As I was walking out the door to go to my first rock concert decades ago, my father interrogated me about my attire (for the record, a button-down Oxford cloth shirt and a pair of Levi’s.). He asked why, if I was going to a concert, was I not wearing a jacket and tie? When I told him that no one would be dressed like that, he assured me that “the Jefferson Airplanes will all be wearing jackets and ties.” (For the record, they were not.)
Bob Dylan did a song on his Time Out of Mind album called “Not Dark Yet.” If my fellow Baby Boomers were to write a song about themselves, they might title it “Not Old Yet (Dammit).”
I read an article the other day (once I finally located my reading glasses) about a recent poll that suggests that most of my Boomer cohort don’t consider themselves old. In their eyes, we may not be exactly young, but at the very worst we’re middle aged. Of course, the eyes are the first to go.
The results of the Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll beg the question, “What is old?” Younger adults – those younger than Boomers – call 60 the start of old age. But Boomers are pushing that number back. The median age cited by those polled is 70. And a quarter of them insist you’re not old until you’re 80.
For men, there’s this little indicator: middle age is the first time you can’t do it the second time; old age is the second time you can’t do it the first time.
The poll showed that, overall, we Boomers are upbeat about our futures. We’re more likely to be excited about the positive aspects of aging, such as retirement, than worried about the negatives, like illness, death, and having sex with people who are just as old as us.
Sixteen percent of respondents reported being happy about aging. Speaking for myself, I’m happy as a clam to be aging. As a wise man once said, getting old may suck but it beats the hell out of the alternative.
Despite being generally upbeat about getting older, some Boomers are still taking steps to look younger. Some dye their hair, while others take up an exercise regimen. For me, this first option is too expensive, and the second is too much work. So I’ve taken the cheap and lazy option – I just hang around with Keith Richards as much as possible. Compared to him I look like Justin Beiber.
Another surprise: about half predict a better quality of life for themselves than their parents experienced. Add me to this group; my life is a hell of a lot better than my folks’ – largely because I didn’t have to raise a kid like me.
Of course, the outlook isn’t all rosy, and Boomers do have some serious worries. The top three mentioned included losing their independence, losing their memory, and … uh … well, it’ll come to me.
A quarter of the women polled had paid more than $25 for an anti-aging skincare product, such as a lotion or night cream, while just 5 percent of the men admit to such purchases. I’ve never spent a penny on anti-aging measures, but I will admit to pulling my ponytail back really, really tight in hopes of ironing out my facial wrinkles. I gave it up when I realized it didn’t make me look younger – it just made me look like Steven Segal with gas pains.
Boomers most frequently offered the wisdom accumulated over their lives as the best thing about aging. Sure, that’s great, but for me the real joy comes from finally being able to say, “Why, when I was your age … . “
Let’s get this straight right off the bat – I’m an old white dude and therefore completely clue free.
I have no idea who the most popular musicians are today (although a young friend informs me it’s not the Beatles and has not been for quite some time). Popular movie stars? Not only have I never seen their work, I have probably never even heard their names. And when it comes to fashion, I just found out that jeans shorts are about as hip as Hush Puppies.
Clearly, my unhip old-dude bona fides are rock solid. But even so, I am completely mystified by the sudden sprouting of Serious Facial Hair on men (mainly).
I’m not talking about the goatee, which seems to come and go – sort of like a cold sore, only not as attractive. Nor am I talking about the ubiquitous “soul patch” (aka “jazz dot”) — that little spot of fur appended to the lower lip that has long been the choice of uber-cool black dudes and uber-lame white dudes (like me).
I’m talking about the full-grown facial forest that makes your average 20-something graphic designer / social media maven look like Jeremiah Johnson, come down from his mountain to stock up on coffee, beans, and maybe some new grips for his totally sweet single-speed fixie.
When I was a young dude, lots of guys – myself included – wore beards. But my beard never looked like the hair bibs I see around town. I have photos (OK, so they’re actually daguerreotypes) of myself in my 20s and I look like Che Guevara with some sort of skin disease. Seriously – compared to my bearded mug, Johnny Depp looks like Methuselah.
