How  to  Grow  Old
(But  Not  Up)


Another  waste  of  your  time  by  Ben


Copyright  ©2006




FOREWORD


Fric:"My uncle eats anything he wants, and he weighs the same as he did in college."
Frac:"How much does he weigh?"
Fric:"Six hundred pounds."


It's time to admit it, folks: we're aging. After a few years of good health, we spend our remaining decades discussing heart disease and fiber and worrying about things that we never thought about in our youth, such as the economy and our lawn and incontinence. Even if we are lucky enough not to develop any major personal problems, our loved ones will, and when news of our spouse's cancer or our close friend's emergency surgery makes us lose bowel control, we will be ever so glad for Depends.

This book will not teach you how to live forever. (In fact, it wonít teach you anything.) There is no way to live beyond the human maximum life span of about a century and a quarter. If there were, surely someone would have done it by now. Vegetarians, monks, and lifelong athletes all eventually croak. The oldest person ever documented was a French woman named Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at age 122. She smoked for decades, and gave it up just a few years before her death only because she couldnít see well enough to light her cigarettes. The French as a whole tend to smoke, eat lots of fat, avoid exercise, and still live long, disease-free lives. This is one of the many ways in which God shows what an asshole He is: you can exercise and eat right and avoid smoking, and still die before your 50th birthday (as runner Jim Fixx did); while longevity is bestowed on snotty cowards who sell arms to Iraq.

Our minds continue to improve long after our bodies start to deteriorate. Thank goodness for that. I'm glad that my mind is still sharp enough to write (though many other people aren't very happy about it). I really enjoy writing, now that my mind is at the pinnacle of its development and my body has aged to the point where the most athletic thing I am capable of doing is driving my kids to swim practice. I just sit at my computer with a maniacal grin as I type and look at the screen. I bet you don't do this in your hobby, unless your hobby is downloading porn.

Most of you probably feel yourselves getting older. In fact, the very act of reading this Web page is a possible sign that your youth is over, since young people tend not to read anything that's not assigned in school except for the occasional cereal box. Join me now as I take you on a journey into the miracle and horror of aging. That is, if your eyes can read this small print and you're not too busy watching Matlock.




THE  (RELATIVELY)  YOUNG  YEARS


George Burns outlived most of his doctors. I'll be happy if I outlive my mortgage.


Remember those 5 or 10 years after high school? Parties, sex, drinking, staying out late, good looks, a seemingly indestructible body ... remember that? No? What, was your youth tamer than that? Did you sit home a lot, marry too young, or have a boring lifestyle that belonged to someone twice your age? What are you, some kind of religious weenie?

Being a kid was great. All of your toys, food, shelter, water and transportation were paid for by others. You had lots of time to ride your bike, or play with dolls or Matchbox cars, or catch frogs. You didn't have to cook meals or clean toilets or sit in an office (except the for occasional visit to the principal's office, which illustrated just what a drag an office is and you were glad that, once you got out of school, you would never, ever have to sit in an office again). We eventually grow up, not by choice, but because we are forced to. We hold onto our past and let things go only when they are wrenched away from us. A good example is college. People have a lot of fun partying and drinking and doing drugs and chasing boys/girls, and it is a huge letdown to graduate and enter a society of boring, fat, over-30 people whose idea of a wild night is to watch Bachelor Party on cable.

I remember those first five or six years after graduation. I partied and drank and chased women as much as I could, but it wasn't nearly the same as college: the parties weren't as wild and almost never involved wet T-shirts or nudity; the amount of beer consumed was measured in bottles rather than kegs; and the women I met were looking for relationships rather than fun. Marriage caused friend after friend to drop like flies in a seemingly endless parade of weddings, and my social life suffered as people settled down into their home-owning, procreating, wash-the-car-on-Sunday lives. I felt abandoned because I had remained the same person I had been all along, and the people around me were turning into suit-wearing, minivan-driving, child-raising dweebs.

I decided that if I could no longer live like a college student, at least I could still dress like one. Take my "Boogie Til You Puke" T-shirt. I found it in my fraternity attic in the early 1980s. Its unsavory phrase is the title of an old song by Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band, which of course made this piece of apparel quite dear to me. I proudly wore it many times in my 20s and early 30s, thinking that it made me "cool" or something and would therefore cause single females to want to go out with me instead of men who were good-looking and owned property. In reality it caused even desperate women to suddenly remember that they had to be somewhere else. It was a bit too small for me when I found it, and now, after two decades of washing and shrinking and the addition of several pounds of flesh to my torso, it no longer reaches my navel. Between its small size and the juvenile quote that announces to the world what an immature cretin its owner must be, it is now fit to be used only for picking up my dogs' poops.

Age is a state of mind. For most of our 20s we are still physically young, yet some people feel old at this young age due to lack of contact with young-minded folks. Those who don't develop good friendly or intimate relationships experience a terrible spiritual void which many of them try to fill with careers, religion and family. We see people pouring themselves into their jobs, working long hours and taking their work way too seriously; or going to church/synagogue/mosque with rigid regularity and letting every aspect of their lives be ruled by their religious teachings; or signing their kids up for every activity imaginable, including soccer, martial arts, ballet, football, field hockey, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, swimming, baseball and yachting. Some folks develop geeky hobbies like writing stupid Web pages or making beer at home. What a bunch of dorks. If you want to feel young, then be wild and immature with people who are like you. Even if you don't have any crazy friends to party with, you can always meet people at your local dance club. Not everyone you meet there will be fun, however. If I had a nickel for every woman who refused to dance with me in my youth, I wouldn't have a mortgage right now. Over the years I developed a number of retorts which I hope will be of use to young men who experience dance club rejections:

Even free spirits are not immune to the effects of aging. As we "mature" (which is a euphemism for "get older") we find ourselves looking for meaning. It is no longer satisfying to enjoy just the surface of life; we need to go deeper. We start wondering why we were born/created, how life began, whether God exists, what we should do with our lives, and why Howard Stern is so popular. Things that we used to live for, such as sports and parties, might not seem so important anymore. This milestone, which many of us reach in our late 20s, is one of...




THE  FIRST  SIGNS  OF  AGING


Wife:"I know today's my 30th birthday, but do I look 30?"
Husband:"Not anymore."


Aging is not a binary event. It creeps up on us, like underwear. I spent more than a decade obliviously fluttering through life, taking for granted my ability to play sports and walk great distances and drink large amounts of alcohol and have sex every day. All right, scratch that last item. Even when I was in my prime I couldn't find more than one sex partner a year, and that encounter usually cost me fifty bucks. But the athletic and substance-consuming capabilities were real. Then, in my late 20s, my body started to give way. Joints and tendons were stiffening, and I was injuring myself doing things that had given me no problems up until then. The first bodily insults happened on the wrestling mat where I was pushing my body to its physical limits. "Okay," I thought, "that's not so bad - all I have to do is ease up and I'll be all right." But as I entered my 30s, everyday activities started to challenge me. For example, I would pull a lat muscle in the shower while reaching around to wash my back. "There's got to be an easier way to get my back clean," I thought. So I got married.

I know I'm not alone. Millions of us are aging, losing physical abilities, and complaining about the younger generation ("These kids today, with the body piercings and the long hair. And they all want to live like pigs.") This is nothing new. I'm sure old cavemen used to complain about the younger generation too ("These kids today, with the fire and the wheel. And they all want to walk erect.")

Our looks start to fade sometime in our mid to late 20s. Skin that was once smooth and supple starts to wrinkle. We notice those first wrinkles in the mirror and think, "What the #%$&? This isn't supposed to happen until much later!" But happen it does, no matter how often we exercise or how healthfully we eat. Usually the skin around the eyes is the first casualty. We stare in disbelief at Nature's cruel joke, getting a glimpse of what we will look like when we're older. We conjure up images of a slow-moving, sagging, wrinkled-all-over soul who strangers pass by with both contempt and pity. Our future, however, isn't quite like that -- it's a lot worse.

I used to flex in front of the mirror, enjoying the size and definition of my muscles, my smooth skin, my brown hair, my "V" shape. Now I rarely bother. Even though I'm still in pretty good shape for my age, I will always remember how great I used to look, so my current physique, with the ever increasing sagging and wrinkling and graying, will inevitably come up short. Once in a while I'll quickly flex and look at my reflection just to satisfy my morbid curiosity. Then I'll have a good laugh and get on with my life. My mirror, on the other hand, finds no humor in the situation. Every time I stand in front of it, it says, "Oh no, not you again."

