Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Today, I Am A Man (of a certain age)

On Monday I officially became a middle-aged man.

Not that this was any real surprise. I blew by 40 a few years ago now, and strictly on an actuarial basis it is not difficult to do the math and discover that I am either at or past the halfway point in my time on this planet. More generally, I have also developed an aversion to most forms of popular culture these days and the limits of my technological expertise are at least a decade old. At some point I expect to begin caring about the lawn, and when that happens I hope someone will sedate me and cart me away.

So middle-agedness has been creeping up on me, slowly but surely, for some time now.

I don't really mind this. It beats the alternative, for one thing. Plus, I was never cool even when I was young enough to care, so my not being so now is not all that much of a hardship. I have friends who are mourning this new uncool status, but I've had all my life to get used to it. It's a less stressful way to live, really. Probably greener, too, so I may well have backed into being cutting edge there. Stranger things have happened.

No, two things happened on Monday.

First, I got a haircut.

Now this in itself is not all that surprising. I manage to do this on a semi-annual basis these days, sometimes more often than that even. There are no actual barbers in Our Little Town anymore - no guys named Tony who will cut your hair, as opposed to guys named Serge who want to design it - so I usually head over to the Big Chain HairCuttery and tell whoever calls my name to make it the same, only shorter.

When I was a kid, my grandfather - whose name actually was Tony - cut all of his grandchildren's hair down in the basement of his home. I think this was something he had gotten into back when he worked for the Navy and figured out that he could cut his co-workers' hair for less than the barbershop charged and bring home some extra coin for his family. We'd go on down there and he'd wrap us in a sheet and start clipping away, and when he was done he'd give us a quarter. It still surprises me, somehow, that the flow of money is reversed these days.

I am a lot balder in photographs than I am in the mirror, I think. I can look at myself in the mirror and not think I look all that different, hair-wise, than I did in my 20s, but photographs for some reason tend to highlight the thinning. This does not particularly bother me, on the scale of crises - not for me the five strands of hair desperately trying to cover a highly polished dome, or the hair parted just above the ear that lives in deathly fear of strong breezes. I may not age gracefully, but I do plan on aging openly. I will simply have to invest in hats. Or sunscreen. Or just stay inside. It doesn't bother me, but it does puzzle me - I still don't understand why photographs highlight this in a way mirrors don't. Probably physics or something. Beware of science.

But the Big Chain HairCuttery person did a particularly efficient job this time, and there I was, staring at the reflection in the mirror and it struck me that even without the magic of photography, there was a lot more open real estate than I was used to seeing.

I'm growing taller than my hair.

After this, I went over to the doctor's office for my physical. And it was about time, really, since the last primary care physician I had has been gone so long that none of the nurses remember his name anymore. I think he was blonde.

So there I sat in the doctor's office, answering all of the usual questions - no, I don't smoke; no, I'm not allergic to any medications that I know of; yes, I am well aware that I need to lose some weight and stop eating like a graduate student; and so on. It was all going along quite well.

And then they figured out I needed a tetanus shot.

I hate needles. I hate them with a passion that has nothing to do with rational thought or legitimate cost-benefit analysis. Really, I know they don't hurt all that much, and they provide medical benefits. But still. I've had teeth filled without Novocain rather than get the shots. I don't do that anymore - eventually the cost-benefit analysis muscles do kick in - but there you go.

The problem with tetanus shots is that they hurt for just days and days. It's a good thing I didn't go into middle-innings relief pitching, or I'd really be in trouble.

If this were all that happened, it would not have been the Middle-Aged Milestone that it was. You men out there past your 40th birthday, you know exactly what is coming next, don't you? Things are going along swimmingly, you're thinking you'll get out with only minimal medical care being practiced upon you, and then out comes The Glove.

I understand the necessity of this procedure, but it is not something I care to discuss other than to say that Now, I Am A Middle-Aged Man.

Milestones are okay, although they do hurt when you smack into them.

1 comment:

Jack Lynch said...

It seems you're officially middle-aged when references to pop-culture celebrities by their first names no longer mean anything to you.

I remember, when I finished my last qualifying exam for the Ph.D., thinking, "This is the last exam I'll ever have to take!" It was a wonderful sensation for a few minutes, until I remembered medical exams -- which are much worse. Very few academic exams are administered with rubber gloves. And whereas you can reasonably hope to pass every academic exam, you just keep taking medical exams until you fail the last one -- no way to beat the system. Alas.