Sunday, April 22, 2012

He Finds Himself Older

Charles is a guy I know who is almost 15 years my senior. When I turned 40, we talked about how it feels to grow older. To me, 40 felt like 30 and 30 didn't feel a whole lot different than 20. So I asked Charles about when he started to feel 'older'.

There was no hesitation. "It's 50", he said. "When a guy turns 50, he notices things starting to change. Your body starts giving you signs that maybe it's not going to work the way you expect. You'll just have to see."

Knowing Charles' generally pessimistic outlook, I smiled the smile of a fellow who had a decade to negotiate the terms of turning 50. At 40, you still believe you could live forever.

Nowadays, I'm almost halfway between 49 and 50. I think about Charles' warning and, dammit, he might have been right. There are signs.

There's the obvious stuff, of course. I have the odd strand of grey hair on my head. Finding them has become a game for my family, mostly because those grey hairs are rare and elusive for now. Even on my chest those bits of grey are making themselves known and I sometimes wonder if plucking them would be worth the discomfort. And while it gives me the willies to think about it, I await the inevitable strands of gray further south (anatomically speaking). I cannot think of a sadder sign of aging than that. It may be time to research The Boyzilian.

I suppose there are wrinkles to think about - a bit around the eyes, for sure. The backs of my hands look like they might belong to someone middle-aged. But for the most part, my skin has been spared the wizened look (so far).

And speaking of hair, I'm noticing some growing in places it never grew before. If not for my 'personal electric trimmer' and the nice lady who coifs my hair, others might notice that my ears can take on a vague fuzziness and my eyebrows have no clear sense of 'beginning' and 'ending'.

All of this represents the outward signs of getting older, of course. Since I'm married and legally have no need to attract the fairer sex, I can manage the optics of aging well enough.  But the inward signs that things might be changing - they give me pause that maybe, just maybe, I won't be living forever.

Physical activity hurts more than it used to. I play hockey once a week for fun. I go to the gym of few times a week to keep my knees healthy enough to play hockey. It's a delicate balance that I've perfected over the last few years. But anymore, the pains from one activity just serve to take my mind off the pains from another activity.

My body doesn't bounce back from things the way it used to. I played in a charity hockey tournament last weekend. For a change, my team played in a division reserved solely for those of us over 45. This should have been manageable, but I could barely walk for 3 days afterwards.  Even a full day of yardwork can mean an evening of creakiness in my joints (Scotch is an effective medicine for this).

I'm not the night owl I used to be. Far too often I find myself nodding off before the 11pm news. This angers me because I know all the cool kids are having fun into the wee hours. I imagine my friends noticing my XBOX is offline at midnight, which is pretty embarrassing in its way.

I'm experiencing life at 4am for all the wrong reasons. It's a touchy subject for guys, but it's a good bet that ageing is going to include a new alarm clock for your bladder. As a double slap to the male ego, your bladder will drag you to the pre-dawn porcelaine only to develop a certain shyness about the whole idea.

I no longer know how to dress myself, apparently. I've never much cared about being fashionable. When I'm not at work, my clothing choices are governed by a hatred of socks, shoes, and long pants. But when my teenaged kids suggest that I should re-think the cargo shorts, that hurts, man. I've worked hard for these legs, you know?

On the surface, Charles might have been right about turning 50. Or maybe it's all just a self-fulfilling prophecy - ten years of wondering manifesting itself in the physical world. But knowing Charles, I'm thinking his warning was a bit of a challenge - a virus in my psyche - aimed at making sure I fight the feeling of 'older'. If Charles can still play D&D on a regular basis while staring at 65 years on this Earth, then I'm thinking I can still wear cargo shorts and play XBOX into the wee hours once in awhile. I'll just need a quick nap, I think.