Saturday, July 10, 2010

the thing about aging

i should probably add a "part one" designator to this post, since there is a lot about aging that i need to write about. let's see how it goes first, though, in the body of this post, before i start messing with the title and making promises of sequels to come.

now you may wonder what could be so bad about the prospect of aging in los angeles. and if you are one of those people who are wondering about this, i will probably assume that either a) you do not live in los angeles; or b) you are young. granted, it could also be that, like me, you are aging in los angeles, but, unlike me, you are loving it; but then it would be best that you confine that experience to your own blogs, or to the comments section of this one. because, readers, this post is about how aging in los angeles sucks, so you might as well strap in for the ride.


the other day i went to a dermatologist to have my skin looked at for sun damage. as a kid of the 70's (back when a tan was considered healthy and farrah fawcett was the image of bronzed health), i have had my share of exposure to the sun. i have probably had more than my share, since in southern california in the 70's one would often spend considerable time acquiring that healthy "golden glow". those of us with darker skin are not immune from the long term effects of the sun, either. i remember how, in his later years, my father had problems with cancerous lesions on his face that had to be removed, and he was full blooded mexican, so i want to make sure that there is nothing pre-cancerous on my face.

anyway, in the paperwork i had to fill out before the exam, there were not only the usual questions about my health history and the reasons why i was there, but i also was questioned on whether or not i thought i looked younger, older, or exactly my age, and if i was okay with any wrinkles i might have on my face. uh, okay. in a nutshell, i answered "younger", and "yes", respectively. now, let me clarify that i do in fact look younger than my age, and there are several reasons why that might be, but i think it is primarily because i have taken really great care of my health for many years, and it seems to be paying off. but i also have wrinkles, folks. i have them on my forehead, and i have them under my eyes. but i am 47 years old!my face is the face of a (healthy) 47 year old! so...i think that i only look younger than my age because most people my age look olderthan their age--i am what 47 should look like!

but looking healthy is not enough in los angeles. you can't have wrinkles!

really. i mean, really.(where is katherine hepburn when we need her?) wrinkles signify age, and that is becoming more and more of a negative in this town, even for men. for all the talk of how 40 is the new 20, there is an equal amount of talk about how you begin to lose cultural significance as you get older.

the only way that you can be important and visible in los angeles as an older person is if you are either famous or rich. being both helps tremendously. otherwise, you are pretty much out of the picture. i dare you to challenge me on this. now it doesn't help that there are so many older people here who are completely off their rockers...i mean, bat-shit crazy. and when i see these people, i can't help but wonder if they turned crazy as they got older, or if they were that way when they were young. in other words, does los angeles make you crazy if you stay here long enough?

take the old people who come into whole foods, for instance. there is betty, who is known for throwing her poop all over the women's bathroom, when she does not crap her pants; and there is that guy with the bad toupee who always wears the usa olympic windbreaker and pretty much samples his way through the store, buying nothing, then gets angry when you question how many samples he is taking from the hotbar; then there is the african american dude who told me once that salt was a poison because it is used to clean car radiators(?), and then wanted to know why we use it in so many of our recipes, and that what did i know because i didn't do 100 push ups a day like he did (what???), and when i told him "okay, sir", and turned away, he called me a fucking faggot white boy (what??????); and then there is the woman known as "grandma", who won't allow a black person to serve her pizza, and...must i go on??

i wish it weren't this way. it would be nice if the older people who shopped there were nice, and aware, and wise, and interesting, and engaged (like i hope to be). i would even take two out of five. but maybe, just maybe, that is not possible in los angeles. maybe, if you stay here long enough to become invisible, you just go nuts. i don't know. i don't know.


