Saturday, April 4, 2015

Age: It's All In or Nothing

Can you guess which stage I am at?
A brief break from my "This House" series...

On a recent day, a young man, who I was getting to know, was in my company. As we lay face to face in only the way that people "getting to know one another" do, I asked him if he ever thinks about the fact that I am fifty-two years of age. He told me that he does not think about it--he does not think about it at all. He then asked me if I think about it, and I confessed to him that I do indeed think about it. I told him that I think about how it would play out to get "involved" with someone younger than I, given that there is a possibility that right now, unbeknownst to me, there is something inside me, getting ready to ramp up, that may lead to my death.

So, yeah, I do think about my age.

I know it's not romantic, but I think about these things--just not in the way you might expect. Age, as a concept, is a sticky one, isn't it? Better yet, it is slippery. Over the years, the topic of age has slipped all around the place, never landing for long in one perspective. When I was a child, anyone who was in their fifties was old! They were often grandparents, and overweight, and certainly not sexy, not sexy at all. But then something happened. In the 70's people started taking care better care of themselves, at least exercise-wise. They cut back on smoking and drinking, at least compared to the 60's and earlier, and they ate better. Natural and organic foods started to show up, and aerobics became popular.

Along with these changes, many public figures refused to "get old". It seems that for many, it is no longer acceptable to "age" when you don't "have to", and many people remained active, relevant, and sexually appealing after forty. Nowadays, of course, there is procedural assistance, and many people in their fifties and older have faces devoid of wrinkles! So what does it mean to age? Is there a difference between wanting to be healthy as one gets older, and wanting to look forever young? (Hint: Of COURSE there is.)

I used to be very very very active, so active that it was nearly ridiculous. In my twenties, in San Diego, I would take dance classes all day, work in a bar until 3am, nap for a couple of hours until my day job at 6 am, then go back to class when I got off .
Me in dance class in my 20's
I would rehearse for shows while teaching dance and choreographing for my own group, then race up to L.A. to take more classes. In my thirties I was doing it all in L.A. while working catering gigs, often racking up 18 hour work days on events. For one job I would start at 5 am and do deliveries all day only to return in the evening to load up a party, deliver and set it up, run the floor, then break it down and return to the kitchen at 2 am. Then in my forties I worked full time at Whole Foods Market while taking 12 units per quarter in grad school, eventually adding an internship that was basically an unpaid part time job.

Me doing ALC in my 30's
All through this, I took pretty good care of myself. I always consumed below moderate levels of alcohol (and other stuff), and as I learned how to cook, I ate healthier. I have been working out since I was fourteen years old, and have cycled all my life. I do yoga and I drink lots of water, I get regular sleep, blah blah blah. But now, in my fifties, I am tired! I am not exactly sitting in a rocking chair though. I am building a psychotherapy practice in a crowded field and an economy that values physical beauty over mental health. I have no back up plan, no safety net. I still bike or take public transit everywhere, and I still work out at least three times a week and do yoga. But for me, that is slowing down! I like being at home at night, not running around town doing who knows what. There is SO much going on just outside my door but I am more interested in what is happening behind my closed door, with myself as company.

The potential of romance was a big factor in my past nutso activity level. Though I was a hard worker and loved most of what I did, I was also aware of an underlying hope that one of the many activities I engaged in would lead to meeting "The One". Can you imagine such a crazy idea? But here is the thing about that, from my much lived-in perspective: I just don't care about that anymore. The reality about the idea of The One is that it is only a story, and nothing more. This story is true for some, not for others. It was true for me until it wasn't any longer, in other words, there were a lot of unfinished first acts. There were some great loves, some shitty loves, some okay loves, and some really good sex mixed up in all of it. But for me, the only "one" for me has turned out to be, well, me. I wrote about this earlier so I won't rehash it now, except to repeat that I am not quitting--just stepping off the road and sitting on a sidewalk bench. There is plenty of room for someone to sit next to me, if they wish.

The story of The One has great power. In fact, you might be able to see how religion, at its core, is the ultimate story of The One, since it properly places Perfect Love right out of reach, thereby sustaining desire, hope, and pursuit. Many religious folk do their best to bring the story down to earth in their own human pairings, and many succeed quite well. My niece recently got married to the first boy she has seriously dated, and since they are Mormon, they see their marriage as being "for eternity".

