Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Older and Wiser

As I march headlong toward my 25th high school reunion (egad) I pause to think about the concept of getting older, not getting old. Why are we so hung up on getting old? Let's face it, from the time we're cognizant of age we know we're going to get older. Just a fact. So, why does it bother us so? I mean, just look around people, the signs are out there. "age is just a number", "40 is the new 30, etc", and the like are some of the most overused cliches out there. But are they simply cliche? I say thee nay. I say we need to stop sweating getting old and embrace it. I know for myself, and yes, I know I'm hardly atypical, some of the best years of my life have been the last 5 years or so. Why? I guess my theory is I now have the means to do things I couldn't when I was younger, I'm not as single minded as I was when I was younger and enjoy a wider variety of things, and I simply like 40 something Rich better then 20 something Rich and that's important. So, despite the creaking joints, white hair and expanding midriff, I really don't have a problem getting older

Why do we hate getting older? It's not like your life is over, it's just getting better. Let's face it, older and wiser go together like, um, Bud and weiser. So being wiser means making better use of what you still have. So, can you still go out to clubs and bars? Sure, just avoid going to places you went when you were 25 as guess what? Everyone there is still 25. Maybe you can't run 6 miles but you can still run 3 (or walk 2). Maybe you can't make last call anymore but certainly you can stay out until midnight. Right? And while you may not be the stud athlete you were in high school you can still go hard enough that you can look at your kids and sneer "let's see if you can still go like me when your my age"

No, I think the biggest reason we hate getting old is we hate LOOKING old. Since recorded history we have been presented with an image of what male and female perfection is and have strove to attain this. Society paints a picture most of us can never hope to match but we try. When we're young we can pretty much look pretty good with a little work. But as we age it becomes harder. So what do we do? We dye our hair, we wear toupees. We look to miracle creams and drugs to do everything from slimming our waistlines to removing wrinkles. And why? To fool someone into thinking we're younger then we are? I know someone will say we do it for our own self esteem which is fine but there is also something to be said about being happy with who you are. Your grey hair doesn't say old it says mature. Your receding hairline says experienced. Your wrinkles are from a life time of smiles. Plus, we finally live in a society where being grey, bald, or heavy no longer carry the negative connotation they once did (Thank you George Clooney, Michael Jordan and Oprah). It is what it is people, it is what it is

So, in conclusion I say make the most of whatever age you are. Throw out the Just For Men and lose the combover. Get those pants one size bigger. You deserve it. Grab life by the lapels and scream "So I'm 40, what the fuck are you going to do about it". Take control of your oldness and don't ever say "I'm too old to..." because if you do, then you really are

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Parent Trap

So, just to get it out of the way, I love my parents. They have been and remain two of the most important people in my life. They are not just family but also friends and confidants (wow, there’s that Andrew Gold song again). Almost without exception when I have something bothering me my mother (in particular) or father are the first people I go to. I feel lucky and blessed to have this relationship and that both are still around for me. So you’re saying “um, ok, doesn’t everyone love their parents”? Well, the answer is no, not everyone does. I have some friends who have grown up with horrible, contentious relationships with their parents for one reason or another, some justified, some not. But what I find hard to comprehend is when formerly great relationships with ones parents grow strained to the point of not speaking. I have two friends who recently confided in me they were not speaking to one or both of their parents. As explanations were not offered, and I’m not one to pry, I don’t know the actual reason but typically it seems to come down to money or, more often then not, issues with a significant other that strains the parental relationship

So, maybe I’m the exception but my family’s opinion, my parent’s in particular, means a lot to me. It doesn’t mean I’ll always agree with them but by and large we tend to be on the same wavelength. Ultimately, I am my own man and make my own decisions based on what’s best for me. However, I don’t know that I could commit to a relationship that would put me at odds with the very people who helped mold me into who I am today. Now, love is a funny, wacky, illogical thing that makes one do things they didn’t think they were capable of. I guess sometimes it comes down to familial love versus relationship love and people are forced to make hard, life-altering decisions. It just has to be an awful, sickening feeling to have to be put in that position. To have to sacrifice one love for another has to be the hardest choice there is

I guess where I struggle with the concept is I don’t know if at this point I could spend the rest of my life with someone my family disapproved of or worse, disapproved of my family. I’m in a different place then a lot of people still being single in my 40’s so my familial relationship, which was already important, has grown even more important over the years to the point I think I’d be incapable of being involved with someone that would put that relationship at odds. But, I guess it could happen. I love talking big about loyalty and family and the like but if push came to shove, could I pick true love for someone over my family? Honestly, I don’t think I could and I’m not sure what that says about me. Is it love for my family? Is it a crutch for avoiding relationships? Or am I just a typical Irish catholic kid how loves his mom and dad and wouldn’t do anything to damage that relationship? I don’t know but at this point I don’t see a scenario arising where I’ll have to make that decision so it’s all good.