i remember how, many many years ago, my sister and her family were visiting at our house in san diego from where they lived in northern california. as their summer visit came to an end, and they were preparing to drive north to their home, one of their young daughters became nearly hysterical at the thought of driving through los angeles during the daytime. she was convinced that they would never get through. i remember her crying and full of fear, saying "we can'tgo through los angeles, we just won't make it!" her fear was so real and tragic. my sister did her best to comfort and reassure her, and of course, they did drive through los angeles that day, and they did make it through all the way back to placerville, but that image has stayed with me for all these years, for some reason. there was something very terrifying about los angeles to my young niece, much as there is to me today.

it wasn't always this way. i used to like los angeles more. when i first got here nearly 20 years ago, it was a goal of mine to conquer this city (i'm gonna own this town!). it was difficult for sure, as it always is getting used to a new city, but i felt that this is where i wanted to be, as a performer, and that in no short time i would find my place here. and people were different back then as well. this was before the internet, before cell phones, before all the gadgets that now serve so effectively as shields against relating to others in real life. but i slowly began to notice something about this city as i lived and worked here over time and had an opportunity to live in several different areas within the city limits. what i noticed is that living in los angeles is like having all your greatest fears move into your neighborhood, and then finding out that they all make more money than you do. what i noticed is that despite the increased connection that our phones and the internet offer us 24/7, people seem lonelier than ever. what i noticed is that the more that young folks have gained financial and cultural power, the angrier they have become. what i noticed is that i began to stop loving los angeles.

but the biggest red flag for me has been noticing how all the above have affected my own interpersonal relationships--in many ways, i have responded positively, and in many ways, i have not. without boring you with the particulars, i will say that when i draw a straight line from who i am today to who i will probably end up being if i stay in los angeles, i don't like what i foresee. in other words, as i get older, this city works against my developmental quirks. in other words, i don't want to end up going nuts.


  1. Doesn't matter where you are/live when it comes to coping with the aging process. You are right. Our culture is obsessed with looking young....and I guess LA is the extreme. Bottom line is that we all have to deal with the process in hopefully a healthy that really snaps you back to reality. We are all born, live our lives and eventually die! Why worry about the superficial stuff?!

  2. you are right, jabacue...and since i rarely worry about the superficial stuff, i don't fit in l.a. anymore. or do i? i would welcome more of your sharing of your experience of age and any other thing where you live!

  3. The clincher was when I was your age and started noticing that I was becoming invisible. I guess I was used to 'being noticed' most of my life and when I wasn't it was weird and worrisome to me. I began to realize that I was aging and I didn't like it one little bit. And it didn't help that my husband who is the same age, looks 15 years younger than he is! Once I put 'things' into perspective and it took a few years, I began to see that there was not too much I could or wanted to do about it. It's just not in LA that aging is frowned permeates our culture as you know. I just turned 62 and enjoy my life and am pretty healthy. Why am I telling you all this?! Maybe because you asked.
    Stay tuned. Have a great week.

  4. a fantastic share, jabacue!!!!!

  5. We live along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia...on the Eastern Shore. We are both from NS and have lived for a few years on Canada's west coast back in the 80's.
    Returned home for a number of reasons but mainly for the peace and quiet and lifestyle of this place. Some people think the Maritimes (NS, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island) are a bit 'backwards'. It depends on how you are looking at it. I do not want to particularly live in a city like Toronto.....yet a good friend loves it there. Guess it depends on what your needs are and what you want.....and are lucky enough to know.
    Again though, I am in a relationship and this is profoundly different than living on ones own. There is a lot of compromising which is necessary to make things work out. Living alone has an entirely different focus. And I really can't comment too much on this as it's been a very long time since I was 'single'.....37 years to be exact!
    But I do know that it's like apples and oranges.....both are good if that is what you want.
    Much like living in LA compared to living in say a village of 100 people. So different yet great for those who choose either.
    Blah,blah blah.......

  6. good to finally know your name, jim, and i love what you are sharing with me. that is the whole reason i started this blog, besides the need to write. :-) i have been to toronto, and i would imagine it is a better place to be single in, as is l.a.