And he said them so casually that I felt I had no other option but to argue with him.
“We’re not middle aged,” I said, rolling my eyes.
He looked at me with those piercing green eyes of his, the smallest hint of amusement on his face.
“How old are we?” he asked.
“Forty-five,” I promptly replied.
I might have been drinking but I knew my age.
“And, if you’re middle aged now, how old would that make you when you die?”
Now, I’m no math wizard. In fact, numbers and I have never been friends. You’re talking about a guy who has assigned genders to numbers, for god’s sake, which is obviously a complete misconception of their use. Still, I can manage simple math.
“Ninety,” I soberly replied.
Holy crap. At the rate I’m going, my middle age was five years ago.
“I always thought that middle age was fifty,” I muttered, almost to myself.
Yeah. Maybe in Japan. How many of my family members have lived to one hundred? Suddenly swimming in more reality than I cared for at the end of a work day, I had the urge to order a whiskey.
Unfortunately, I don’t drink whiskey. I silently mulled over starting. Could enough whiskey work as a preservative? I made a mental note to ask my friend, Kris, who’s imbibed enough whiskey in her lifetime that her hair smells like a pleasant oaken barrel.
As if I needed another reminder that I’m aging. The recent headshot that I had done sports more forehead than Mount Rushmore, which prompted a message on Facebook from my friend, Sharon, saying that I looked “ruggedly handsome.” Of course, Sharon meant her comment to be a compliment but, being the shallow gay man that I am, all I saw were the lines on my face, the gray hairs and that damned receding hairline. Honestly, after blowing through my youth and being considered “cute,” the word “rugged” slapped me hard.
Maybe you’d have to be a shallow gay man to understand, but I doubt it.
Kris (from here on out to be referred to by her nickname, Whiskey Lullaby) recently told us about a new radio station, Gen X Radio, and its name pretty much says all you need to know about the playlist. Just about anything that was popular in the eighties or nineties can be heard there and, while I was initially excited to hear New Order and Depeche Mode on the radio again, the luster quickly wore off. I mean, let’s face it, I’m not in my twenties anymore and, while I have very fond memories of seeing those groups in concert and doing really stupid things to my hair, things have changed. Don’t get me wrong. I still love hearing The Cure and The Smiths; INXS and Blondie still make me want to dance but, with the passage of time, things have definitely changed.
Tennessee Williams wrote “Time is the longest distance between two places.” Maybe that’s really why I feel so disconnected from the old music that I used to love so much. And, as my lovely partner has made evident, I’m now middle aged. Who wants to see an old man dancing around to music that hasn’t been relevant in twenty years?
In all fairness to Tim, he tries hard to make sure I’m around for a long time. We eat well, thanks to him, we get exercise when he can drag me to the park and we laugh. A lot. There have definitely been times in my life when I don’t know what I would have done without Tim’s sense of humor to keep me going.
And, the truth is, I don’t feel old. Thanks to Tim’s youthful spirit and wicked sense of humor, I still feel like I’m in the seventh grade. Instead, I think my issue with aging is my lack of accomplishments, that sinking feeling that, one day, I might die without having left any sort of mark on the planet or, worse, died not having made a difference.
I was thinking a lot about this the other day when it occurred to me that the date should have relevant to me. As I stared at the calendar, I realized it was my brother, Rick’s birthday. My brother and I don’t speak, except for briefly at funerals and weddings, so I knew that wasn’t why the day seemed stuck in my head. I remembered, too, that the date was Kansas Day, the day Kansas was admitted as the 34th state in the union in 1861.
Yeah, I know. Whoop Dee doo. I hadn’t celebrated that holiday since grade school and the only reason I even remembered it was because it fell on my brother’s birthday. That was definitely not the reason the date was ringing a proverbial bell in my head. Frustrated, I let the matter drop, wished my brother a happy birthday wherever he was and went to make coffee. Then, as I filled the carafe with water, it hit me. This was my second anniversary of being laid off from the antique store where I had once worked. I finished with the coffee and returned upstairs to sit in front of the computer, where I contemplated that day two years earlier.
Sure, losing my job had been financially devastating to us and I was forced to trudge through the indignity of drawing unemployment benefits. Still, losing the job (that I had honestly hated) had turned out to be the best thing that had ever happened to me. For one thing, I was suddenly afforded the freedom to write my first novel, a novel that was published just over a year after my unceremonious firing. For another thing, I started writing this column. Seems like a pretty good use of my free time.
Okay, I guess what I’m saying is that I may have gotten started a little late in life with the whole “What do you do for a living” question but better late than never, right? And, besides, I still don’t feel like a middle aged man and that, in my opinion, has to count for something.
Age, it’s been said, is a state of mind. I would like to believe that’s true.
If not, you can catch me at a local bar, slowly preserving myself and hanging out with my best friend, Whiskey Lullaby.
BY: CURTIS COMER