I don't know why I even bother to look in the mirror at all. I don't need my mirror to remind me how old I am - my bladder already does that for me.

Incidentally, I still wrestle, and as youíd expect, I generally get beaten by the other wrestlers, even the ones who weigh less than I do. If you're wondering why, the answer is simple: body composition. You see, these young men in the prime of their lives have perfect bodies that consist of 87% muscle, 10% bone, and 3% fat. My body, on the other hand, consists of 34% fat, 29% Doritos, and 37% beer. And so, in a typical practice I wheeze like an emphysema patient while guys less than half my age toss me around and flip me onto my back until I flop helplessly like a carp. The time for me to stop this lunacy and take up a less physical sport -- like perhaps chess -- came and went more than a decade and a half ago. Unfortunately, being the stubborn old coot that I am, I just won't quit until I get badly injured or have a coronary. I only wish my body were as hard as my head. I routinely strain muscles while showering, and yet I insist on stepping onto the mat with highly conditioned athletes who are younger than my underwear.

Why do our bodies start to fall apart before age 30? Well, think about the first few million years of Man's evolution. People generally reproduced in their teens, and their offspring only needed care and protection until they were ready to reproduce, so by the age of 30 or so, most people had outlived their usefulness (this is still true of some people today, e.g. Paula Abdul). There is no reason for Mother Nature to keep us around to see our 40th birthday, so she programmed us to get fat and tired and weak and to develop ailments like back pain, which just goes to show you what a complete whore she is. These problems used to be life-threatening when one had to do daily physical labor to survive, but now, thanks to modern medicine and health insurance, we can survive for decades as feeble, sedentary, slow, wrinkled bags of problems who sit around watching CBS.




MIDDLE  AGE


Wife:"Will you love me when I'm old and ugly?"
Husband:"Of course I do."


Middle age is an insidious affliction that mocks us long before we are truly old. We're still in relatively good health, but family and society seem to discourage our feeling young. Nobody seems to care anymore that you were once a star athlete. If you go out dancing and drinking, you're no longer cool - now you're a pathetic cretin who should have just stayed home and watched The Practice. You want to climb mountains and discover the purpose of life, but instead you're driving kids to activities and enduring criticism from your spouse for having eaten the last yogurt.

Everyone tells stories about their youth (romance, partying, sports) but no one tells stories about middle age. You'll never hear an old geezer say, "I remember in my 40s I went bald and grew a gut that even diets didn't control. I had a nice big mortgage and a couple of kids in college, and I couldn't afford to travel anywhere, not that I would have even if I had the money since I was too tired anyway. I spent my weekends watching ball games and mowing the lawn and puttering around the garage while my wife went shopping and tended her plants. My life passed steadily by and each year it became more apparent that none of the dreams I had had 20 years earlier - abundant wealth, the perfect mate, my own company, a house in the country - would ever come true. Ah, those were the days."

Middle age is a dangerous time of life. We're young enough to have the energy to do many of the things we did in our youth, but we're old enough that when we actually do them, we are more susceptible to injuries. We see people rupturing vertebral discs and tearing rotator cuffs while doing simple activities like shoveling snow and playing softball. It's a frustrating loss of ability that's almost as irritating as watching Survivor. Speaking of which, can someone tell me what it is about that show that people like? It's a ridiculous scenario of people competing in absurd contests and forming "alliances" in order to backstab one another. And the title is a misnomer. Nobody is "surviving" because the producers won't let anyone die. The name Survivor would be appropriate only if the contestants got to kill and eat each other.

No matter how cool you were in your youth, you're a square 20 years later. Even if you build a very respectable life for yourself, you can never be cool again. You might be a well-respected corporate executive and you might have a great family at home, but to people on the road you're the dweeb in the minivan. I remember the ribbing I took when I got my first "respectable" car. I was way too young to be driving a car with no dents or bumper stickers, much less a Volvo. Fortunately I eventually got into an accident and replaced the front fenders with parts from a junkyard. Light blue panels on a dark green car really made a statement ("Look at me! I'm color blind!") Anyway, a number of middle-aged men drive sports cars. I think the term "sports" car is way off base. It implies that the driver plays sports. The closest that most sports car drivers get to actually playing sports is tossing cheeseburger wrappers into the wastebasket while watching the playoffs. There are three basic reasons that a man feels the need to drive a sports car: 1) he's trying to get laid; 2) he has spent three presidential administrations driving a wagon or minivan for the sake of his family, and he's trying to feel young and virile again; 3) he has a really small penis.

The middle years should be a prosperous time. You and/or your spouse should have climbed the career ladder and achieved a good income level by now. This is important both for paying today's expenses (mortgage, car payments, college tuition) and for putting away cash for retirement. A lot of people invest their money in order to make their nest egg bigger, but for some reason this never works for me. In the late 1990s I invested quite a bit of money in the Stock Market, and during the Crash of 2001 I watched the value of my portfolio drop to that of a lottery ticket, except without the possibility of winning.

I become envious when I see young folks jogging or playing sports. Their slim, muscular bodies emphasize how old I'm getting because I haven't been in that kind of shape since Bruce Willis had hair. Occasionally I'll go for a jog in order to delude myself that I'm still as fit as a fiddle. It always starts out well: I feel healthy and energetic, and I think that maybe this time I'll break some sort of record. This lasts for about eleven seconds. Then I get tired, but I don't dare go back home because I don't want the neighbors to think I'm weird. So I stay out for a respectable length of time, which would be about fifteen or twenty minutes, during which I cover maybe three quarters of a mile - longer with a good tail wind. When I finally arrive back home, I lie down, moan for several minutes, and vow never to do anything that stupid again.

When I watch a college football game I cannot help feeling old. It's a sobering thought that the majority of these athletes are less than half my age. They can run at speeds upwards of 20 miles per hour, absorb enormous impacts, throw objects great distances, and keep performing these amazing feats for hours at a time; whereas I feel triumphant if I can walk to the mailbox without having a coronary. I used to watch football when I was a kid and think, "I'm gonna do that when I grow up." Well, here I am, all grown up, and I'm not doing it. Oh sure, I played touch football in my 20s and 30s, but it wasn't the same. There was no tackling allowed, and my opponents weren't the monstrous hunks that populate the NCAA and the NFL - they were mostly white-collar people like me. Looking back, this was quite fortunate for me since the Number One rule in football is: the bigger they are, the harder they hit.

At least my friends are aging with me. When I see them losing physical capabilities, gaining weight, wrinkling, and losing their hair, I don't feel quite so bad about my own slide into middle age. They provide me with constant reminders that what is happening to me is supposed to happen; it's not like I did anything wrong to bring this on myself. Basically what is happening to us middle-aged folks is that we have survived beyond the time that Mother Nature intended us to live, so we are naturally going to deteriorate. I am constantly amazed that people live as long as they do. I'm surprised that we don't just explode on our 40th birthday. For example:

Family:"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear-"
Dad:** KAPOW! **
Son:"Can I have his cake?"

When the stresses of children, mortgage payments, career, and keeping a relationship together mount in our middle years, we can become overwhelmed, and it might be time to seek counseling. Financial and relationship pressures, coupled with already being screwed up by childhood beatings and criticisms from my parents and classmates, sent me into counseling. Until that time I had always viewed people in counseling as weak, because my life had always been so easy that I could fix my little problems on my own. Previously I had no idea what it was like to balance several big responsibilities and how easily they can push the human mind to the edge. I was also surprised to find out just how many of my own friends, who I had always viewed as mentally "together", were in counseling and/or taking antidepressants. In fact, it is estimated that at any given time, fifteen percent of adults are in some kind of psychological therapy or analysis. It was time for me to change my view and look at the seeking of counseling not as a flaw but as an understandable condition of needing help and being sensible enough to get it.

