Getting older is a weird experience. I’m not exactly a fan of the process, but there are aspects I quite like. It is a strange amalgam of little humiliations, bouts of terror and ever fewer fucks to give.
It was my hair that first decided that what I really needed was a bout of existential angst with a side order of mortification. I was getting my hair cut and the barber asked if I wanted my ears seen to. There’s no coming back from that. Once a man reaches the age of ear hair, there will also be nostril hair and errant eyebrow hair. I know many older men who ignore this hirsute horseman of the apocalypse. They will sport bushy ears and bushy brows. I’m not one of them.
I wasn’t concerned when my beard went grey. I actually like it. But when I began to notice grey in my hair I needed to sit down. When the hair down below began to grey, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I don’t mind that my shoulders have decided to go full bear, but a single, inexplicably long hair on my forearm makes me want to go all Phantom of the Opera.
I’ve begun to see evidence of sagging. It upsets me. Yet my body confidence is higher now than it was when I was a six-pack sporting youth. That well-toned young man viewed public and/or inadvertent nudity with absolute horror. This fat hairy carcass of a man could not care any less. I don’t know if that’s because I am a creepy old fuck or because my body is now less a platform for my cock and more a shambling collection of frailties, oddities and gross deterioration. More deserving of pity than derision or even worse, judgment.
As my skin sags, it also thickens. The stuff I once sweated like public speaking, interacting with bureaucracy, speaking to strangers, speaking to women, trying anything new, admitting I’m wrong or apologising, no longer stump me. I still hate each and every one of them, but I now know that what I’m feeling at any one moment doesn’t really matter. In a minute or two I’ll be feeling something else. Just dive in and get it over with. Though I still can’t deal with actually jumping into cold water.
I play soccer every Wednesday. And I hurt every Thursday and Friday. When I’m chasing after someone, a part of my brain remains the young fleetfooted prick I once was. He’s already caught, dispossessed and ran fifty metres the other way with the ball, while I feel like I’m running through treacle. Since I began playing with this group, at least half a dozen members have had to quit due to wear and tear, niggling injuries and heart problems. Getting old. My right knee has been hurting me for two weeks. I’m determined to ignore it.
Every time I feel anything in my chest my first thought inevitably goes to heart attack. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t remember I am now nearer to the end than I am to the beginning. It’s terrifying. It is liberating. Procrastination becomes something I actively try to wrestle with. I don’t always win, but the stakes get higher with every new grey hair I find so I have to try.
My daydreams are becoming less fantastic. I dream of writing novels. I sometimes slip into dreams of successful novelist, but now, with time no longer on my side, I mostly dream of just writing novels. I am now always aware of time passing. It’s terrifying but it focuses the mind. I’d give anything to have the body I once had. But I wouldn’t swap places with that callow gobshite for all the dark haired covered muscles in the world. Though for hairless ears…