It happened the other morning; while taking in my craggy visage in the morning mirror, I was shocked more than usual at what was looking back at me. There, beyond the fog and crow’s feet and self doubt lay one of two possibilities; either there was a tremendous prom-night special zit growing there or my first gin blossom had bloomed. Panic, either way. Panic.
See, the timing was somewhat fortuitous. I turned 37 the other day, and graceful it was not. Unlike George Clooney, who quipped “I’m kind of comfortable with getting older because it’s better than the other option, which is being dead”, I’m really not all that great with the descent to 50 and mortality itself. In fact, I really have nothing at all in common with Clooney, so this isn’t that surprising at all.
Panic itself blossomed into hyperactive screeching at myself, as an enraged chimp might at the sight of a perceived enemy in a mirror, and after a minor fit of smacking the sink and howling at the sky “whyyyyy? whyyyyy???”, I came to my senses and calmed down. Okay, the pain indicated that despite the fact that I’ve only taken to drinking gin for, like, a week or two, this was most likely a zit, a throwback to days of yore, when most of your worries centered around getting carded. I was joyous and in pain all at once. My body, in all of it’s creaky lumbering towards the pine box, was still capable of creating oily messes known and reviled by teenagers worldwide. Enraged screeching was replaced by victorious thumping upon my chest, which led to shooting chest pains and a coughing fit. Victory, nonetheless.
The morning’s episode led my to contemplate other, more ominous signs of my impending doom. I’m not talking about the obvious choices, like having someone pre-chew my meals or watching “Murder, She Wrote”, but rather, more insidious and subtle hints that I’m growing long in the tooth. Over a heart-healthy breakfast of bananas and a piece of whole grain cardboard, I realized I was wearing gray socks to the gym. No, I didn’t just stutter that last line. Gray socks. Not the gray socks your pappy wore with sock garters and polyester and hair tonic. No, no, these are athletic socks, designed to wick buffalo-style sweat from your ankles and propel you to run even faster. Or something like that.
I realize that the athletic advances one might gain from a pair of socks is the equivalent of sporting a goatee to distract from your multiple chins: sure you may not see the layers of turkey waddle at first when sporting chin pubes, but believe me, everyone knows what you’re up to. Same with these socks. If I’m a fantastic lard-ass in knee high tube socks, I’m no less the hairy hog in these awesomely airy and sleek gray numbers, and I’ll run no faster. But I’ll feel it, my friends. And isn’t that really the key to better living through denial? The perception, in your own mind, that you’re not really getting older, that clearly it’s a MISTAKE that they’re playing Nirvana on the “classic rock” station, that some people might be referencing you as “that kid” as in “that kid sure has his stuff together! He even has his own house at age 37!” Reality is best left to accountants and youth should actually not be wasted on the young.
As breakfast wound down, and I commenced to stretching out in order to be able to slip on my shoes, I couldn’t help but smile. I smiled at the thought that despite my best efforts, I’ll continue to trip and fall into the sunset years of living. I smiled at stupid sayings made up by middle agers, like “40 is the new 30”. That’s a bunch of bull. Sure, not too many generations ago, people barely made it to age 40 if they were lucky, but let’s face it, when you’re 40, you’re still 40 and halfway to the graveyard on a GOOD day. And smiling because I feel kinda lucky to have made it this many years so far. No more proms for me, even if prom-like harbingers such as acne and crippling insecurity plague my existence now and then. I smile about that, too.
And, as I hobbled out the door in my overpriced running shoes to spend another hour at the gym giving the Reaper the single finger salute, I smiled as well. Good times they await all of us. Even those of us old enough to wear gray socks in public.