If you ever consider counseling, remember that there are many different levels of counselor. High school guidance counselors are the lowest form, as evidenced by the fact that these people, who are supposed to be role models for youngsters, are themselves high school guidance counselors. Social workers and therapists are a step up. They arenít doctors, but they are recognized by insurance companies as valid practitioners. Some of these professionals are good. Others are not so good; they merely listen to patients complain, occasionally saying ďI understandĒ or ďHow does that make you feel?Ē but not having any real insights or offering helpful advice. Psychologists and psychiatrists are the highest level of analyst. The difference between the two is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication, whereas a psychologist has to get medication from an alley. No, seriously, if a psychologist, social worker or therapist thinks you might need an antidepressant of some sort, he or she will refer you to a psychiatrist. Of course, the psychiatrist will want to do an evaluation of you, even though the last mental health professional you saw already did one, and so your visit might go something like this:

Psychiatrist:"I am going to give you a psychiatric evaluation."
Patient: "But Dr. Quackenbush already did that."
Psychiatrist:"Dr. Quackenbush is only a psychologist, which means that he has the IQ of asphalt."
Patient: "Well, I think I have an inferiority complex."
Psychiatrist:"You don't have a complex - you are inferior."
Patient: "Okay. Can you help me with this problem?"
Psychiatrist:"Certainly I can. After all, I'm a psychiatrist. Most problems have a sexual basis, according to the lectures I attended in 1958, so tell me about your sex life."
Patient: "I'm a priest."
Psychiatrist:"I understand. And how does that make you feel?"
Patient: "Like you're a useless pile of poop."

It would be nice if you could visit a health care professional and say, "Here's my brain. Fix it. I'll pick it up Tuesday." But you can't. You need someone to help you deal with personal issues or re-train your mind to not let things bother you. Often it helps merely to vent your spleen to someone, so a close friend or spouse might be a better sounding board. Some people don't have a close friend or spouse, or they're too embarrassed to talk about their problems with anyone they know personally, so they pay a complete stranger merely to listen. I wish these folks would pay me $120 an hour to unload their problems on me. As if Iíd listen.

We might imagine that the notes our health professional takes while we spill our guts will be studied later, that he will pore over them and come up with a solution to our problems. Perhaps if he saw only a few patients a day he could, but more than likely he has appointments and other obligations all day, and when he goes home he attends to his private life. He has neither the time nor the incentive to think about your problems while he's eating dinner or playing with his kids, any more than you want to take work home with you (if you do want to take work home, get a *$&# life). He does not look at those notes until the next time he sees you, and this can make him forget what difficulties you're having.

Patient:"I'm still upset about my problem."
Therapist:"You're the child molester, right?"
Patient:"No, I'm the suicidal manic-depressive."
Therapist:"Uh oh. Um, if you get a visit from Child Protective Services, you might want to pretend you're not home."

Anyway, during my first psychological visit I unloaded my problems on my therapist, relating my life traumas and relationship stresses, and it felt good to talk to a neutral, outside party. I got a fairly warm feeling from our time together, until the session was over and I had to give her the $20 copayment, at which point I felt like I had just been with a hooker. During the next few visits she offered some anxiety-reducing techniques that helped me to become less high-strung and goal-oriented. Then I went through relationship counseling with my wife for a few years. I also learned self-hypnosis from a psychologist. Now Iím glad to say that I am a perfect human being: loving, patient, forgiving and wise. Also humble.

Some people spend decades or even their entire adult lives going for weekly psychological visits. If they stop therapy, their problems return. Therapy is not simply a matter of unloading your problems on a hired ear. You need to work on your problems and overcome them so that you can eventually live therapy-free. If you canít do this, then either your therapist isnít offering you helpful advice or youíre not doing the necessary work. Itís like the Catholic confessional: people go every week to confess their sins and unload their guilt, which is therapeutic and makes them feel good for a while, but over the next several days their problems mount, so they return to the confessional the following weekend. This is why I like being Jewish: instead of weekly confessions, we merely spend one day a year fasting in order to cleanse our souls. Even in their religious practices the goyim pay retail!

Another symptom of middle age is the inability to understand modern innovations. As far as I'm concerned, technology has progressed past the point of being helpful. Now it only confuses me. For example, television. My living room has a high-definition TV hooked to a cable box, VCR, CD player, DVD player, stereo, three switch boxes, and five speakers, including a "sub-woofer" (why we need a "woofer", much less a "sub-woofer", is beyond me, because we already have two dogs). All this was set up with approximately 137 miles of wire and cables by my tech-savvy stepson. These contraptions are operated by six - yes, SIX - remote controls. As a result, I donít even know how to watch my own television. In the old days, when I had only one remote control, if I wanted to watch a ball game on channel 4, I would simply press the ON button as I walked past the TV on my way to the refrigerator, then plop myself into a chair and press 4. Then there was nothing to do except drink beer and pass out. Now, with the Remotes From Hell, I have to get the TV remote, press TV FUNCTION, then TV POWER, then hit TV/VIDEO until it cycles to VIDEO 1 because my kids were watching a DVD on VIDEO 3 the night before. Then I have to find the stereo remote, which is usually under the couch, and hit POWER. This results in my getting deafened and scared half to death by 34,217 decibels of noise because thatís the level my kids left it at, so I adjust the volume down to human level. Then there's the rest of the equipment, which involves 7 additional actions, NONE OF WHICH INCLUDES GETTING A BEER. The final step is to find the cable remote and press ALL ON, which turns the cable box on but the TV goes off because that button is a power toggle for both items. At that point I call one of my kids into the living room to help his clueless stepfather operate a device that modern children routinely master by age 2. In fact, remote control aptitude is now a prerequisite for preschool.




MATURITY


My mother told me to always act my age. I can't wait til I'm 69.


I used to love the single, care-free days of playing sports, drinking beer and watching football with other single, Neanderthal guys. The biggest concern I had was where the next party was. But alas, those days eventually ended when most of my friends found mates and all of us grew past the need to spend every weekend emulating the lifestyles of people we saw in Budweiser commercials. It's interesting that even though I knew that my mind could no longer be nearly as stimulated and challenged by that way of life, I nevertheless yearned to return to it, because growth and change are often scary. It's easier to "hang out" with buddies than it is to build an intimate relationship with a life partner; it's easier to get drunk and throw beer cans behind the couch and watch paid athletes brutalize each other than it is to discuss hopes and fears. But most of us leave the Eden of youth to venture onward in life's journey because we constantly grow, learn and change. This is not to say that we must completely forsake the way we used to live. We need occasional breaks from our more responsible adult lives. I go to one or two homebrew club meetings every month, and a few times a year I'll get together with a friend or three to watch sports or the Three Stooges. But the rest of my life is about as exciting as watching potatoes grow.

One thing I'm glad I've grown out of is the need to be cool. I got past this sometime in my 20s. In high school and college I had to be tough and drink a lot of beer in order to gain the herd's approval. When I entered the real world and discovered that there were more important things such as personal hygiene and finding a job, I realized that image is nothing. This is why I can't understand why so many people who are out of the scholastic environment feel the need to be trendy. They wear designer jeans, drive sporty cars, present a bored smirk and go to Starbucks where they pretend to read while drinking overpriced and over-roasted coffee. What does that do except attract other pretentious jerks?

We definitely go through different stages of maturation; I see this very clearly in everyone's life, including my own. At 13 I hit puberty, which I don't have to tell you was the start of a huge metamorphosis. My voice changed and I got hair in embarrassing places and I got all nervous around girls. In my late teens and early twenties I developed an ego the size of Detroit as I competed a lot in sports and picked up girls at parties and bars. At 26 I began to have deep thoughts about life, and I found myself doing a lot of thinking while walking or driving. My body weakened as my mind developed, due to both age and the fact that more effort went toward reading and writing than working out. I became a bit disillusioned with life as I realized that my physical peak was over and I could only go downhill from there. Nevertheless I struggled in the gym to maintain a semblance of my previously beautiful physique. At 39 my focus shifted more toward my family. I exercised less and put more time and effort into spending quality time with my loved ones. Instead of lifting weights after work, I was coming home for family bike rides and water gun fights and trips to Dairy Queen. I gave up the idea of achieving greatness and started living for others. I found myself home a lot, building and assembling things in the garage for my wife and kids, helping to cook dinner and washing dishes. I gradually became exactly the sort of minivan-driving homebody that I had once ridiculed. But I enjoy being at home. In fact, my home is my castle. I guess that's why I spend so much time on the throne.

