Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Old Standard

(Originally posted on 12/10/2008--KJ)

The one disease where you don't look forward to the cure.

--Citizen Kane

I dread getting old.

Not that it's imminent, but I do have a birthday coming up, so it'll be just a little bit closer this year than it was this same time last year. Which was just a little bit closer that year than that same time the year before.

Nice, leisurely pace, huh? Then how come it feels more like justalittlebitcloserthisyearthanitwasthissametimelastyear whichwasjustalittlebitcloserthatyearthanthatsametimetheyearbefore?

And that's just during the waking hours.

Why should I look forward to the aging process? Liver spots change your complexion. There's wet spaghetti where your neck used to be. Your fingers and toes petrify. Your flesh turns to corduroy. A speed bump sprouts from your back. And, if your male, your pelvis apparently disappears so that you have to pull your waist band all the way up to your nipples.

When you're old your voice hushes up. Maybe that's where the phrase "dirty old man" comes from. If you're going to talk like an obscene phone caller anyway...

You walk, talk, think, eat, breathe, and do absolutely nothing, at a much slower pace. You become more susceptible to gravitational force. Why else do so many elderly people walk with their heads bent over like they're at Catholic Mass?

When you're old your eyesight deteriorates so that your squint is just one more line on your face. Your hearing deteriorates so that you tip sideways, like a buoy, trying to understand what people are saying. And, finally, your mind deteriorates so that you no longer have to squint or tip your head sideways, as you can now see and hear people who aren't even there!

Getting old is a bummer. Huh? What's that? Nobody says "bummer" anymore? That's another problem with the aging process--your vocabulary deteriorates.

Thinking about all this the other night left me in a very bad way. So I did what I often do when consumed with despair. I reached for the remote and started channel surfing.

I came upon Entertainment Tonight. This show has been on the air for a very long time now. In fact, I think the year it premiered, the term "bummer" was at the height of it's popularity. Anyway, watching ET I flashed back to a segment that aired, oh, God, some twenty-five years earlier.

Estelle Winwood was an acclaimed British stage actress who, in her later years, played character roles in Hollywood movies. In 1983, she turned 100. About this same time, comedian George Burns, then 87, came out with a book titled How to Live to be 100 or More. Some publicist got the clever idea that Miss Winwood should appear at a book signing with Burns.

She agreed to do it, but may not have been vetted properly. As they both sat there before the assembled media (including Entertainment Tonight), a reporter held the book, about the positive aspects of aging, up to Miss Winwood. She took one look at the title and said, "Oh, dear, don't remind me!"

A moment later, she turned to George Burns, whom she had apparently never met nor, in spite his being very well-known in 1983, heard of before, and asked, "Are you some sort of doctor?"

Never one to take offense easily, Burns answered, "No, I'm an entertainer. I sing a little, dance a little, tell a few jokes."

"Oh," exclaimed Estelle Winwood. "Why, how marvelous!"

If I could just hang around with the likes of those two, I think I'd look forward to aging.


  1. dirty old man? you? NEVER! actually funnily enough I have a scene about me being a dirty old man in my one woman play! you had to be there. George Burns always reminded me of my grandpa. always a cigar and a wise crack. Well Kirk all I can say about aging is join the blithering club! xo

  2. i am, i suspect, considerably older than you. so i'm going to exercise the license that comes with old, and say whatever i damn well please.

    getting old is not for sissies.

    you have to know yourself, down to the bedrock, and be at peace with it. otherwise you end up comparing yourself to something that doesn't exist, and probably never has. there is no room for illusion or self deception in the aging process. that's the good part.

    the physical part, well...
    that is partly dependent on how well you took care of yourself in years past. those partying chickens do come home to roost, mostly in your joints. and isn't it just peachy that we don't know this until it's a bit late in the day to begin rectifying our transgressions.

    and all of the above is essentially bullshit. because, no matter what, it comes down to, just how much do you enjoy life?

  3. Why did I get the impression you were in your forties?

    I guess we all age and there's no requirement we like it.

    I really like rraine's comment. It's a struggle to be at peace with aging. Struggle and Peace don't go together well. "Working on it" doesn't seem to fit either. It is what it is. We do the best we can.

  4. @Jane--I'd like to see that play. Opening in Cleveland anytime soon?

    @rraine--I get the sense that you pretty much said what you damn well pleased even when you were young, but, be that as it may...I wasn't much of a party animal in my youth, so whatever chickens that's hatched from that egg haven't come home to roost. In fact, I'm already older than my father (who WAS a party animal in his youth, and beyond) when he passed away. Since I don't smoke, and don't drink all that much, my only real vice is I've spent a lifetime eating crappily (remember the old novelty song "I'm a junk food junkie, and Lord have mercy on me"?) and I'm paying for all that salt and grease by taking a steady regiman of anti-cholestoral and anti-hypertension medication, so that chicken (which I wouldn't mind roasting and covering with barbecue sauce) has definately come home to roost. As for being at peace with myself, sorry, rraine, but that's one war I'm in for the duration. Do I enjoy life? Well, when I compare it to the alternative...

    @Kass--"why did I get the impression you were in your forties?"

    As of 12/14/2011, 3:18 EST, I can still say I'm in my forties...though just barely.

    @Everybody--I intentionally exaggerated the effects of aging for comic effect. The whole piece is really a satire of the FEAR of aging, rather than aging itself. I'm well aware there are people out there who age gracefully, which I why I brought George Burns and Estelle Winwood into the mix.

  5. My new mantra and what I reply to when people ask me how I am is ( except for family and a few very close friends who sorta know is...

    I'M ALIVE ! ! !

    that about says it all....

    Take care darling because when your on the other side of sixty and signing up for Social Security and Medi Care part A and B you will know
    exactly how very old you are !
    It's a hoot....
    and like @rraine I now say what I damm well please also !

    My Birthday is also coming up very very fast and gaining !

    cheers, parsnip

  6. @parsnip--You certainly are alive, and lively.

  7. i spent years being silent, not saying much of anything, because of the reactions i got when i did open my mouth. made me crazy. so i quit.

    yes, it's the fear that does us in, not the actual aging process. fear will grind our bones to dust,if we choose to succumb to it.
    we stay in the present, deal with what is, and let the barbecue sauce flow!
    more french fries, please. yee ha!

  8. Very good article. Congratulations.