Sunday, July 11, 2010

On Aging

My mom has this theory.

At some point in your life, she says, you stop aging in your head. Your body keeps right on marching on, getting older and greyer and so on, but in your head you’re always about the same age. This is why you look in the mirror and get that initial shock before you figure out that the reflection really is you.

You can tell when you reach that moment even without a mirror, because it’s the point where you stop knowing how old you are and start having to do the math. “How old am I? Well, let’s see, I was born in … and this year is … and I haven’t had my birthday yet (have I?) so subtract one and I get … really? I’m that old? I don’t feel that old.”

When you’re young, you know how old you are. You know with every fiber of your being how old you are, and when you’re really young you know to the half-year. But over the years you lose that connection. For a while you kind of know – it’s not something that sits at the top of your mind, but it’s right there for the asking.

And then you lose it and have to start doing the math.

This is why you see people in their forties and fifties doing things that, really, they ought to leave to people in their twenties. You can’t eat that way anymore, trust me. And similarly, when you’re in your thirties you need to stop thinking you’re in your teens because you can’t drink that way either.

Me? In my head I’m 26. My body may be … what? … carry the one, still not my birthday … and I get … huh, considerably more than 26. But that was the last time I actually knew how old I was without having to think about it.

Today is my mom’s birthday. It’s one of the big ones, with a zero at the end of it, but in her head I’m sure she’s not nearly that old.

Happy Birthday, Mom.


Katherine McKay said...

You caught that "aging" thing exactly. What's even more disconcerting than that stranger in the mirror is looking for your kids and finding these grown whiskered men. Oy.

Eric said...

Oi. Yeah, I think your Mom's right.

I'll tell you what else is disconcerting about this phenomena: how you interact with culture. As a f'r'instance, the other day I'm driving along, listening to the early-'80s alternative channel on satellite radio, when I suddenly, disconcertingly realize that listening to these tunes by The Smiths, The Cure, The Clash, R.E.M., et al. are basically the equivalent of catching some geezer listening to the Oldies channel when I was a kid. This stuff still sounds fresh to me, but it's all three-decades-plus-and-counting old.

I'm going to see The Pixies in September, on a reunion tour to celebrate the anniversary of Doolittle. Somebody tell me it's not the equivalent of a Boomer going to see Sha-Na-Na. Please. Please tell me that.

I'm not getting old. I swear. If I was getting old I'd feel older, right?

David said...

I'd tell you that, but unfortunately I'd be lying. On the plus side, though, the quality of the music will be higher with The Pixies.

I think you're on to something with your point about interacting with culture, though. I get that way with books. Did you know that NOT ONE of my history students this year had read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Not. One.

Get off my lawn, you kids.

Beatrice Desper said...

Mom is right. That's another sign of aging... realizing that Mom was right all along. Damn!
"The Hitchhiker's Guide" will one day be seen as a classic, like Shakespeare. Is that the one when somebody finds out the meaning of life and it turns out to be a number? Can't remember.
Am rambling...

David said...

Rambling and memory loss are further signs of aging, you know that, right? :)