They say "Life begins at 40." I used to wonder why, since advanced age means fewer physical capabilities and more health problems. Now that I have reached middle age, I see the meaning of this saying. Most of us spend the first half of our lives figuring out what we want, playing gender roles, and/or keeping up ego defenses. Eventually we learn what we really want out of life. We no longer care very much what society expects of or thinks about us - we are more interested in pursuing what is important to us. I can't speak for women because, last time I checked, I was not one, but the male side of the equation is quite clear to me. The stereotypical man is supposed to be a competitive, athletic, emotionally-detached, ambitious, horny, aggressive wage earner. So we see young men in the weight room, on the football field, neglecting their spouses, being promiscuous and/or working long hours in order to fulfill the stereotype, feed their egos and impress others. After decades of keeping up this false self and enduring stress and loneliness as a result of remaining emotionally distant from everyone, many men grow past this nonsense: they become more loving and less competitive. My transformation started in my late 30s. After spending most of my life playing sports, bodybuilding, putting others down and treating girlfriends like sex objects, I had grown to the point where I just wanted to love and be loved. I didn't want to impress others with my athletic or intellectual abilities - I just wanted to be happy. I became a much more caring relationship partner, I spent more time with my kids, and I stopped being so critical toward myself and others. It was a disconcerting and anxiety-producing metamorphosis as I watched myself change from an egotistic, muscle-flexing individualist into a cooperative, caring family man, because my old self didn't leave very willingly, but I am much happier now. It feels good to be a peaceful, gentle person who is not ashamed to communicate his feelings and who would never become unnecessarily violent. People still stuck in the macho mindset would characterize my behavior as "feminine", and if any of them say it to my face I'll kick the living shit out of them.

Most of us come to accept ourselves as we mature. It is a tragic irony that many of us don't reach the point of total self-acceptance until we're wrinkled, bald and peeing on ourselves. But perhaps it is precisely the bodily decline we dread that facilitates this spiritual growth. Maybe we're so busy running around while we're healthy and energetic that we don't spend enough time working on our inner selves, and the loss of our ability to go places and do things gives us time for repose. Perhaps the luckiest people are those who go through a debilitating illness or injury early in life, which helps them realize what the most important things are, and then recover so that they can both experience things and fully appreciate them. My wife Cathi had a few life-threatening episodes, including Hodgkins lymphoma, and these made her realize how precious time with loved ones is, which in turn made us maximize our time together: neither of us would go away on business trips, we wouldn't work more than 40 hours a week, and we made sure to spend quality time together on evenings and weekends. This improved our relationship, despite the fact that we can't stand each other.

Another advantage of maturity is the wisdom and skills we acquire. These things last our whole lives. For example, John Glenn, at 76 years of age, helped pilot the space shuttle Discovery. At an age that many of us associate with feebleness, he used his vast astronautics experience to navigate a multimillion-dollar vehicle. He did a great job, except he left the turn signal on the whole time.

We all know the stereotype about old people hating modern music. People tend to favor music that they first heard in their youth, maybe because it brings back memories. However, the fact that a song was not released during your high school or college days in no way disqualifies it from being good. It is possible to enjoy new music no matter what your age. This is one difference between maturity and merely getting older. Sure, some of the new music is crap, but it's always been that way. And who can really say that a particular piece of music is good or bad? Art is subjective. Let's say a "gangsta rap" star named FU Driveby shouts an angry rendition of "I'm Gonna Kill Yo' Mama". No matter how obvious it is to 98 percent of the six billion humans that it's crap, it will always appeal to the few million people who are young, angry and/or record executives. Of course, it's not purely the music that fans like - it's the image. The worse the music, the more important the image. Remember the Spice Girls? Each member of this quintet had a "personality". Let's see, there was Ginger Spice, Scary Spice, Stupid Spice, and I forget what the other two were called (by now they're probably Old Spice and Dead Spice). Their music sucked, but that didn't matter because they dazzled people with their bimbo/slut/airhead personalities. It used to be that all-girl groups had talent. Bananarama. The Go Gos. The Bangles. You could actually listen and even dance to their music. Now you've got celebrities enticing us with the way they look or act in order to distract us from their lack of musical talent. Take Britney Spears for example. The first time I heard her sing I thought my dog had farted.

I used to read Sports Illustrated while using cardio machines at health clubs. Now it's Modern Maturity. I really hate choosing that magazine. When I walk with it to the treadmill or stair stepper, I am highly embarrassed to be seen with it. It might as well be Playboy or the Lindbergh baby for the amount of shame I feel. Especially when I notice how absurd some of the articles are. For example, one issue featured Shirley MacLaine, who for decades has been making up stories about supposed previous lives. I guess her appearance in a magazine for the elderly stemmed from the fact that most of its readers are aware of their eventual death, and the idea that maybe they'll return to Earth as another person intrigues them. Which reminds me, why is it that everyone who goes to a medium to find out who they were in past lives is told that they were a king, queen or other person of importance? There were - and still are - many more beggars, slaves, prostitutes, criminals, etc than important people, yet who gets told that they were one of these lowly sorts? Perhaps the mediums figure that people will more willingly give their money to someone who tells them lies that they want to hear, just like in church. Can you imagine what would happen if a believer in reincarnation were told that he had lived a past life that he was not proud of?

Believer:"So who was I in my last life? A king? A healer? A wealthy land owner?"
Medium:"Not quite. You were a prostitute that eventually died of gonorrhea. That'll be $25."
Believer:"Eat me."




BODILY  CHANGES


I'm getting old. I had to stop exercising because I couldn't stand the noise.


The most obvious changes we experience as we age are physical. Unfortunately, very few of them are for the better. In fact, I can't think of a single way in which our bodies improve as we age that doesn't involve surgery.

Muscles tend to shrink with age. Exercise will not stop this process - it will only slow it down. At the same time, we accumulate more connective and adipose tissue, resulting in a flabbier, less muscular physique. Why? Well, the production of beneficial hormones such as DHEA, melatonin, testosterone and human growth hormone decreases. Again, why? I donít know. All I know is that I weigh more than I did 20 years ago, yet I canít lift as much weight as I used to. Itís embarrassing to be in a weight room and see young studs benching 300 pounds while Iím holding a mere 45-pound weight in each hand. If they and I were contestants on Survivor, they would sit around the campfire laughing about how slow and weak I was and commenting on how much I tasted like chicken.

This hormonal shift causes our bellies to distend as we age. At least mine has. My abdominal six-pack has turned into a keg. When I was young, people told me that I looked like a god. I still look like a god, only now itís Buddha. Anyway, exercise and healthful diet cannot stop the inevitable gut spread that makes us all a bit softer and rounder in the middle. Even the most highly trained athletes are not immune to this process. You ever been watching the Olympics, and the camera zooms in on a former athlete? I find it hard to believe that this flabby spectator, who blends in with the rest of the non-athletic crowd, was once a world-class athlete. Often the announcer will make some upbeat comment so as not to shatter this has-been's former image. For example, "And here we see Irving Pacemaker, who won the 1932 pole vault. He currently resides at Seizure World Assisted Living Center, and often goes to the bathroom all by himself!"

I used to be proud of my body. It was slim and muscular and flexible all throughout my youth. My body fat was measured several times at less than 5 percent. I had it checked again when I was 39, and it was 16 percent. This despite the fact that I was exercising regularly and eating well. I'd lift weights and jog and use stair steppers and eat fruit and drink skim milk, and my body fat nevertheless tripled before I had even reached my 40th birthday. Furthermore, I was diagnosed with high cholesterol, which was no surprise since my father and his father both died in their 50s from heart disease. This just goes to show that some problems are genetic rather than age-related. Perhaps this is why I wrote a Web page about aging while I'm still in my 40s - I wanted to get it done before I croaked. Anyway, my doctor put me on a cholesterol-lowering medication called Lipitor. This is one of a class of medications called statins, which inhibit the production of cholesterol by blocking the enzyme that makes cholesterol, HMG-CoA reductase. The fine print says that Lipitor lowers LDL cholesterol (see How to Be Healthy Until You Die, chapter 4, for an explanation of LDL) and inhibits hepatic synthesis of VLDL, the LDL precursor. It also has a chemical name that's longer than the Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, Lipitor has possibly damaging side effects. Check out this excerpt from the product's patent:

Reduction in coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ10) is demonstrated by the present inventors to be a side effect of the administration of an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor. The reduction of tissue levels of CoQ10 can in turn cause an increase in cardiac dysfunction, and for patients with advanced cardiac disease, this added dysfunction can be life-threatening. Also, a reduction in levels of CoQ10 in human subjects by an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor can depress other essential functions in the human body. Essential functions such as those of the immune system can be very seriously affected, and even life-threatening, particularly in populations of persons who are already immunologically compromised.
Well isn't that nice? My cholesterol will be lower, but I'll die anyway. I can hear people at my funeral now:

"Can you believe it? His heart exploded."
"Yeah, but his cholesterol level was good."

