Porkpie Hat – What Comes Next: Some Thoughts on Aging

The accepted milestones of passing time are meaningless. What are birthdays? What are New Years?? It’s all nothing but noise and cake. One day, your life is a bright red balloon, clutched tight in a snotty-nosed kid’s little fist. There’s a distraction, something shiny catches your eye, the grip is relaxed for a moment, your life escapes, floats up, is carried off on errant currents, a spinning polymer satellite that gradually loses helium, lands in a suburban back yard, is caught on a rose bush.

If you really want to have some gauge of the incremental progress of your existence from crib to coffin, there are much more subtle and accurate instruments of measurement. There’s your first kiss, for instance, the one down by the abandoned railway tracks, or in the basement on that couch that smelled of cat piss and the Labatt’s Blue your older brother spilled.

There’s the first time ever that you fart in bed beside a lover without feeling embarrassment, or the night you start adding essential oils to the tub, or stop relishing films in which someone does someone else wrong with the working end of a meat cleaver.

For me, the latest signs of my approaching rocking chair days are coming thick and fast. Disturbingly, there is the newly minted urge to strike up conversations with complete strangers in supermarkets. Can you believe the price of those mangoes? It’s that damp cold, out there today, isn’t it??the kind that goes right through you.

There is the going to bed before midnight, the checking out of mystery novels from the public library, the imbibing of gallons of herbal tea, and the deep, sad urge to be invited just one more time to someone’s wedding in order to join in with a conga line or chicken dance.

Perhaps most problematic of all, there is the weird tenuousness of thought, the nagging notion that I may not know everything?or, indeed, very much at all?the awful willingness to admit doubt, to see things from others? points of view.

I had assumed, not so long ago, that one of the benefits of the aging process would be a clarifying narrowing of the mind and gelling of viewpoints, a delightful increase in certainty, crankiness, and pomposity. Alas, I find myself wavering and doddering, willing to concede points and relinquish grudges.

I watch films without subtitles. I still listen to PIL and Mingus, but I also find myself singing along to the Carpenters. Surely, it is only a matter of time until I have no opinions left at all, and spend my days writing out Hallmark greeting cards, weeping out loud and humming along with ?The Greatest Love of All.? I just can’t wait to see what comes next.

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