But Today’s Beard is a totally different phenomenon. I kid you not; walk around Austin for a weekend and you’d think you’d stumbled into an Old Testament prophets convention – that is, if Old Testament prophets wore skin-tight jeans and Sailor Jerry tattoos, and drank Pabst Blue Ribbon.
This caveman beard thing has been around for a while, but it now has a challenger in the Most Affected Facial Hair competition – muttonchop sideburns.
Although a newcomer to the field, the muttonchop is giving the Hasidic look a run for its money. Honestly, Austin alone has enough Stonewall Jackson look-alikes to make 10 Ken Burns movies. The town looks like one giant Neil Young look-alike contest.
One thing I do understand about Serious Facial Hair – it sends a strong message. It tells the world, “I am not a conformist”; it says, “I do not subscribe to society’s petty rules about how a man should look;” it shouts, “I don’t care if I ever get laid again.”
OK, on second thought, I was right the first time — I don’t get the facial hair thing.
Let me ask you a quick question – how did you spend your Sunday? Church, maybe, or perhaps you slept in. Could be you took the dog to the park, or met your old hippie friends to toss the Frisbee around. And maybe you topped everything off with a good, hearty breakfast. Mmm … I can almost smell the bacon!
And how, you might ask, did I spend my Sunday? Did I go to church? No, I did not – nor did I sleep in. No park, and no Frisbee, either. And for sure no breakfast.
None of that stuff for me, thank you very much. I spent my Sabbath trying to write a column while simultaneously prepping for a colonoscopy.
If you’ve never undergone this procedure (the colonoscopy, I mean), the drill is basically this: you fast for 24 hours, and then they sedate you and put a tiny camera in your colon for a look-see. I know all of this is for good cause, but if I wanted to be starved, drugged and anally violated I would have joined the Skull and Bones Society.
If you’re my age, you’ve probably had a colonoscopy; if you aren’t, you surely know someone who has. And no doubt that someone won’t shut up with the horror stories of having to choke down an enormous volume of noxious intestinal Drano, and being effectively chained to the commode for a day.
I can attest that those stories are true. Especially nasty is gagging down a gallon – and BTW, that’s a cup every 10 minutes for about three hours – of what goes down like refrigerated saliva but doesn’t taste nearly as good. Between that and a laxative taken earlier in the day, I felt like a can of beer that someone had dropped on the floor and slipped back into the fridge for a laugh. No kidding – about 8 o’clock I started sneezing, and was seriously afraid I might propel myself across the room like a very frightened squid.
It’s also funny (but not funny ha-ha) how hardships (and by “hardships” I mean “my problems”) can bring out the cruel streak in others (and by “others” I mean “my wife.”) On my no-solid-food Sunday, I broke my fast with a cup of broth; she had a couple of slices of toasted cinnamon bread. For lunch, I supped on another cup of broth; she had leftover porcini ravioli in pesto. My dinner was – care to guess? Yes, a cup of broth but also a bowl of orange Jell-O (or at least orange-colored). My wife made bruschetta with fresh basil from the neighbors’ garden.
Like I said: cruel. And it didn’t stop there. I was whining to her about having to do double duty, and she went all Dorothy Parker on me. “Writing a column and prepping for a colonoscopy huh? Look at it this way – they both involve excreting large quantities of something unpleasant so, actually, you’re multi-tasking.”
I like to say, “Getting old sucks, but it still beats the alternative.” And while that’s mostly true, there’s no denying that getting old … well … kinda sucks.
Speaking of getting older, I just read the other day that in 2010 (which is this year, in case you haven’t been keeping up) one of every four people in the US will be 55 or older.
This is both good and bad. The good side is that people my age will have lots of peers to keep us company; the bad side is that going to the pool may soon require a blindfold. Seriously – – if I want to look at saggy, overweight old folks I have a full-length mirror in my bedroom. Of course it’s been turned to the wall since I turned 45.
You know those funhouse mirrors that distort your image to great comic effect? Don’t need one. Or people who put mirrors above their beds to heighten their erotic appeal? Not for me, thanks. That’s a little too much like sea-lion porn for my taste.