Aging causes skin to become thin and wrinkled as the fibrinogen, which gives it integrity, breaks down. Skin also dries out because the body loses its ability to keep the skin hydrated, so it can become dry and scaly, especially on certain areas like the backs of the hands. Sun and wind can accelerate this process, which is why many farmers, boaters and other outdoorsy people become so leathery in their old age that even Anna Nicole Smith won't date them.

Our cardiovascular systems, if properly maintained, seem to keep their function pretty well. I've seen many joggers who are way older than I am. I've run in a few races, including a five-mile run that goes over Maryland's Bay Bridge, and I've been passed by both men and women who look as though they're old enough to have at one time appeared on the Howdy Doody Show. Disuse is a bigger factor than aging in cardiovascular decline. Many people in their teens and early 20s are in horrible physical shape due to smoking, bad diet, and/or lack of exercise. Maybe I'm a bit judgmental, but I find these people pathetic. The human body was created for motion, and to remain sedentary is a tragic waste of a good resource. It's like owning Bose speakers and using them to play Willie Nelson records.

Our eyesight worsens. Retinas suffer from macular degeneration, and lenses cloud up from cataracts. There are a few lucky people, however, who retain remarkably good eyesight well into their advanced years. In fact, my friend George belongs to a golf club that has a 98-year-old member with great eyesight. One time George invited me to play a round, and since both of us are middle-aged and losing our eyesight, he invited the old man to play with us. On the 1st tee I hit what felt like a good drive. I asked the old man, "Where did it go?" He replied, "I can't remember."

Hearing goes too. A lifetime of exposure to noise and pollution irreparably damages our hearing apparatus, but even people who live relatively clean, quiet lives suffer hearing loss. My grandfather lost a lot of his hearing. It was so bad that when he'd read a book he'd go, "What?" Finally he got a hearing aid. I remember him telling me, "This hearing aid is great. I've never heard this well before." I asked, "What kind is it?" He said, "A quarter til five."

We hear a lot about osteoporosis, which is a loss of calcium from bones that causes them to become brittle. The most noticeable effect of osteoporosis is a stooped-over posture caused by weak vertebrae that bend or collapse. We see this more in women than in men, because loss of estrogen after menopause makes it harder to maintain sufficient calcium in the bones. As a result a lot of old women are shorter than they used to be. Look at Dr. Ruth Westheimer. She was five foot nine before osteoporosis set in. Now she looks like E.T., except not quite as pretty.

In our advanced years we can lose bladder and bowel control, which results in incontinence. We laugh at the adult diaper commercials now, but if we live long enough, we'll be walking around in Depends feeling "confident". So you parents should make every effort to change your kids' diapers now, because someday they'll be changing yours. At least if they want to remain in your will.

Deteriorating bowels can cause constipation. Poor peristalsis or the absorption of too much water from stools can make it difficult for fecal matter to pass. This necessitates the ingestion of extra fiber, which is why a lot of older people eat prunes or bran. I know an older mathematician who used to be constipated. He worked it out with a pencil.

One problem to watch out for as we age is colorectal cancer. After decades of consuming burritos and hamburgers, your colon might exclaim, "That's it, I've had it!" and come unglued. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and it is more than 90% curable if found early. They say that in order to catch it early you should get a colonoscopy by age 50. Of course, "they" is defined as "doctors and companies that sell colonoscopes". A colonoscopy is a lovely procedure wherein they insert a snake-like device, which is approximately 75 feet long, into the bottom end of your alimentary canal and feed it in until it reaches your Adam's apple. There are a light and a camera on the tip so the doctor can look for unusual items like polyps and Jimmy Hoffa. Polyps are growths that often turn cancerous if not removed. The colonoscope has a wire loop on the tip that the doctor can use to snip off polyps. Don't worry about fecal matter getting in the way of the colonoscope; before the procedure, the doctors clean you out with a laxative or something from Taco Bell. The only problem will be after the procedure: the air that enters your colon will cause you to be bloated and distended for about an hour, and this might be uncomfortable. Eventually you will expel this air. Basically you will fart like Rosie O'Donnell on vacation in Mexico. As unsavory as a colonoscopy sounds, it's better than the old method, wherein they would feed your ass a barium milkshake and then take an X-ray. The barium would show doctors an outline of your colon and reveal irregularities. However, it was not as accurate as a colonoscopy and could reveal only major problems like tumors and gerbils.

And let's not forget hemorrhoids. In fact, if you have them, you can't forget them. Hemorrhoids are enlarged blood vessels in the rectum or anus. They hurt, itch, burn, and sometimes bleed, as though a miniature Newt Gingrich crawled up your ass. Which reminds me, why are they called "hemorrhoids" instead of "asteroids"? Anyway, they have several causes: excessive standing (blood above the rectum exerts pressure on rectal and anal areas), straining while pooping, constipation, diarrhea, pregnancy and obesity. Hemorrhoids don't go away by themselves but they can be managed with adequate fiber, proper hygiene of the anal area, and avoiding prolonged standing. It would also help to avoid anal sex. Sometimes discomfort can be temporarily relieved with a hot Sitz bath. If you are really suffering, surgery, laser treatment and over-the-counter creams can shrink hemorrhoids. You know you've got a problem when, instead of laughing at hemorrhoid commercials, you listen intently. I saw one commercial that said, "Try Preparation H, and kiss your hemorrhoids good-bye." If you have hemorrhoids, you are not alone. 80% of people get hemorrhoids at some point in their life. I once thought I had a hemorrhoid, so I went to my doctor. I was embarrassed to tell him that I had a weird feeling in my rectum (although I seem to have no problem telling you about it). He gave me a hemorrhoid exam, which is a very intrusive procedure: I was naked from the waist down, with my legs spread, bending over a table, with some old guy's finger up my ass. It reminded me of summer camp.

Teeth decay and gums recede. Many people eventually lose so many teeth that they need dentures. This is why it is important to brush and floss. A lot of denture wearers say that if they had known that lack of proper dental hygiene would cause them to lose their teeth, they would have taken better care of their mouths. I don't know about that. I mean, there are plenty of people with heart disease who know that fatty foods are exacerbating their problem, but they eat crap anyway. It seems that a lot of folks are just too lazy to take care of themselves. They choose instant gratification over long-term health and comfort. But who am I to criticize them? Many of the most powerful and important people in this country are fat, sedentary, donut-eating sheep who conform to fashion and get cosmetic surgery in order to gain acceptance. Why go through all the hard work of eating right and exercising and becoming a better person? Just live a vacuous existence of self-centered egotism and run to a dentist or surgeon to fix your appearance so that you can continue to have superficial relationships with other shallow lemmings.

Speaking of cosmetic surgery, does it really work? I mean, half a million Americans go under the knife every year in order to improve their looks. Thatís 10,000 in your state alone. Do you see an additional 10,000 good-looking people every year? I didnít think so.

As I mentioned earlier, melatonin production decreases with age. This is one reason that we donít sleep as well as we did in our youth. I had so much trouble sleeping that I joined Insomniacs Anonymous. I still have trouble sleeping, because I keep getting calls from strangers at 3:00 in the morning.

Most aged people's hair loses its color and turns gray or white. Go into any senior center and you will see folks with snow-covered domes, walking stooped over or sitting in wheelchairs, like wounded albino veterans. Graying starts way before old age, however. Most of us start seeing individual gray hairs in our 30s, usually on our heads. Pubic hair doesn't start to gray until much later. You know why? Because it's thirteen years younger.

Now I want to talk about hair loss. Actually I don't want to talk about it, but you probably expect me to, considering that I'm writing about aging. I guess you already know that about half of people experience significant hair loss in their advanced years. But I bet you didn't know that one-third of them are women. Male pattern baldness, which can start as early as one's 20s, is a gender-linked trait; but hair loss due to aging can affect anyone. When a hair falls out, it is not replaced the way it had been previously. Society doesn't seem to accept female baldness, while people like Yul Brynner and Jean Luc Picard are revered as sex symbols. What if Pamela Anderson were to go bald? What would people say? Probably "Look at those tits!"




BACK  PROBLEMS


She's so old, her birth certificate is in Roman numerals.


