Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Doug Coupland on Aging

Douglas Coupland on aging:

We've all bumped into friends who look like hell. Our first thought is always divorce, booze, or one of those other wicked speed bumps on the road of life. What's really happening, of course, is that your friend is in the middle of a progerial plunge. Time passes, and more time passes, and then you see that friend in the checkout line of a Safeway one afternoon, and you realize he's not drinking or having troubles. He's just aging. The kicker: So I must be too. That's when you head to the produce department and check yourself out in the mirrors above the lettuce and celery.

I have this theory about men and aging. We have two ages: the age we really are, and the age we are in our heads. Most men are almost always about 31 or 32 in their heads — just ask them. Even Mr. Burns from “The Simpsons” is 31 in his head. One of the most universal adult male experiences is of standing before a mirror and saying, "I'm sorry, but there's been a horrible mistake. You see, that's not really me in the mirror there. The real me is tanned, throws Frisbees, and kayaks the Columbia River estuary without cracking a sweat."
My father is 80 this year and still works as a doctor, a GP. His practice is largely older, and his specialty is keeping them not only alive but also alive and chugging. He has a belief that aging can be slowed by careful monitoring of the thyroid, by keeping folic-acid levels high, and by monitoring cholesterol a certain way. All of this is good advice in any event, but I bump into his patients all the time, and man, these people are vibrating. His waiting room is like the pool scene in Cocoon. These people still attend their high school reunions. It's the weird new circle of life.

Personally, I always feel like I'm about 24. Last year, when I went to a college reunion planning meeting, the biggest thing I noticed was that everyone reverted to acting like they were somewhere in their mid-to-late 20's within minutes of the party starting. When you're really 24, you feel old, because you're only used to relating to people in the 18-23 range. At some point, though, you start feeling young and vigorous again when you cultivate friendships with people in their 50's and 60's who are vivid and active.

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