Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Humor Me: Dude, I'm getting old

This is a column I wrote a year ago for The Dallas Morning News when I turned 36. But now that I've turned 37, I still feel about the same.

Humor Me: Dude, I'm getting old


My phone conversations with my dad usually follow the same pattern. There's weather talk, followed by sports, politics, updates on the grandkids and, finally, an awkward silence that ends with, "Hold on, I think your mother wants to talk to you."

Yep, it's a pretty strict routine. But there is one wild card that my dad can play at any time:

"I'll tell you what Matt ... it's hell to get old."

I never know when that's coming. But I can generally count on it, because my dad's been telling me that since the days when I thought third-graders were the big kids.

Fortunately, my dad left the hell of getting old out of our conversation last week. Either out of courtesy, or quite possibly, forgetfulness, he didn't mention it on my birthday.

And, you know, I thought that was really nice. Because the pain of aging isn't something you want to hear when you're turning 30.

Which, uh was six years ago for me. I'm now 36.

But does that bother me?

Not at all. You know how a kid will say "I'm 5-and-three-quarters" because he doesn't want to be lumped in with the 5-and-one-quarters who still like Elmo and don't know how to tie their shoes?

Well that's me. I'm 36 years and one week. I'm proud of all of my age -- proud enough that I want to shout it from a rooftop. It's just that I can't get on the rooftop because my back is kind of sore, and my knees are getting creaky, and that charley horse in my leg is acting up, and my corns are killing me. Also, at my age, I shouldn't take the risk of falling down and breaking my hip.

See, I'm still young enough to kid around. And I really don't feel like I'm getting older. Make me 15 years younger for a day and I would feel a difference, but right now, I feel as though I can do all the things I did when I was 21. Other than date, because my wife forbids that.

I'm sure I'm naive about aging. I've probably gained weight in the last 15 years, and I've definitely lost hair. I might be a step slower, and not just when I have my two kids clinging to my leg. [Author note: I now have three kids. Nathan, I you have not been forgotten].

But the thing with aging is that it doesn't have the formal rites of passage that come with growing up.

As an adult, you don't take a first step, start kindergarten, hit puberty or hit a Taco Bell drive-thru speaker with the car you get on your Sweet 16. You just start seeing gray hairs, begin reading labels for fiber content and become a little obsessed with the price of gasoline.

Suddenly, just a few years after you were the world's hope for the future, you're part of the past. You're a sir or ma'am instead of a dude, bud or miss, and your demographic slides from Mountain Dew to Country Time Lemonade.

And then you get something like the "Healthy Lifestyles" packet of offers in your mailbox. I'm hoping it was a mistake, because here are some of the products selected especially for me:

-Walk-in bathtub to help "maintain my safety and independence."

-The Jitterbug cellphone, featuring large "simple yes and no buttons" and "no confusing icons."

-The Exerstrider: The World's #1 Fitness Walking Poles.

I also got a brochure that asked me, "Are You Dreaming of Retiring to Florida Soon?"

Actually, I am dreaming of retiring. But not to Florida, and not soon. My financial adviser tells me that outside of a lottery win or a financial strategy that involves a possible prison sentence, I need to keep working for some time.

And that's my plan. Because I'm hoping to live to a ripe old age, or at least old enough to attract stares by mowing my lawn while wearing Bermuda shorts, black dress socks and sandals.

Maybe then I'll start telling my kids how it's hell to get old. But for now, at age 36 and one week?

It's still OK, dude.

[Cake photo courtesy of Joey Gannon]