Back pain is so common that I thought it deserved its own chapter. As bipeds who walk erect (heh heh) and lean over in order to pick things up, our lower backs endure a lot of stress. Add to this long periods of sitting and lack of stretching, and you have a recipe for trouble. As our lower back muscles atrophy with age, they become less able to withstand the pressures exerted on them. It is no wonder, then, that eight out of ten people will have a problem with back pain at some time during their lives, and low back pain is both the number one leading impairment in occupational injuries and the leading cause of disability in people aged 19-45. Additionally, back pain is the second most common cause of missed work days. I wonder what the most common cause of missed work days is. Probably calling in "sick" when one isn't really ill. I've done that on more than one occasion. Some days I just don't feel like going to work, so I'll call my boss and make up an excuse:

Me:"I'm not coming in today. I'm sick."
Boss:"Oh yeah? You don't sound sick to me."
Me:"Okay, I'm fucking my dog. There, is that sick enough for you?"

Sometimes you can get injured not from age but from using your body in a manner it's not used to. For example, you live a pretty sedentary life, then one day you bend down and lift something heavy, pulling a back muscle and possibly injuring a vertebral disc. If your back muscles had been in shape from giving them frequent exercise, or you had squatted instead of bending, perhaps that injury could have been avoided. A lot of injuries happen to "weekend warriors" who do nothing physical for months and then play basketball or softball one weekend. I have a friend that I play one-on-one full-court basketball with about once or twice a year. We always push ourselves to the limit. One time I strained a lower back muscle and didn't realize it until the next day. For months I experienced pain upon doing even the simplest things such as getting out of bed. Apparently the injury caused inflammation that pinched my right sciatic nerve, causing pain in my lower back and tingling down my right buttock and leg. This condition, called sciatica, may be caused by general wear and tear, sudden strain on lower back muscles, and/or pressure on the intervertebral discs of your lower spine (more about discs shortly). It is a fairly common condition, and one is most likely to get it between 30 and 50 years of age (I was 38 when I got it). I looked up sciatica on the Web and found some pretty detailed descriptions of the sciatic nerve. Here is an excerpt from one site:

The sciatic nerve arises from L4 - S3 inclusive. It is formed in the pelvis and exits through the greater sciatic foramen to enter the gluteal region. Here it lies inferior to piriformis, coursing lateral to the pudendal nerve and inferior gluteal neurovascular bundle. The surface marking for the sciatic nerve at this point is midway between the greater trochanter and the ischial tuberosity. Then the sciatic nerve passes vertically downwards posterior to the superior gemelli, obturator internus, inferior gemelli, quadratus femoris and the hamstring part of adductor longus.
Personally I think that whoever wrote this made it all up. I mean, he lists several ridiculous, non-existent body parts such as "ischial tuberosity" and "pelvis". What kind of morons does he think we are?

The worst part of your back to injure is an intervertebral disc. Discs are rings of cartilage that separate your vertebrae, creating lubrication and shock absorption between them. The outer portion of each disc is called the annulus, which is a large round ligament. Age and wear cause tears in this portion, which heal the same way tears in other ligaments do: by scar formation. Scar tissue is not as strong as normal tissue. The repeated cycle of many annular tears healing by scar tissue leads to a disc that finally begins to degenerate. The inner part of each disc is a gel-like substance called the nucleus pulposus. As degeneration of the disc progresses, the nucleus pulposus loses some of its water content. It becomes stiff and loses the ability to act as a shock absorber. The process may continue until the disc becomes weak enough to be susceptible to collapse when subjected to abnormal pressure, such as lifting a heavy object with one's back. This can cause the disc to bulge outward, with the annulus pressing against the spinal nerve. The result can range from numbness to weakness in the areas supplied by the nerve to pain which can be intense. Sometimes the disc can rupture, causing the nucleus pulposus to squeeze into the spinal canal, and when this happens the result is usually horrible pain. There is a considerable amount of evidence to suggest that the nucleus pulposus can set up an inflammatory response in the nerve, causing additional pain. While a bulging disc might or might not eventually heal on its own, a ruptured disc usually requires surgery.

If you decide to get spinal surgery, keep in mind that this kind of surgery is not without risks. Some years back, my girlfriend Cathi, who I eventually married*, went through quite an ordeal as the result of spinal surgery. It all started several years earlier, before we met, when she was horsing around with her boyfriend. Somehow she landed on her head (which makes me wonder what kind of Kama Sutra position they were experimenting with), and the result was that she ended up in such a way as to resemble a white female Gumby, injuring one of her cervical discs. After years of discomfort for both Cathi (pain, numbness) and me (hearing her complain), she decided to undergo a procedure called "anterior cervical fusion", wherein the injured disc, which had degenerated to the point where it had become thinner than Calista Flockhart, was replaced with bone from a dead person. Additionally, a titanium plate was screwed into the vertebrae just above and below the site on the front of the spine in order to provide support during the healing process. As the cadaver bone fused, one of the screws holding the plate in place somehow worked its way out. (I always said she had a screw loose, but I meant that figuratively.) Since the esophagus rests up against the spine, the sharp screw head eventually wore its way through the back of her esophagus. This caused discomfort, but when she called her neurosurgeon's office they assured her that the soreness she felt was just a natural part of the healing process. Just goes to show you that some medical professionals, with all their years of training and experience, have the IQ of paint.

* The reason I married her - apart from the fact that she nagged me into it - is that we got too old for me to refer to her as my "girlfriend". That word is reserved for young people; when people over 40 use it, it's just sad.

Over the course of several weeks, food and bacteria went through Cathi's new passageway, causing an abscess that grew to the size of a baseball, or George W. Bush's brain. Her throat felt worse and worse and she was having trouble breathing as the abscess pushed on the outside of her windpipe, making it smaller. She went to a few emergency rooms, and the geniuses there diagnosed her problem as a possible sinus infection or maybe even -- and this is why doctors deserve their six-figure incomes -- a sore throat. Finally one night she was awakened by an alarming inability to breathe, at which point I rushed her to the emergency room. This time a CAT scan was done, revealing a very nasty-looking abscess. She was taken by ambulance to University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, where she was assured that whatever she had was not very serious. ("What you have is nothing to be concerned about, Miss Johnson. Is it all right if I take your picture for our medical journal?") She was operated on by an ENT surgeon who cleaned out the abscess, but he could not suture the esophagus because the tissue was so infected and mushy. Upon seeing the loose screw and the hole it had caused, he called in a neurosurgeon to remove the plate (it was no longer necessary because the cadaver bone had already fused, so the plate was now just a useless, harmful object - the Trent Lott of medical hardware).

The day after surgery, as Cathi lay in the ICU with tubes entering almost every orifice and an intravenous supply of drugs that would have made even Keith Richards lose his tenuous grip on reality, I visited her. She could not talk because she had a breathing tube in her throat, so we communicated via sign language, and when she learned what had happened to her, she had a special sign language message for the doctor who had installed the plate.

She stayed in the hospital for a week and a half, being fed through a tube. At one point the feeding tube stopped working. This alarmed her because inserting it (through her nose, down her throat and into her small intestine) was a painful, bloody process that was almost as bad as waiting in line at the Motor Vehicle Administration, and she didnít want to suffer having another one forced through her nasal passage. The nurse, who had bragged about how her 31 years of experience made her great at what she does, tried several methods of unclogging the tube, but to no avail. When she left the room, Cathi asked me to brush her hair. When I removed the clip that attached a coil of the feeding tube to her hair, I noticed that the tube had been folded over. "Maybe this clip is the problem," I offered. She replied, "Oh, come on, you idiot. Do you really think an experienced nurse like her would overlook that? Do you think this very competent medical staff would put me through the torture of inserting another feeding tube if the problem was something as ridiculously obvious as a hair clip?" Well, maybe those weren't her exact words, but we discovered that I was right. I brought the nurse in and, after a sound flogging, had her inject some fluid into the tube. It worked fine. Rumor has it that she is now sweeping floors.

