucky with regard to my health, and while I still am relatively so, this new plague of minor illnesses and irritations leads my brain (always slow to adapt to change) to conclude that there must be some larger problem. I rack my brain, thinking, ‘Have I forgotten I’m taking something? Is my wife perhaps slowly poisoning me in order to claim our insurance money and then run off to Brazil?”

My wife is not slowly poisoning me. My life is. Not its events but rather its simple passage. My body shop is going out of business. I am dying. I know I’ve always been dying, of course, just as all of us are, but I am only recently beginning to notice. I’m like a cartoon character that runs off the edge of a cliff and doesn’t begin to fall until slowly they realize that the ground is gone. The ground isn’t all that far below me now, but my feet sure aren’t touching any more.

I know that aging is an inevitable part of living. I’m not used to it being a noticeable part of living, but hey, I knew that was coming too. I guess I’d be more upset if it weren’t for all the evidence of my persistent immaturity. For example, a few days ago Holly and I were riding in the car, and she was telling me about some horrible thing that Dr. Laura Schlessinger said or did, and my intellectual response was, “What a stinky butthole.” Then, several minutes later, we passed a traveling carnival that had set up in a local mall parking lot. I watched the ferris wheel spin, saw the neon lights, smelled cotton candy, and for a moment I thought about what it would be like to forsake all of our belongings and ride across the country in an eighteen-wheeler, deep frying funnel cakes and bolting the tilt-a-whirl together every night. And I figure, hell, if I’m not too old to fantasize about running away with the carnival, then I probably shouldn’t be worried about aging quite yet.

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