Old And In The Way
I'm not sure what's been bugging me lately.
No, that's not true. At all. I know what's been on my mind.
I'm getting old.
I know. Not big news. But I'm sure as hell feeling it lately. And it's been bothering the crap out of me. Not the actual act of getting older. That's inevitable. It's making peace with the Mark that's fading away, and trying to come to terms with the Mark that's coming into play.
For the most part, I've been more than mildly surprised and pretty much pleased with how I turned out. Neil Tennant says it best in Being Boring:
"I never dreamt that I would get to be
the creature that I always meant to be."
All through my early years I was convinced I would somehow manage to change into someone else. In my teens, I desperately wanted to be older, received and accepted among Men. In my twenties I was convinced that thirties Mark would somehow be different, more together, less emotional, better dressed, built built. It just wasn't to be. My twenties and thirties were turbulent. You couldn't pay me to relive them.
After living through the holocaust that was my fourth decade, turning 40 brought me a modicum of comfort. I was newly single for the first time in many years. A journal from that time notes that I was totally surprised to find I was this "growly old man". I'd lived for so many years under the influence of someone much older, if not wiser; a man who had definite ideas of what was or wasn't appropriate for gentlemen "our" age. It took a little while to shake free of those shackles and tend to the nascent Mark, so long neglected.
If you're thinking that 40 is the end, let me be the first to assure you it is not. I found it to be the beginning of a life free of self doubt. All sorts of social and peer pressures fell away. Compulsions that drove me dwindled down. I settled luxuriantly into a relationship with a man who was my equal. I learned to be comfortable in my own skin. All was good.
Now, I find myself standing on top of a hill looking down the road at the rest of my life.
I can deal with the physical artifacts of aging, so far. A friend, upon seeing an old photo exclaimed: "My God, you were such a babe! What happened?"
At the time, I just growled at him, but the true answer to that question is: Life. Life happened, and I don't mind the markers it's left on my features. Time has sharpened and refined my face. I've grown used to it, as well.
However, I'm well aware that I don't have the drawing power I once did. Whereas once men would follow me home, now I can walk across Manhattan and garner nary a glance. Granted, in the right venues I still have my fans, but I am aware that my physical attributes have an expiration date, and I'm approaching it.
Maybe it's time to really cultivate my abiding avocations, music and reading.
I could get to many of the books I'd meant to read for years, albeit with fading eyes. Just recently I've started to need reading glasses when I have my contacts in. I have to take my regular glasses off in order to read when the contacts are out. I think I need to see my optometrist immediately.
As far as music goes, I find I need to gather up the patience to listen to new things, and it takes longer for me to absorb them, and even determine if I like them. I find myself delving deeply in the music of the past 40 years, as anyone in the Dugout on a Sunday afternoon can attest. Contemporary pop hold little to no appeal to me. As Joni Mitchell famously said about some young upstart: "That child has nothing to say to me."
Lastly, going to the gym these days has turned into a trial. I belong to the New York Sex, uh, I mean Sports Club. The gentlemen at my 14th Street location all seem to be between the ages of 18 and 35, putting me almost 20 years older than most of them, if not more. As has been pointed out in other blogs, some of these boys seem to have descended from Olympus, or other nearby mounts. They have little or no patience with an old duffer like yours truly. I might as well be invisible in my gym. Thank god some of the trainers say hello, or it would be a very lonely workout. I've had to learn to be mean and stand my ground there, because those kids will try to mow you down. If they're not pushing you out of the way, they're hooking up with gay abandon. I've learned to put my blinders on, work fast and get out. I think everybody's happier that way. But it would be nice if some of the people I've seen in social settings would at least nod in recognition. Ah, well. Fond foolish wishes!
So, this is going to be a learning process. With so few people to guide me, I'll have to blaze a new trail myself.
I'll probably be writing about these travails a bit. I hope you'll indulge me.