Thursday, February 26, 2015

Why, you don't look a day over eleventy-seven

      Let it fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees
      Give a home to the fleas in my hair
      A home for fleas, (yeah) a hive to bees, (yeah) a nest for birds
      There ain't no words for the beauty, the splendor, the wonder of my
      Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
      The tribal rock musical

    Age and aging- it's a funny thing. Funny-odd, though, not funny hahahahahahaha.

    It strikes me as funny-odd, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that people are perfectly willing to decide all kinds of things about you based on hold old they think you are and what forgone conclusions they have drawn about that particular age. And they're not always right!

    For example, my wife is two weeks younger than I am, yet until her hair turned the beautiful gray color it is now, we were constantly being asked if she was my daughter. Seriously. It was annoying and did get old (hehe). It still happens, but nowhere near as often.

    It could be that I'm her “Picture of Dorian Grey;” she continues to be beautiful as I age badly, taking on the consequences of her debauched lifestyle. Since the most debauched thing she does these days is have toast with peanut butter AND jelly, the theory doesn't really hold up.

    This thinking about age and aging began with an observation on aging I made while driving into town the other day. I was rolling along, (with my hands safely at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, by the way), when I looked at the instrument panel and realized I was alerting one and all to a right turn coming sometime in the foreseeable future. When I thought back, and did the math, I had probably left the signal on for about two miles. I was immediately sure that all sorts of people were thinking, “Look at the old coot, driving with his turn signal on for miles.” But here's the thing: I did the same thing was I was a young coot, or a whippersnapper, or whatever. I play the music (AM to FM to cassettes to CDs to iPod) too loud and don't hear the audio alert on the signal.

    Since I was already in the car, that made me think of another example where the ageists would get it wrong. I have always been a fan of classic British sports cars, Triumphs and Jaguars in particular. I have never been able to afford one. But, let us for a moment suppose I finally was able to purchase the Triumph TR7 I have wanted since the day it first came out, some 50-plus years ago. What do you think the reaction would be? Might it be: “Hey. Look at the old coot trying to regain his youth by driving a flashy British sports car.”? Right? When in truth it should be “Look at the old coot. He finally managed to scrape enough money together to buy the car he's always wanted.”

    By the way, I use the term “old coot” as a descriptor. I feel neither old nor cooty. The term does paint a useful picture in this instance, so, ?old coot” it is..

    Then there's my hair, he writes, apparently out of nowhere. I must confess, I truly believed, apparently naively, that at 65 my hair would cease to be an issue to those around me. I was wrong.

    I have always had tightly curled hair, and usually plenty of it. So did my mother and my sister Moira. Do you remember those combs with the hard plastic teeth? In our house, they always looked like teeth in the mouth of the kid who played the banjo in “Deliverance.” If we were all combing our hair at the same time, it would be hard to find a place safe from flying tooth shrapnel as they caught in our curls and had to be yanked out..

    But, always, my hair was my hair. As fashions came and went, my hair stayed the same. I was actually right in fashion for a short period of time in the 60s when Afros on white kids became fashionable. “Peace, man. Chill out. Love... The moon is in the Seventh House” and all that. I was in! But then the fad passed, the moon moved into h house next door, and I was out again.

    I think we all know the trauma cancer sufferers experience when the chemotherapy causes them to lose their hair. If you took a survey, you'd probably find hair loss among the worst parts of having the disease for a vast majority of sufferers. I'm not one of them. I was okay with it. Look, until I met Sheri, I never even combed my hair. It was only after she had asked, “You're not leaving the house like that, are you?” enough times that I finally got the message. Personally, I had trouble distinguishing combed from pre-combed, but it seemed to make Sheri happy, so I was all for it.

    And it did... keep Sheri happy... for about two weeks. Then she started working on ways to improve how the stubble looked. Oy.

    So, the monkeying with my hair continues. Since it looks like Breaking Bad's Walter White's on a good day, I just let Sheri have her way. The other day, though, she was shaving away and suddenly stopped.

    “Would it upset you if I said 'Ooooops' right now?”

    “Not particularly.”

    “Well then. Oooooops.”

    It seems she had used the wrong size attachment on the shaver and cut too deep. Of course the only way to make it right was to cut the rest of it just as short, which she did. If anything, it looked shorter than it did when it all fell out. We both actually liked it.

    I think, though, this opened the door to perhaps the comment that sums up my whole hair experience. A guy I know looked my head over carefully, while visible evidence of heavy thinking appeared on his face. (This guy looks much younger than his age, if you wanna know.) Always a cautious speaker, he was no less so now: “Let me get this straight,” he said. “You can have as much hair on your head as you want, but you choose to have it look like that?” Amen, Brother. Well said.

    There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”