My wife Mary and I recently celebrated our 60th birthdays. Celebrated may not be the best use of the word, maybe more like "acknowledged."
I think every decade birthday brings on its own reflection, but perhaps none more than the 60th. Just think about the milestone of entering the decade when you become eligible for Social Security, or senior discounts, or "of retirement age" -- the list goes on. For sure, we are now well past the halfway mark, on the downward slope. At a seminar this last year, we heard from a well-known expert on aging that if you live long enough, EVERYONE experiences dementia. How comforting.
So, in character, I spent a lot of time reflecting on this sixth decade milestone, and I recognized that I wasn't dealing particularly well with the transition. In fact, I have been in outright denial. What makes me think this? Well, I identified six reasons why I am in fact in denial of my age. In descending order, they are:
6). Bristling At A Compliment
Mary and I recently attended the Motorcycle Show at Jacob Javits in Manhattan. If you know anything about motorcycling as a past time, it is predominantly populated with midlife crisis 50- and 60-year-olds, wearing do-rags and leather jackets on the weekends and toiling away as accountants, lawyers and managers during the week. I know because I am one of the tribe. We've been to most of the major rallies, ridden across the US and of course, we own a Harley Road King.
OK so you get it, I am the quintessential weekend Harley riding tough guy stud with my ear ring and leathers, clinging to my youth.
Mary and I are walking the show, and we come up one of the booths hawking some crap that even I draw the line at wearing, and two T&A chicks are handing out brochures. As the one spots us, she nudges her friend and they start to giggle. As we get close, the one says, "You guys are such a cute couple!" Of course, the macho stud in me was crushed. What happened? This is a compliment for an old couple, not US!
This is up there with the ultimate compliment for someone in their 60s, "You look great for your age!" ARRRGGGHH!
5). Refusing A Senior Discount
OK, so I started getting the AARP cards and mailings at least five years ago, but tossed them off as a marketing ploy, or at the very least, a mistake. It never really dawned on me that I might be eligible anytime soon for senior discounts.
Two months ago, Mary and I are on a weekend vacation in Florida, and we decided to go to the movies. As we walked up to the window, I asked for two adult tickets. This very nice young woman looked at me, looked at Mary and then back to me and asked, "One senior?" GGGRRR... "No, I am only 59!" Now any reasonable, penny-pinching, age-challenged adult would have seized the opportunity to save money. Not me, I'm not going to compromise my integrity for a mere $4 savings! Right!
4). Ignoring Our Eventual Retirement
Mary and I decided to host a party to celebrate our 60th. Of course, staying true to our denial, we held it at a local hip performance space and brought in a cool group from St. Louis, Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three. (Man, these guys are cool; check them out when you get a chance.)
I know we should have probably saved the money, but what the heck, how else could we have justified staying up until 4am dancing with our kids and a select group of friends, also in denial. Like us, I am sure they needed the better part of a few days to recuperate.
3). Denial Of Hair Loss
I used to have this full head of greying hair that I slicked back into a bad-boy mafia-type do. It worked for me, and complimented the Giorgio Armani suits and entrepreneur image that I promoted. One day one of my kids was like, "Hey look, a bald spot!" That did it; I took to a close crop buzz cut that masked the loss within. A few months ago, my eight-year-old granddaughter Luna said, "Hey Grampy, you have a bald spot!" That did it; I took to the razor and shaved my head. One of my friends recently remarked, "You should grow your hair out, it looked so good!" In that moment of truth, I now know that I must be in denial of massive hair loss when I said, "Yes, but I think this looks better!" Yikes, a Mr. Clean look with a head that reflects multiple beatings with a wooden spoon as a kid looks better? Really?
2). Inappropriate Dress For My Age
Yes, we live in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. For those of you who live outside of New York, or haven't read a newspaper in the last five years, Williamsburg is the home of the Hipster. Young, artistic, expressive young people who wear multiple piercings and tattoos, and look like they get to work sometime in the early evening based on the fact that breakfast places open at noon!
We migrated here seven years ago as empty nesters looking for the urban experience. Just like the time I returned from a vacation in Palm Beach with plaid pants and a pink sport coat, we quickly transitioned to fit in with our clothing. Maybe not as dramatic as buying lederhosen if you moved to Munich, the clothing here is different. I recently thought about being in denial on my age, and I glanced at a mirror as I was leaving our apartment, and realized I had turned into a Hipster version of Ed Norton. Not the cool Ed Norton from "Fight Club," but more like the Ed Norton from the Honeymooners!
1). Denying A Drop In Testosterone
I know it is a fact of nature that my testosterone has dropped to the level of a harem eunuch! But that doesn't mean I have to accept it. But, there may be a more graceful fall from macho man. Heck, I have been referring to Viagra as a party drug, not as a cure for anything as menacing as erectile dysfunction!
Last fall, my son Chris and I went up to Baker Field at the northern tip of Manhattan to watch an Old Blue Rugby match. Being the two kings of testosterone, Chris and I both have a history of playing the game, including a European tour that we did five years ago with my son-in-law Sheppy and my aging younger brother Mike and his three sons. While playing rugby at age 55 was pretty stupid, it did give me an excuse to hang up the cleats, because "I promised my wife" that after the tour I was done, not because I was denying the truth -- which really was fear of one big hit that would leave me with the drool cup and a seat by the window waiting for visitors.
We left the game and stopped at a gas station. As I was waiting in line, some souped-up shit box crowded with five local toughs jumped in front of me in line. Of course, I leaped out of the car and took my fiercest tough guy pose, and shouted, "What the hell!" Reluctantly, and truthfully with nothing to prove, my jacked-up son, who would put fear into the Hulk, got out of the car to calm down the situation. I retreated with disgust.
As we got back in the car, Chris looked over to me and said, "Yes, you were in the right, but it may not have been worth a bullet!" What was I thinking? Next time I will remember my age, I promise...NOT!