Opinion » Maxed Out

An age-old debate...



"Age is not a particularly interesting subject. Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough."

–Groucho Marx

"The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom."

– H. L. Mencken

"Hope I die before I get old."

– Pete Townshend

"Gettin' old sucks!"

– Me

I don't know for sure what old is, but I suspect it shows up around the time life begins to take things away from you more often than it gives you new things. At some point, you realize a disproportionate number of your evenings out involve attending memorials for friends who have died... especially in this town.

But it's pointless to obsess about death because death is like your last final exam. As with other finals, giving it any thought until the last possible moment serves no useful purpose whatsoever; you'll forget everything when the time comes and you'll spend needless hours tormenting yourself. The only people who obsess about death are the keeners who never understood deadlines were something to make, not something to beat. Serves 'em right.

The first time I can remember giving my own death any thought was the first time a part of me died. The executioner was an endodontist — Latin for sadistic inflictor of unimaginable pain — and the victim was a lower molar.

At the moment of death, the moment she plunged her instrument into the nerve at the root's end of the suspect tooth, killing it dead, there was, just like they say, a white light at the end of a long tunnel through which I could see my dearly departed tooth swirling in the bowl.

I went home, had a wake for my tooth, self-anesthetised with good scotch, realized my dead tooth couldn't really enjoy the symbolism, got philosophical, finally understood grievin' is for the livin' not for the dead, passed out and paid a big price the next day when I had to get on with life with a large number of brain cells having joined my molar in the Great Hereafter. Can I get an Amen?

But aging and death obviously aren't the same thing. They're more akin to foreplay and climax which, while being acts more or less joined at the hip, aren't the same thing either. In the case of aging and death, the main difference is that this is one of those times even guys don't want to rush through foreplay.

Thus far, the indignities of aging seem to be manageable. I can deal with reading glasses; I can pretend the white hairs in my beard are actually, finally, blond coming through; I can fool myself into thinking everyone who skis and jogs feels like their knees are about to give birth by day's end.

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