If you think this is about your car, record player or pay telephones, guess again. No, it is about the human body as it gets older, specifically mine, and, believe me, the conversations between my contemporaries are changing as well.
When people got old in what my brother and I used to refer to as the "olden days" in referring to our parents and grandparents, I wonder if they went kicking and screaming the way we seem to in today's world. Did they worry about whiter teeth? No, they probably didn't have any. Did they worry about wrinkles or gray hair? Probably not. If they were old enough to have either, they were just damn happy they were still around. Of course, people "back then" did not live so long and usually their maladies just did them in, in short enough order and there was not a whole lot of time to think or complain about it. Today, you can get replacement parts, face-lifts until your belly button becomes a cleft chin, and grow hair on a cue ball. Maybe we live longer, but maybe checking out in the "olden days" was a tad more graceful.
I seem to be on an ever-faster slippery slope toward the world of flatulence, false teeth, dimming eyesight and scary skin. What is scary skin? It is the skin you have that seems to be continually sprouting strange and exotic splotches that you keep your eye on, because, if they turn dark or get "crusty" (a dermatological term) you know you are paying the price for the sins of your youth. That was when your mother exhorted you to get out into the sun for your healthy tan. Little did we know, especially growing up in Florida, that being out in the sun all day in shorts without a shirt would pay dividends in carcinomas, melanomas and wrinkles.
It occurred to me this morning as I rolled out of bed with my usual stiff joints that it is a cruel joke to be born a baby and grow old. Wouldn't it be much better if we were born old, decrepit and in pain? Then perhaps we would be more appreciative of our health as it improved when we grew younger instead of taking a perfectly wonderful young body and slowly wasting it with wine, women and song. Nawwww! Probably not. As a young man, I felt invincible and probably, if I was born old, as I got more virile and vigorous, I would start to have the same feelings and probably do the same things all over. Anyway, I cannot see myself at 10 years old with a cigar and a Jack Daniels Manhattan.
Of course, all this engenders different conversations between maturing adults. Where once we would sit around the fraternity house in college over beers and lie about the things we had done last night or brag about the stuff we were going to do later on that night, the conversation now, more often than not, seems to seek a different level. You know, like which dermatologist we just saw or a recommendation for a certain pill to do a certain thing. The other day, a very pretty girl, young enough to be my daughter (and then some), came in to pick up something she had left at work and mentioned to someone that her boyfriend was waiting out in the car. I joked that I was jealous, as I was going to ask her out, to which she replied, "Oh, you old silver fox." Ha! Ha! Yet another well-earned and deserved reminder that though in my mind I am still a young man, in reality, those days are far behind me.
Yes, between the barrage of entreaties by the AARP to join up and the constant reminders that baby boomer no longer means young person, I can tell you from experience that growing old pretty much sucks. On the other hand, as far as I know, it beats the alternative.
So here we are on the eve of the mother of all moments for penance and promises to do better. To read more, exercise more, eat better and generally lie to oneself about making a last ditch effort to push back the years. I quit doing it about ten years ago. I wrote down some "life" resolutions or things I would really try to do just to be a better person. I figured if I was going to go on a diet, there would come a day when I would go off it, so I might as well enjoy myself.
Nonetheless, I will probably make a few promises that I will at least try to keep, and, who knows? After all, miracles happen every day and it is a new year.
Chris Belland's Hindsights & Insights column appears here on Sundays. All of his previous columns are available on his blog: hindsightsandinsights.blogspot.com. Contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.