As a story, this works for the Mormons precisely because it is so over the top. If you are going to invest in the story of The One, you MUST be all in or it won't work. If you doubt one parcel of it the whole thing could start to crumble--except for the Jews, whose faith is strengthened through questioning and investigation. My lovely niece is sure to have a happy marriage, happier than most, because she is wholly invested in a story that nearly erases doubt and extraneous expectation. But that doesn't make her belief the truth, or the way she got married the correct way--at least not for everybody. I am sure she loves her husband (as much as one can love their first), but the church tells her what to expect from a marriage, and I suspect that she, like other Mormon wives, fully accept this dictate*. They have to, otherwise they might look at their husbands and say, at some point, "Who am I and who are you?" Questions like that are not always great for storybook marriage, but they are fantastic for living a life like mine.

For me, the choice between options was yanked away when I realized that gay people didn't get to participate in storybook marriages. At first, I was lost, and tried to find my prince despite not being wanted in the kingdom, but now I cherish my chosen life as much as my niece cherishes her dictated life. I am "all in". But both are still based on stories. The only difference is that I am more of a co-author of my story, and at this point I have killed off the character of The One (even though nowadays the storybook marriage is available to me). It just doesn't work with my storyline.

My storyline requires regular editing, because, you know, things change! This gives me an advantage in that I don't get hung up on things being a certain way, forever, because they aren't. If you don't like that fact, then I guess you have to make up a story that makes you feel more comfortable (like the Mormons). No harm there, I suppose, unless they feel that their story needs to be everybody else's story (they do). With my story, I have the support of science, which means that it is not just my story, but the story of nature and physics. Argue with that, bitches!

That is why, when I find myself lying face to face with a young man, I cannot just stick to the story that I am also young. I do think about it! It is easy for a young person to have a story that says "age is just a number", but for someone of age, that is not necessarily true! Young folks see a sixty year old as old, while sixty-five year olds give themselves another five years before they will admit to joining that club. My question is, what are the boundaries of old age based on?

Age is not just a number, age is aging, but aging is not necessarily getting old. What aging looks like is up to the individual, biology and heredity, the culture, and the environment. I will agree with most that "you are as old as you feel". Most days I feel pretty "young", while other days I feel "older", but perhaps I am just tired--a state of feeling that I pretty much bulldozed out of my life for many years, but now openly welcome with a lovely afternoon nap or an evening relaxing at home. I do know that while I want to feel good, I have no desire to be thirty-five anymore. It is too tiring, and not as interesting to me now as it was at the time. I like my life now, and if that life includes occasions where I can take a nap one day, then lay face to face another day with someone who reminds me what it "feels like" to be younger, then so be it. It's something worth thinking about, don't you think?

*Great article here about how religion gets 'em through social consent.


  1. 60.5 here, and I intend to reach 100. no plastic surgery or makeup for me; nor is there a young stud on the horizon. go to work, go to the gym, have personal interests (knitting, books, baseball).

    my MIL passed 2 weeks ago (age 78); she quit working at age 60, and also quit living. she became a blob, imploding into herself. all she did was watch trash tv and sit in her lay-z-boy. so NOT the kind of life I want!

    you keep on keeping on as you wrote above; I dare say you will live to be 100 also! smooches!

    1. Anne Marie, I can truly see why you "bring all the boys to the yard"!! You are a gem, with a way of seeing life that tickles me.

  2. Tony, as incredible as it sounds, I can relate to every word of this post. You have aptly reflected so many of my thoughts and feelings. I am admittedly over fifty. Sometimes I feel almost like a kid, but - more often lately - I feel like I'm pushing 100. I never thought I'd be this old. I remember a time when 30 seemed old. Then 40....and so on. I sometimes miss my youth, but I feel very comfortable with who I am now. The wild, turbulent days are over.

    Much like you, I was extremely active in my younger years. I often write about those years now (in my blog) because I regard them with astonishment. I was working, going to college, teaching piano, involved in endless rehearsals, giving concerts and recitals, had a very active social life - and still had time to bar-hop, cruise, and balance an astonishing array of lovers.
    In retrospect, it hardly seems possible that it was really me.

    Lately I lead a largely solitary existence and I thoroughly enjoy my own company. The illusion of ever finding that perfect Mr. Right has dwindled - - and is no longer a priority. I once had the perfect love, the greatest love of my life, but he is now dead. I'll write about it some day.

