By Robert LeFauve
“Age is just a number,” my wife tells me. Well, lots of things are numbers: blood pressure, credit card debt, golf scores. None of these get better as they get larger. Anyway, it’s easy for her to talk, since age seems to have missed her entirely and fallen with a thump on me. I lost the pepper in my salt-and-pepper hair some time ago. Now, when I get a haircut, the floor looks like a sheep has been sheared. My more follicle-challenged friends tell me I’m lucky to have kept my hair, but I can’t help but see this simply as an affirmation that I am still, technically, a mammal.
So, casting transitions to the wind, here is my Theory of Aging.
Best age to be? Forty. You can do everything you did at 39, but it’s suddenly impressive. I dunked a basketball on my 40th birthday so I could forever say I dunked in my 40s. Fifty is more of a relief, since that’s the age people thought you were anyway, and now you can finally stop saying “not yet.” I think 60 will be more like 40 except that every compliment you receive will be tempered by the phrase “for your age.” At some point in life, praise will be limited to clichés like “well preserved.”
Worst age to be? This may come as a surprise, but it’s 20. Think about it. You’ve officially left childhood and are expected to be well on your way to some meaningful career. This, of course, won’t happen, unless you consider moving back in with your parents to be a career. You’ve also entered the demographic responsible for the plague of reality shows on television. Taken together, that’s quite a burden.
Worst occupation for the age-conscious? Teaching. Every year your students are precisely the same age. Every year, you get noticeably older. It’s like a real-life “Picture of Dorian Gray” and you’re the painting. To the young mind, there are only two ages: zero to 28, 29 to death. You’re one or the other. Kids have no sense of the measure of time, which led to the following exchange in one of my recent U.S. history classes:
Me: Personally, Lincoln hated slavery.
Class: Wait, you knew Lincoln? Were you guys, like, friends?
Here are a few tips to help us handle the aging process.
• Get a dishonest doctor. During my latest physical, mine told me I was in great shape. Then he looked up from the chart he’d been reading and said, “Oh, it’s you.”
• Go to dinner at 4 p.m. It always helps to be the youngest patron in the room.
• Take advantage of those nightly trips to the bathroom by noticing how beautiful the stars are. While you’re at it, realize that sunrises look the same as sunsets. You’re much more likely to be up for one that the other.
• Reconnect with your inner child. Remember the sense of excitement you felt when you got your first shiny new bicycle? You’ll feel the same way when you get your first shiny new hip replacement.
If those fail, then embrace the aging process. Spend some time around the truly aged. You’ll find among them some of the most well-adjusted and happy-go-lucky people on the planet. They’ve endured life’s troubles with grace, reminisced with a smile and have little fear of the future. Pretty comforting stuff, that.
And most importantly, spend time around kids. Not to draw their youth from them like some sort of horror film but to be reminded that life goes on, that there is a future, even if it’s not yours, that for all of us, there once was a world of innocence and make-believe and boundless energy.
If that can’t bring a smile to your face, think about all the discount coffee you’re getting.