Oh Sh*t, I’m 60!
On Being Blindsided by a Major Milestone
David Byrne was right. I am asking myself, “Well, how did I get here?”
When I was a teenager back in the days of yore – aka the late 1970s/early ‘80s – I used to wonder what life on Earth would be like in the year 2000. Would it be the futuristic utopia we saw on the Jetsons? Or would it be a terrifying hellscape overrun by Alien-esque predators with banana-shaped heads and corrosive drool? More importantly, would I achieve my dream of being an international rock superstar, captivating whatever remained of the human race and our extra-terrestrial tormentors with my majestic vocals and deeply profound lyrics? It was fun to muse about such scenarios, but then the lacerating realization that I’d be turning 38 in the first year of the new millennium would abruptly pop my daydream bubble. God, I’d be so very, very old! My adolescent brain couldn’t fathom such an advanced state of decrepitude.
Well, here we are in 2023 and what I wouldn’t give to be 38 again. I turned 60 late last summer and these many months later I have yet to come to grips with it. (And sadly, I’m not even a famous rock star to cushion to blow.) How in the name of Methuselah did this happen? 60 is just not a good fit for me. I feel simultaneously unworthy of such an august age – I lack both the emotional maturity and sage wisdom usually associated with a sexagenarian – and offended that the march of time would treat me like everyone else along its parade route. How dare the laws of nature apply to me! I demand to speak to the manager.
I also feel like I’ve arrived at a destination to which I had no intention of travelling and so I haven’t packed the right things for the trip. Like, how should 60-year-old me look and act? 59-year-old me could just about get away with my customary attire of concert t-shirts and jeans, but now must I transition to beige cardigans and elasticated slacks? Should I start smoking a pipe and wearing my slippers to the post office? Do I need to develop a fondness for tapioca and reruns of Murder, She Wrote? Or perhaps the way to go is to cling desperately to the superficial trappings of youth by botoxing the bejeezus out of my sagging mug, dyeing my hair jet black and rocking age-inappropriate attire like leather hot pants and spangly tank tops. (I’m shuddering at the mental image.) Some guidance here would be much appreciated, people.
I realize that being anxious about aging is tediously common. It is the exceptional man or woman who is able to accept it gracefully. I confess that I know a few of these amazing folks, who have breezed past the 60 mark with no muss, no fuss. I wish I possessed even a soupcon of their sangfroid, and hopefully that will come in time, but I’m not done fretting just yet. I’ve heard all the platitudes that supposedly make this bitter pill go down easier. Age is just a number! You’re only as young as you feel! The best is yet to come! Honestly, I’ve tried to take them to heart, but there’s a very loud, insistent voice inside of me that keeps shouting, “Nope, this is NOT happening! Uh-uh. No Way. I want a recount!” (Yikes, my inner voice sounds a bit like Trump.) But if I could stand back and look at myself objectively, I’m sure I’d see that this voice is at odds with almost everything else about me. My body, for instance, is certainly under no illusions that I’m in my prime. The physical manifestations of my true age are legion, from the grey hair on my head (and in my beard and eyebrows and, well, pretty much everywhere) to the varicose veins on my legs to the ever-increasing effort it takes to perform simple tasks. Stepping into my boxer shorts each morning is a whole thing now. And God forbid something falls on the floor and I have to bend over to pick it up. Medieval drawbridges were lowered and raised faster and with less creaking and groaning.
My personality is entering its grumpy old man phase as well. It’s not like I stand at our front door shouting at kids to get off the lawn, but then we live in a flat and don’t have a lawn, so I can’t guarantee that wouldn’t happen if we did. As my husband will readily attest, I’ve always been an impatient sort, and these days I find that my shallow reservoir of goodwill towards my fellow man drains much more quickly. Like, I get annoyed by people who laugh too loudly or too long or both. Nothing is that funny, you chuckleheads. Life is cruel and then we die! People who bring dogs into restaurants also bug me. I’m not talking about seeing-eye dogs, of course. I’m talking about your average butt-sniffing, privates-licking, unhygienic canine. Why is your pet schnoodle Bruiser accompanying you to brunch? He’s meant to be outside, barking at ducks and rolling in poo, not hunkered next to a banquette while you nibble on your smashed avocado and toast. Let’s see, what else gets my knickers in a twist? Oh! Parents who bring baby carriages/pushchairs into small shops. I’ll cut them some slack in large supermarkets or department stores, but the local narrow-aisled Tesco Express isn’t the place for a ginormous toddler trolley. Shouldn’t that brat be sweeping chimneys by now anyway? Come to think of it, I could do without children altogether. Wow, it really is a good thing we don’t have a lawn.
But the most depressing sign of my creeping dotage is that over the past few years my taste in music – previously eclectic and progressive and, if I do say so myself, cool – has mellowed drastically. Edgier genres that used to be staples of my musical diet are now pretty much off the menu, replaced by light jazz, mainstream radio hits from yesteryear, and Spotify playlists with titles like “Sweet Soul Chillout” and “Easy Like Sunday Morning.” I still own records by pioneering punk rockers and post-punkers such as the Clash, the Ramones, Gang of Four, and Joy Division, but they rarely make it to my turntable these days. [Blogger’s note: For more on my vinyl journey, check out “Confessions of a Reformed Record Collection Robber.”] I think I’ve listened to the Clash’s double-album opus London Calling once in the past 18 months, and I didn’t have the stamina to make it through all four sides. And while there was a time when I loved few things more than pogo-ing to the Ramones, now if I tried throwing myself around a dance floor to the strains of “Blitzkrieg Bop” I’d likely break a hip at the very least. Meanwhile, I’ve played Al Stewart’s album Year of the Cat and Supertramp’s Breakfast in America an alarming number of times lately. Dad Rock? I do believe I’ve zoomed past that and gone straight to Granddad Rock. As far as live music goes, where once I would think nothing of lingering in a smoky nightclub well into the wee hours as some abrasive band or other assaulted my senses – I remember waiting until 3 a.m. for the Jesus and Mary Chain to grace the stage – presently my main concern is whether or not I can be home from the show and in my jammies by 10:30 pm.
Hmm. Having hashed through all that, I get the feeling that the recalcitrant voice in my head might actually be all that’s keeping me from succumbing to the stark reality of this late stage of life and sliding despondently into a tapioca torpor. I mean, I still go to see live music fairly often, as long as it starts early enough. And I’m still intellectually curious, even as I grow less adventurous. And something keeps getting my ass off the couch, out of the house, and into various social situations despite my extensive list of limitations and excuses. If the credit goes to my inner age denier, then that delusional scamp deserves a reward. I think I’ll sign off now and go play a Ramones record.
[Blogger closes his laptop, rises from his desk and goes over to his record collection and stereo nearby. He reaches for his long-neglected copy of the Ramones’ End of the Century album, then pauses, pivots, and pulls out Year of the Cat instead.]