    Old age is inevitable, but much of is indeed a state of mind. I do secretly miss being a desirable young hunk, but I'm content with where I am now - and that's what matters most. Shedding the youthful nonsense is (almost) a relief.....

    Sorry for rambling. Just thought I'd share a few thoughts.

    1. I believe it, Jon! I think that the only person who is still as active as they were when younger is Madonna! I am okay with "slowing down", especially because I didn't allow myself to relax when I was younger--I was always working or performing or rehearsing or something. I never had free nights and if I did I didn't know what to do with them. Unlike you, I am MORE social now than before, mainly because I have time and I like people. That does not mean going to bars too much, but dinners and gatherings, doing activities together.

      I would love to hear about your "perfect love", mostly because I wonder if it would be perfect had it lasted. For many people, perfect love is unsustainable, because it is based on a story. It turns into "natural love", which has its ups and downs, but is actually stronger than perfect love. Maybe your story is different.

      For me, I have not changed that much, just learned to relax now that I have the time to do so. I never ran around that much because I was busy working, and I didn't want to. The bars and parties never held that much interest for me, so nowadays I don't miss them. I have friends my age who insist on hitting every circuit party and doing botox and HGH to keep up with the times, and I could care less. Which is good. I would rather like my slower life than be chasing a rainbow--I have always been introspective and comfortable with solitude, that has not changed.

  3. As before I want to read this a few times before posting my comment.

  4. Blogger just ate my verbose and thoughtful replay. Nerts. I will try again later.

  5. My first reply was lost in the process of attempting to post it. This 2nd one will be more succinct and not as eloquent I fear.
    As always your writing is spot-on and well done. You have a good attitude, one I wish more people had. I struggle making it my own.
    I am 52. I am in a paradox I didn’t think I would live to see this age and now I have to figure out like the rest what to do with who and where I am. 
One of the reason I like Jungian psychology is it is predominantly geared to the issues of the second half of life and to Self-actualization to make meaningful Life before it arrives at Death.
    For the first time I am seeing and attracted in some ways to younger men; I am analyzing the aspects of why this is so.
    Please keep writing and sharing your Journey.

    1. Michael, I am sorry your first comment are not "lost" in the ether, but thank you for returning to "give it another go". Interesting that you did not think you would live to see this age. Perhaps the reason why is private, but I can understand why that would lead you to Jung. I have never been a huge fan primarily because he was nuts, and mostly just trying to compete with Freud, but of course I cannot dismiss his genius nor his contributions to the art of psychology. My bent is toward existentialism, where I get to create the meaning for my life, and I have to say that it is working out well, much better than, say, when I took meaning from others.

      As for younger men, there are a million reasons for the attraction, besides the obvious, but for me, there is an element of wanting to take in their youth, so to speak. But there is a psychological attraction as well, in that their minds often are more open to life than older minds. Not always, but when they are, and that is coupled with a youthful exterior, it makes for a fine experience indeed.

  6. You look better now than you did
    Mind you that goes for all of us

    1. Hi John! Thank you for saying that! This is part of my paradox, though. The motor is still running, but I am not sure there is anyplace I want to go! But things do tend to develop and unfold--the story isn't over yet, so this is just where I am at now. Stay tuned...

  7. Having recently crossed to the other side of fifty as well I can certainly relate. Keep up the good work, you are doing it well.

  8. I noticed your comments on Michael (SPO) blog and here I find your blog. I like what you have to say. Same questions go through my mind at 59. But I do not think of my age or age in general and I often have to think how old am I really when someone will ask me my age. So 52 to me appears fairly young. As for younger men, yes they are nice in so many ways but at the same time I find that I prefer people closer to my age, simply because I do not have to explain what I am talking about. I like what you have to say and will continue reading your blog.

    1. Hi Laurent!! Thanks for stopping by so many of my posts!

      You are in a long term relationship, right? I suspect that it may be easier to "age" when it is experienced from within a relationship. I love being single, but am lacking certain "markers" for reference to age, such as children, marriage, etc. I think that 50 hit me like an egg in the face and I had to take a minute to go, "When the hell did THAT happen?" I do find that as I ease more into my 50's, I am returning to myself and feeling virile and "young" again, in that I am not old. I am learning how to be in my 50's, and it ain't so bad!