After a few weeks of recuperating at home and ingesting nourishment through the feeding tube, the ENT surgeon told her that it was okay to start eating soft foods. The esophagus still hadn't healed, but since she still had an open neck wound, anything that went through the hole would drain out her neck. So she started eating, which caused her to expel viscous mixtures of food, mucus and saliva out her neck like a human dribble glass. Shortly thereafter she started getting shooting pains in her upper back every time she swallowed. Furthermore, after a week she was still leaking, indicating that the esophageal hole still had not closed. An x-ray revealed that not only was food still going through, but also it had created a large pocket and was starting another abscess. Her back pains were caused by the abscess irritating the nerves exiting her spine. So exactly one month after her first surgery, she went under the knife again (this time at Maryland General Hospital, as she was no longer allowed in the University of Maryland Medical Center due to a practical bedpan joke). Once again I visited my fiancée daily, annoying the staff with questions and wondering if marrying a textbook medical case was such a good idea after all. This time she was released on her own recognizance after just four days, allowing me yet again to take care of her and her children at home all by myself while working full-time and consuming my beer supply at a rate that would make Ted Kennedy proud.

So consider the risks of spinal surgery, and always research your prospective surgeon's credentials. We certainly learned our lesson. Never again will either of us use any surgeon who got his degree on the Internet.




ENERGY  LEVEL


Top 10 signs that you're too old to still be a virgin
10.When you slip into something more comfortable, it's usually a coma.
9.Every night at home, your mother reminds you that all the other Supreme Court justices have had sex.
8.Black lace garter belt now attaches to your Depends.
7.The only tongue action you have enough energy for is to pop those dentures back in place.
6.When your date suggests you "get nasty", you start picking your nose.
5.You're the King of Pop, for crying out loud.
4.When ogling the pool boy, you find yourself coveting his comfortable-looking sandals.
3.The last young man you seductively smiled at escorted you across the street.
2.You find yourself standing at the altar next to John Tesh.
1."Going all the way" takes on a new meaning, thanks to Metamucil.


In my 20s I could spend hours on the soccer field or wrestling mat expending what now seems like superhuman quantities of energy, go out drinking and dancing the same evening until well after midnight, and wake up feeling refreshed early the next morning. Now I can't do more than one of those in an entire week.

One reason for many people's loss of energy is kids. As I explained in How to Raise Children Without Killing Them, kids take large quantities of our energy and time. The longer you wait to procreate, the older you will be while raising them. Maybe we should emulate olden times, when women got married in their mid-teens and had most or all of their children by age 20. This way, our kids would be grown up and out of the house before we hit 40. The trend, however, is just the opposite: many people wait til age 30 or even 40 to reproduce. This ensures that we have to do all the tiring parental stuff when our energy levels have already started to diminish. It's like waiting until after aerobics class to go jogging.

But we can't blame children. Childless people age just like everyone else does. I had already experienced a significant loss of energy by the time I met my wife. The only thing her kids ever did was use up what little energy I had; it was not their fault that I had so little to begin with. The primary change in lifestyle was that I went to bed earlier than I had previously, which was just as well since my wife wouldn't let me out of the house after 9 PM anyway. Even now that I no longer have small children to take care of, I fall asleep rather early every night, so life is not as full of surprises as it used to be. In fact, these days the only surprises I get are from prune juice.

I don't compete in sports anymore, because I possess neither the energy nor the desire to risk injury. If I can get some decent exercise without aggravating my sciatica or having a seizure, I'm happy. If you, too, have slowed down and are looking for a low-energy pastime, here's a list to choose from:

Walking. If it doesn't sound very vigorous, it's because it isn't. Almost everyone walks. They walk to their cars, they walk to the mailbox, they walk to the refrigerator. Walking is a "sport" for people with little or no athletic ability. In order to dignify it, some walkers give their activity an impressive name like "speed walking", but it is still just an everyday activity that even Marlon Brando can do.

Bicycling. This is a good way to combine mind-numbing repetition with the possibility of serious injury. Don't forget your helmet, which will do you absolutely no good if you fall on your face and leave two pounds of flesh smeared on the pavement. Bicycling is about as much exercise as walking, with the added benefit of a sore butt.

Horseshoes. A nice, safe game that can be played while consuming many beers. There is only one documented case of anyone dying while playing horseshoes. It involved a 93-year-old man who suffered a fatal heart attack right after a throw. Talk about a dead ringer.

Treadmills. All the joys of exhaustion with the added benefit of unbelievable dullness. Who needs a nice scenic trail? Just hold a book in front of you and read Crime and Punishment. By the time you stop you'll weigh three pounds.

Golf. Pay $45 to lose $23 worth of balls and become angry and frustrated at your lack of skill. Don't you just love sand traps and ponds? That's okay - you can lie about your score in order to impress people who you don't like very much anyway.

Bridge. Sit around for seven hours at a time staring at hearts, diamonds, clovers and moons. No, wait, that's Lucky Charms. Anyway, bridge is a nice game if you don't like being ambulatory.

Bowling. This is a great sport for people who love wearing used shoes. And let's not forget the bowling balls, which have an invisible yet indestructible layer of bacteria and boogers from thousands of unhygienic, pizza-eating lowlifes.




SEXUAL  CHANGES


Patient:"I have a problem - I can't pee."
Doctor:"How old are you?"
Patient:"102."
Doctor:"You've peed enough."


As we age, our ovaries and testes produce smaller amounts of hormones. In women the change is more dramatic: they go through a process called menopause during which their estrogen production eventually drops to near zero. Hot flashes and mood changes accompany this phase. Menstruation stops. Once voluptuous body parts lose some of their roundness. The ability to produce vaginal lubrication during sex diminishes, possibly requiring an artificial lubricant. This shows that Mother Nature hates women even more than she hates men.

Men go through a climacteric of their own. They produce less testosterone and have less sexual energy. Since sexual ability drops gradually, and there is no clear demarcation as there is in menopause, many men become alarmed when they can't perform because they see no reason for their problem. The inability to attain or maintain an erection is called erectile dysfunction, better known as impotence. In this culture, which puts so much emphasis on sexual prowess instead of trivialities like honesty and sensitivity, men who can't "get it up" anytime, anywhere and with anyone are viewed as pathetic excuses for human beings who must be closet homosexuals and who do not deserve to be part of our gene pool. At the same time, men like Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson - who have proved themselves to have libidos the size of Albuquerque - are secretly admired (though outwardly criticized) for their sexual appetites. Anyway, it is estimated that roughly 10-30 million men suffer from impotence, and very few of them seek help, mainly because they would rather admit to vehicular manslaughter than have anyone think that they have even the slightest problem satisfying a woman.

While lots of people joke about impotence, very few equally acknowledge its female equivalent, frigidity. Perhaps this is because women can fake orgasms*, while men cannot hide their lack of arousal. Thus men are the ones who endure performance anxiety. This is Mother Nature's way of paying men back for defiling women and then bragging to their buddies.

(* I think few of us will ever forget Meg Ryan's faked orgasm in When Harry Met Sally.)

Impotence is not an inevitable part of aging. In fact, fewer than 25% of men over 65 suffer from it. Much of the time its causes are psychological, not physical. Stress, anxiety and depression can prevent anyone from becoming or remaining sexually aroused. Nor is impotence strictly a Western phenomenon. Men in every country have erectile problems, as evidenced by the plethora of aphrodisiacs peddled all over the world. Men try everything from herbs to rhinoceros horn in a desperate search for the magical potency-in-a-pill, but none of them actually work. They might as well use a popsicle stick and duct tape. Meanwhile, in the good old US of A, there are many "cures" for impotence, such as implants and vacuum devices, but as you are probably well aware, Viagra has stolen the spotlight. It's not foolproof, but it does work for more than half of men who try it. Many celebrities use it. Remember Bob Dole? He admitted on national television that he had erectile dysfunction by appearing in Viagra ads. It was actually kind of hypocritical how he made money being a shill for a pharmaceutical company and then pretended that endorsing their product took courage. It took greed. Anyway, I think the ad campaign would have been more successful if he had been more candid. For example:

Hi. I'm Bob Dole. Are you having trouble getting your train to go into the tunnel? Are Buddhist monks having better and more frequent sex than you? Do you find yourself envying me? Well, now there's hope. Try Viagra, and you'll be able to satisfy more women in a single evening than Al Gore has satisfied in his entire life. Your shmekel will rise to the occasion just like it did when you were 18, even if the rest of your body is a sagging heap of flab. Call 1-800-GET-IT-UP, and we'll have you doing the Mattress Mambo in no time.

Viagra - the quicker dicker upper.




HOW  TO  AGE  FASTER


She was so old, when they told her to act her age, she dropped dead.


