After much observation and scant scientific data to back up my theory, I have come to the conclusion that as we age, we become androgynous. This can be an attractive thought to many, if we were talking about androgyny in the cool Mic and Bianca Jagger sense. However, Mother Nature, who is known for getting kicks out of tricking all of us, performs an almost cyclical act when we age, and turns us back into pre-kindergarten, androgynous beings pre-occupied with showing everybody our boo boos, and talking about our greatest accomplishment of the day, which is usually a good bowel movement.
The genesis of my theory came in the way of an epiphany a few years back when I was visiting a kindergarten class to do a lesson on how to make and keep friends. As I waded through the pond of waving arms and bobbing heads, a couple of the little ones couldn't wait to tell me what was on their mind.
"Look at this. My finger is bleeding. It's red!"
"No, it's not. It's pink," corrected a little girl with big glasses.
Before I could reply by telling the little boy to stop sucking on his finger, another one called out.
"I'm sitting Indian style. Can I go to the bathroom?"
All 20 of them demanded my complete and undivided attention and appeared to be totally impatient with their peers. I held up my hand and made the peace sign, which is a universal gesture in elementary schools meaning to settle down and listen. I told them I would listen to them, but first I wanted to share something.
I went ahead and started my lesson by asking, who I thought was a little girl, to come forward and help with a role-playing scene.
"He's a boy," interrupted one girl, who looked like she was the mayor of the class.
I really couldn't tell what gender he was. Kids seem to wear the same kind of clothes these days, and they really do look androgynous.
At that very moment, a peculiar feeling of déjà vu occurred. But this time I was able to see clearly what was in my mind's eye. It was only a few weeks earlier that I had come to visit my aging parents in Colorado, and I had that same feeling of being overwhelmed with two people who demanded my complete attention. When I first arrived for my visit, my mom was sitting in her recliner watching TV.
"Look at my feet. They curl up on the edges."
My dad noticed my mom peeling off her layers of socks, so he took the cue and started doing the same thing. A few moments later, I was staring at my dad's toenail fungus and hammer toes. Then they both started talking to me at the same time, without stopping. From what I could process, they were pretty much tattle telling on each other; one for not picking up after himself, and the other one for falling asleep in the recliner while watching 60 Minutes. I held up the peace sign in front of my aging parents and told them that I couldn't hear a word they were saying because they were both talking at the same time.
A few years later, after my mom passed on, my dad went into one of those independent/assisted living places that I refer to as Shady Pines. This is where you see the genders really become androgynous. Women, who are in the majority, take over as the community leaders. The tired and few men who live with them are corrected when they all want to sit together at one or two tables for supper.
"No, you have to sit in a chair that is vacant. There's one over there by Betty."
My dad, whose hormones previously made him a hunter, gatherer and a protector of my family, obliged without hesitation. Looking at all of them dining, I was reminded of how similar they all looked. Maybe it was the unisex velour jogging suits, or the absolute loss of any gender identifying behavior that made me feel like I was back in that same old kindergarten room again.
Naturally, we lose our supply of hormones as we age, which can have both positive and negative effects on our health and behavior. According to the Mayo Clinic website, "by about age 70, the decrease in a man's testosterone level can be as much as 50%." Women also lose their hormone supply, causing all sorts of unpleasant problems as well. I'm sure the loss of our hormones is connected in some way towards our march towards androgyny.
This could be a good thing though for men. With all those hormones leaking out of our system, it seems to me that we will be kinder to each other and less competitive. In fact, I blame an overabundance of testosterone for a host of problems including bullying, wars, greed, and anxiety disorders to name just a few. Everything in life comes full circle. I'm looking forward to the days when we will all be more alike, than different. All of us will be mellower, and we'll have more time to play. I'm just not sure I'll be wearing a velour jogging suit.