Today I was putting on my pants in the bathroom and for just a second I noticed I had my t-shirt tucked into my jeans. It was a shocking image. If I had a moustache and eyeglasses, I could be easily have been mistaken for my Dad in about 1989. It’s interesting how subtle changes like that can totally change the way you look and feel. All it takes for me to become middle-aged is tucking a t-shirt into jeans.
Then later today, I was getting a haircut and she wet it down and combed it forward, and I was staring at my scalp, as if my hair were transparent. Jesus Christ, I thought, fix it. Then she was pulling it back on the front corner to trim my bangs, and I saw a monstrous Widow’s peak creeping back the side of my head. I’m thinking, is there something wrong with the lighting in this place? Then the girl mentioned that the last person used a texturing razor on my hair, which once it grows out, turns from choppy to wispy. “We’ll make sure to not use that razor again, and your hair will look a lot fuller.” Thanks. Thanks a lot. Like I lost a leg and we’re going to put on a prosthetic so nobody will notice. “You’re doing great. You’re going to be just fine.”
I remembered when I was a kid, my mom would take me to the barber, and the consistent response I got was shock at how thick and full my hair was. It was like a big blonde cabbage. Now I’m restricted to certain tools to avoid making me look fucking bald.
Don’t be fooled, I’ve never been afraid of aging. Quite the contrary actually. I like my age. I sincerely believe that every year I’ve gotten better, at least on some level. I look at old pictures from when I was 17 or 18, and cringe at the skinny awkward kid. But there are those moments when you realize, wow, my body is much older than the person inside of it thinks it is.
Once I trained a 90-year-old chain smoker how to door canvass in DC for the Sierra Club. He was a trooper for the first hour or so, insisting that all he needed was to just get back in shape and get used to walking more often. That he used to do it all the time. He was a good canvasser too. But soon I think he realized that if he kept walking up porch stairs all evening, he might not make it back to the office.
He was a government engineer and retired relatively very late in life. I have a hunch that was the first evening in his life when he realized, there is no more “getting back in shape” for him. That his body is much, much older than the person inside of it thinks it is. And he didn’t come back to work for his second day.