Speaking of mirrors, what sadistic bastard decided that mirrors the size of billboards, combined with operating-room lighting, were a good idea in hotel bathrooms? Last time I stepped out of a hotel bathroom shower and stood in front of one of those enormous mirrors, I screamed like a girl because I thought a walrus or, even scarier, a naked Wilford Brimley (or, scarier still, a naked David Crosby) had snuck in behind me. Turned out to be me. Now I shower with the lights off and my eyes closed.
Parties are different at this stage of life, too. Used to be, I could count on going to a party and meeting some hot chicks. Today when I go to a party, the only hot chicks I’m likely to meet are the host’s kids — or, even more depressingly, their grandkids. And even if I were not chronically married, I would never stand a chance of hooking up with one of these young nubiles. You’ve seen the bumper sticker that says, “No Fat Chicks?” Well, I saw a young woman the other day wearing a t-shirt that said, “No Old Dudes.” You’re probably familiar with the concept of the MILF, but did you ever wonder why you’ve never heard of a GILF? By the way, if you ever have wondered that, you’re a sick puppy and sure hope you wash your hands before you eat.
Another cruel trick nature plays on the aging — about the time my eyes started to go, I started sprouting wiry little black hairs in places I’d prefer not having wiry little black hairs. This makes it hard to see those wiry little black hairs. Those wiry little black hairs are partially to blame — they have a wicked knack for growing where I couldn’t see them, even if I had the eyes of peregrine falcon. Places like the inside of my ears. In the great evolutionary scheme of things, why in the world would a mammal need those wiry little black hairs inside his ears?
If there is a God and I were to meet Him (or Her) and I could ask only three questions, I already know what they’d be. The first would be, “What is the meaning of life (and, God or no God, if He – or She – says, “Monty Python’s best movie,” there’s gonna be an ass-kicking). The second question would be, “So, what were the Kingsmen actually saying?” And the third would be, “What is up with the hairs? I mean, seriously — WTF?”
I read a news story the other day that claimed that the same generation that had ushered in the sexual revolution is about to have its way with senior sex.
As they said in that movie: “Be afraid – be very afraid.”
The story was about a program on aging and sexuality in sunny Orlando, Florida. Great – like the mental image of old, naked and sweaty wasn’t bad enough, now you can add to that list the adjective “sun-damaged.” You know, leather may be sexy in some situations, but not when it’s hanging in folds from your paramour’s bones.
The doctor who led the program said, “Attitudes about sex among seniors are changing as the baby boom generation comes along. They want more information about staying sexually active as they get older.” Here’s some information, fellow boomers: keep your eyes closed. And speaking of mental images, here’s a couple of helpful words for you guys: Salma Hayek.
One couple attending the program had been married for 48 years; they said they came to learn new ways to add spark to their relationship. The guy was quoted as saying, “She knows all my tricks by now.” If that’s the case, then she’s probably hip to that Salma Hayek thing, too.
In the song, “My Generation,” Pete Townsend famously wrote, “Hope I die before I get old.” Had he been even half as clever as he thought he was, he would have said, “Hope I die before I have to get naked with an old person.” (Pete, here’s an idea: maybe you could rework the chorus lyrics to say, “Talkin’ ’bout old genitalia.” Just a thought.)
For reasons I probably don’t need to enumerate, most people don’t think of older folks (especially when we’re trying to eat) as sexually active. But research shows that sexual activity occurs in about 73 percent of those aged 57-64, 53 percent of those 65-74, and 26 percent of those 75 and older. The research did not specify if those figures reflect sex with partners; if you toss in that parameter, I bet the numbers go down. Way down.
The article said that Boomers are less likely to accept and internalize society’s view of asexual seniors. The organizer said, “One of the problems is that there are few role models of elderly sexuality. There aren’t a lot of media portrayals of sexually active seniors.”
To that, one can say only, thank heaven for small graces. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to see portrayals of sexually active seniors. “Sexually active” usually implies nudity (as I recall) and that’s a sight I can live without — glasses or no glasses.