New year, new you, right? In my case it’s not so much trying to be something ‘new’ as it is simply keeping the ‘old’ at bay. I have yet to reach that mystical plateau where I bask in a zen-like acceptance of my gray hair and turkey-neck. The way I look at it, why else would God have created Just For Men and botox?
This started over a decade ago, when I turned 50, fueling speculation as to how much longer I was entitled to refer to myself as “middle-aged.” Granted, some scientists believe the first person to live to 150 has already been born, but it’s highly unlikely I am he. And with the average life expectancy sitting at not quite 80 years old, I’m rapidly leaving the “middle” in the dust.
Now 60 is in my rear-view mirror. Sixty. I hate the very sound of it. The first time I said it out loud, answering a query about my age, it was like someone else was speaking. And I’m quite certain the twenty-something medical receptionist who posed the question began to talk louder and more deliberately at that point.
The millennials aren’t the only ones giving me up for dead. Madison Avenue has done the same, most notably when it comes to my, uh, equipment. The pharmaceutical hucksters are constantly disparaging its battle readiness and flow capabilities. And the algorithms seem to think that the only other products I have a need for are walk-in bathtubs and life alert buttons.
To make us feel better, we boomers tell ourselves things like “Sixty is the new forty” or “Age is just a number.” All I know is, my number is getting pretty unwieldy. Besides, those phrases seem a little hollow once you start receiving reminders in the mail that it’s time to have your prostate probed again.
Even so, the one thing I promised myself never to utter was “I’m too old for this shit” (regardless of whatever it was I might be doing at the time). I’ve always tried to stay active – not a slave to exercise, just enough so they’ll never have to knock down a wall of my house and pluck me out of my bed with a crane.
And with the exception of an ugly snowboarding incident that left me with a piece of angle iron screwed to my wrist bone, the plan appears to be working. All my parts seem to be in good functioning order, and I don’t make any grunting noises when I get into or out of an easy chair. In fact, I get a fair amount of comments about how good I look, comments that are always followed by the phrase “…for your age.” I’m assuming that’s meant as a compliment. To be honest, I’m just happy to be able to look myself in the mirror these days and not wince, except perhaps at the general thickening of the hair on my back, as what used to be boyish peach fuzz now more closely resembles a badger pelt.
I’m certainly not leading the charge. Maybe it was the old Nike commercials, imploring us to Just Do It. But these days more and more geriatric sorts are turning up on TV, stumbling glassy-eyed through the Hawaiian darkness – miles from the finish line – as the Ironman Triathlon comes to a close or being air-lifted out of Patagonia after they were thrown by their alpaca and broke a hip while competing in the Amazing Race, defeated but somehow better for having made the attempt. One of those epic “things to do before I die” undertakings that could actually cause your death.
And living in Colorado, there are plenty of ways for a person to test oneself physically. So in the summer I climb things like the Manitou Incline or the occasional 14er, and in the winter I cross-country ski up in the mountains. This year I plan to break in a new pair of snowshoes before the spring thaw.
Is it dangerous at my age? There was a story I read a few years ago, about an 80 year old woman who died while on a hike into the Grand Canyon. She lost her footing, slipped off the trail and, well, it’s a long way down. So, yeah, stuff happens. But if I had my druthers, I’d rather swan dive into the Grand Canyon than have a coronary and quietly sink beneath the waves in my walk-in bathtub.
Am I trying to prove something? Maybe just that the less you do, the less you can do, and I plan on doing a lot. Right up until my alpaca tosses me off a cliff.