A field guide to middle age. First in an occasional series.
Preface: I dialed into a conference call the other day. Just as we were getting under way, I recalled with a lurch that I’d committed myself to another call at the same time. Or had I? I needed to check my email. But my laptop was in for a memory upgrade and, dammit, I couldn’t find my iPhone. I rummaged through bags and coats. I looked on and under tables. My frantic search was producing a fair bit of noise, so I stopped to press mute. That’s when I found my iPhone. It was in my hand. I had been talking on it.
This actually happened. I am officially getting old. I’m telling you: it’s only a matter of time before I pull a hamstring while grocery shopping.
Chapter 1: I looked in the mirror. I don’t usually look in the mirror—at most, I may glance or take a gander. (This fact is supported by anyone who has seen my “hairdo.”) But this time I lingered because I noticed something I’d never seen before: the hair of one of my eyebrows was askew. Frankly, I had no idea my eyebrow hair was even askewable. How long has this been going on? When did my brows go rogue, forcing me to worry not only about bedhead but also about bedface?
Chapter 2: I’ve started talking to myself. I was backing out of the driveway and was into the third sentence before I realized it was happening. What’s worse, it wasn’t even something interesting, like a subconscious thought or an alien possession. It was just the normal boring stuff I usually think to myself—Okay, first to get gas, then the bank, then Jazzercise . . .—except now I was saying it out loud for some reason. You know who does this? Old people. I don’t think Andy Rooney even knew there was a camera on him for the last 20 years of his life. That’s just how the elderly talk when they’re alone. Why does fruit have to come in so many different shapes? Who decided purple should be called purple? LETTERS ARE BETTER THAN EMAILS!
Chapter 3: I’m getting a little worried about the wisdom thing. The fundamental bargain of life is that as you grow older, you acquire a measure of insight and perspective—which sort of makes up for all the nose hair and incontinence. But I’m 44 and so far I haven’t come up with anything more profound than, “If you have the time, homemade guacamole is best.” Do you get your wisdom all at once? Will I wake up at the age of 75 going, “Aha! Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience!” These things keep me up at night—or they would, if I could stay awake past 9:30.
Chapter 4: Relative youth is still youth. I have a regular poker game with a group of guys, all of whom are older than me. It usually takes about 20 minutes for things to degenerate into confusion, contention and a general unawareness of who won, who lost and what the hell just happened. I figure I’m about three years away from being able to win every hand simply by saying confidently: “No, my pair of sixes beats your royal flush, old-timer. THOSE ARE THE RULES.”
Chapter 5: Almost every day, the world presents me with a new way of feeling my age. For instance, Can No Longer Focus on Things Too Close to My Face Day was a bit of a bummer. Another tough day came recently courtesy of Paulina Gretzky, daughter of Wayne Gretzky and a person who uses Twitter to broadcast photos of herself in which she displays few clothes and less shame. Here is how two versions of me would react to this:
Past Me: Oh my God, she is almost naked in those photos. That is so hot.
Present Me: Oh my God, she is almost naked in those photos. I’m glad I don’t have a daughter.
For the record, Future Me would likely mutter something about bikinis and the statistical probability of melanoma.
Epilogue: I still know all the words to the theme to Charles in Charge. I can’t remember a thing I read in the newspaper this morning.