July 10th, 2013
In about 11 hours I’ll be 72. I’m proud of it. I think I look good for my age. I haven’t lost brain power, only memory. (Okay, you can argue that’s a form of power, but my rationalizing power is superior.) I’m beat up physically. I have metastasized cancer. I need to have my remaining knee replaced. I had two heart attacks last fall. I get around only on crutches (wheelchair in my home). Again, I’m an excellent rationalizer.
Now, what I don’t get about this aging stuff is the tendency for people who’ve gone through the tough job of living to, say, any age over 50, is their need to deny it. It makes utterly no sense from a vanity point of view. If you look 55 but are actually 77, as my friend Per is, you would want to have people say “Wow, you’re in great shape.” Per hears it all the time because he’s not embarrassed to be 77. There are, as we all know, a great many more 55 year olds who really look 77.
A friend of mine, who is not vain, was teasing me today about my love of advertising my own birthday. I nearly bit his head off, but decided he needed it to prove his hair is still rather dark. I used to think this age anxiety was completely the province of women. But the world is changing. I know a lot of guys who get flummoxed, or downright angry, if you ask their age. And there are women my age who are quite gracious if I ask their age. Why would I be so ungracious as to ask their age? Because I’m curious — not so much about their years, but about their hangups. I have plenty of hangups myself. Some of which I’d like to keep secret. But I don’t think I have any that I would suddenly excuse myself from the table to preserve.
The most important thing about letting everybody know it’s my birthday is that I get uniformly good treatment on my birthday. I’m the center of attention without having to convince anybody that I deserve to be. I get what I want to eat and drink. And I can’t think of ever having been turned down for sex on my birthday (except by my own organs). When I was drinking I was provided with the most expensive liquors, until saner beings began whispering my drink orders to the bartender.
As a child, who but a seriously abused kid did not think his birthday was the best day of the year? Oh, you preferred Christmas, did you? You liked getting only x-percent of the goodies under the tree? Every time you turned around on your birthday there was another person handing you a gift to unwrap. When you wanted to brag about all your new stuff, you didn’t have to compete with every other kid on the block. I got a Ferris Fain model first baseman’s mitt on my tenth birthday. I’m willing to bet there’s nobody reading this blog who can say the same thing. Birthdays are better than any other day on the calendar. Seriously.
I’d hate to go to bed at night, knowing that was the best I was going to be treated all year.