And ill-prepared for it

Anthony is out of town this week, so he updated a column from 2006.

I’m old. Some say that nirvana is just reality seen clearly, straight up. So, I’m old and fat.

I observed my 65th birthday last year, and it turned out to be a bigger milestone than I’d expected. Of course, I hadn’t actually thought much about it, which explains my surprise.

I’m not middle-aged anymore. The middle of what? I wasn’t middle-aged 10 years ago. Now, I’m old. I never thought I’d get this far, which is why I’m so ill-prepared.

My body is falling apart. My skin is sagging, along with the rest of me. My hands are old. My eyes are old. One of my instant-messaging partners asked why my text is so large. Her eyes are much newer models than mine.

Being old is bad in the United States. Most people don’t want to look their age unless they’re under 30. Otherwise, they want to look younger. From facials and hair dye to Botox and collagen and silicon and liposuction and even teeth sometimes, they’re all designed to make us look younger.

All the trouble we take to look younger than we are seems worth it because it’s shameful to be old. That’s how we got senior citizens where we used to have old folks. If somebody inadvertently implies that I’m over 50, they apologize, as though my living this long reflects badly on me. So, their noticing the bags under my eyes is ill-mannered; it’s not as gauche as my living so long, but it’s frowned upon nonetheless. Then, if there’s no getting around my being old, I don’t look it, which is the next best thing.

Twenty-five years ago people would marvel at how young I looked and say, “You sure don’t look 40.” But of course I did. I was 40. What else could I look like? Their expectations and assumptions were wrong, but they thought that I was exceptional, not that their premises were goofy.

Fortunately, to go along with my old body is my old mind. My body doesn’t work as well as it once did, but my mind works better than ever.

That’s not to deny that many things slide off my brain as soon as they light, sometimes faster than I can note their passing. That happens.

And along with losing my keys and my glasses and the thread of my finely honed argument is the loss of all those superfluous brain cells I used to use reading stray advertising and packing boxes and T-shirts. But I don’t miss those and the distraction at all. I don’t think about things making sense anymore either, because nothing much does unless we insist on it, and it makes only the sense we choose. Best of all, we don’t have to choose at all.