Yeah, I know. Who wants to age faster? We age plenty fast on our own. Our physical capabilities have diminished. We feel the need to pamper ourselves by curbing our drinking or staying out of the sun. We sometimes wake up at the same time we used to go to sleep. In fact, if you're over 30, then you're probably thinking, "What the hell happened to me?" If you're still young, then you probably aren't thinking this. But don't worry. You will.

The purpose of this chapter is to show the absurdity of certain lifestyles and habits. Millions of people practice at least some of the age-acceleration tips presented here, yet claim that they want to live longer. It's like someone publishing moronic opinions on the Web while claiming that he wants to be a famous author.

Arteries in the heart and brain can clog over time, causing a heart attack or stroke. This process is sped up by not exercising and by eating saturated fat. Most people don't realize that they have a problem until it's too late. A blood vessel can be more than 50% blocked and still have good blood-carrying capacity. It's only in the late stages, when blood flow is below 25 percent, that there is a noticeable problem, especially if the person doesn't exercise and so never challenges his heart enough to notice it. Then one day he's mowing the lawn or working on his car or stressing out at work, and he has a heart attack. Many people don't even realize that it's a heart attack, so they deny that it's happening. For example, "It's not a heart attack. I've never had heart trouble. I eat anything I want and I'm fit as a fidthskch ... uuggghh. Thud."

There are few better ways to speed up the aging process than by smoking. Tobacco contains scores of chemicals that can cause cancer, damage blood vessels and accelerate heart disease. But you know what? Smokers don't care. Even the health warning on the package isn't enough to deter people from lighting up. Maybe the warning would be more effective if it were a little less preachy. For example: "This product, when used as directed, causes death."

Remember the slew of lawsuits against the tobacco industry? The whole premise was that tobacco companies knowingly promoted and sold harmful products that caused illness and death, without warning anyone about the hazards of smoking. True, they put their profits above public health. But should they be singled out? McDonalds executives know that beef causes high cholesterol, which in turn causes heart disease and death. They do not tell anyone this. They do not put warnings on their food packaging. Should people with atherosclerosis be allowed to sue them? Don't get me wrong. I detest smoking as much as anyone else. In fact, smoking killed both my father and his father. But we all make life-altering choices, and forcing corporations to pay for individuals' mistakes is ludicrous. It sends the message that we are not responsible for our actions, that we can do any stupid thing and then blame the consequences on someone else. Who needs anyone to tell them that smoking is bad for them? The horrible coughing fit caused by one's first cigarette should be indication enough that this is not a substance to be inhaled. People are going to engage in all sorts of things that have bad track records, like tobacco and ground beef and marriage, and they should have to live (or die) with whatever happens.

Stress is, as they say, a silent killer. The culprit is chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline, which are pumped into our bloodstream as part of the fight-or-flight response. They raise blood pressure and make more glucose available for immediate work. This response was a perfectly functional survival mechanism back when we were fighting or fleeing from enemies, hunting food, competing for resources, and protecting our children. Modern society has made the stress response not only useless, but also downright damaging. We get angry at someone who cuts us off on the highway, or the idiot salesperson on the phone. We fear financial hardships and relationship problems. These are things that we cannot physically fight or run away from, so we build up energy and stress that does not get burned off. Over the long term, daily doses of cortisol actually damage brain cells and raise blood cholesterol, thus accelerating our demise. What we need to do is keep in mind that none of our daily irritations even begin to equal the danger of a pack of lions or gang of marauders. For the most part it is our reactions to situations - not the situations themselves - that cause stress. If we can keep things in perspective and not react with fear or anger, we will be a lot better off. Unfortunately, some people never learn. They get upset about anything and everything. For example, one time when I was dating this woman, we went to her parents' house for dinner. I used their bathroom, and they got angry with me simply because I left the door open. I mean, you'd think they had never seen anyone masturbate before.




LOSS


What's 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1?  Bo Derek getting older.


The longer you live, the more likely you are to have a friend or relative die. Do you ever notice how it's only the good people who die? People you can't stand, like Jim Bakker and Don King, go on surviving well past their usefulness and tolerability, while good and innocent folks have their lives cut short by cancer and automobile accidents and terrorist acts. If there is a God, He's a sick bastard.

Enduring the loss of loved ones can make longevity a curse. I guess you can always make new friends, but old friends and family are irreplaceable. Outliving your children is heartbreaking, even if they live to be 80. What good is it to reach your 105th birthday if there's no one left who you're close to? This is why it's important to spend time with loved ones while you can and not be overly concerned with your health and career. Hug your kids. Take a day off from work. Eat the occasional pizza, or chocolate, or lobster dipped in melted butter. Have 70 great years instead of 100 mediocre years. I don't want to outlive all of my loved ones and exist in a world of mere acquaintances who tell me condescending things like "You look great!", because what they're really saying is "You're still alive?"

On the other hand, I like the prospect of outliving people I can't stand. I loved reading Johnnie Cochran's obituary. Here's a man who knew that O.J. was guilty, yet he told the world that he was innocent. He committed a deliberate breach of justice in order to gain fame and fortune for himself. Furthermore, he abused his first wife. When the press interviewed him about that, he said, "Well, at least I didn't kill her, like some people I know."

One thing I hate about losing someone is going to their funeral. I loathe funerals. Youíre supposed to sit there quietly while all the other well-dressed people around you do the same thing. Itís almost as bad as going to church. Also, funerals are ridiculously expensive (see chapter 9 of Money Can Make You Rich for elaboration on this topic). Furthermore, people tend to euphemize the deceased. Even if the stiff was a boozing, welfare-collecting child molester, people will say nice things about him, e.g. "He loved kids."




TREATMENT  BY  OTHERS


My grandmother falls down all the time. When I push her.


Most of the world respects the elderly. Young people look to their elders for wisdom and appreciate their legacy. But not in this country. Our shallow, self-absorbed society values youth over experience, beauty over character, and form over substance. This is why, for example, young people appear in most commercials. The only commercials featuring old people are those that advertise adjustable beds, denture adhesives, adult diapers and electronic alert systems ("I've fallen and I can't get up!"). Food, beverage and clothing ads always feature young actors, because the advertisers want to associate the product with youth. I guess we can't blame them. I mean, who wants to see Margaret Thatcher in a bikini?

Even middle-aged folks are not immune to young people's disregard for the youth-challenged. For example, the older I become, the fewer parties I get invited to. I used to think that it was because people don't want some guy in his mid 40s slowing the pace of a social event that's supposed to be fun and lively. However, I found out recently that I was wrong. People don't exclude me because I'm older; they exclude me because I'm an asshole.

Dating can be tough when you're old (not that it's easy when you're young). One reason is that by the time we reach our golden years, most of the names in our "little black book" end with M.D.  As a result, personal ads placed by old people differ significantly from those placed by young people. Young folks tend to be very idealistic and picky, e.g. "Must be good-looking, thin, highly intelligent, witty, rich, and sensitive to my every need." Old people tend to be desperate and less choosy, e.g. "Must have all limbs." Old women can have a harder time than old men finding a partner. There are several reasons for this: 1) women tend to live longer than men, which results in too few available older men; 2) men put more emphasis on physical beauty than women do, so they go for younger women; and 3) men tend to have more money than women do, so they can afford young companions. That last item might make women sound like prostitutes, but let's face it - many of them are. I mean, how many poor old men get young women? It's only the ones with money that can pull this off. Remember the filthy rich guy who married Anna Nicole Smith? Do you think that old geezer would have had a prayer with her if he had been poor? She merely whored herself for his money, and inherited an absurd fortune.

Old people are often viewed with disdain, as though they're just in the way. Well, sometimes they are in the way. On countless occasions I have been stuck behind older drivers who seem to be completely unable to press their accelerators hard enough to attain the speed limit. I realize that these people are no longer working or raising families, so they aren't under the kind of time pressure the rest of us experience, but you'd think that since they have so little time left to live, they'd be anxious to get to their destination before they croak.

Society does make some provisions for the elderly. Many businesses offer senior citizen discounts. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are for older folks exclusively. Of course, I wouldn't depend on these government programs to be there in our golden years. For example, according to the Social Security Administration, 76 million baby boomers will start retiring in about 2010. In 2015 we'll begin paying out more in benefits than we collect in taxes. By 2037, when there will be more than twice as many old people as there were in the year 2000, the trust funds will be exhausted and the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 72% of benefits owed. So our entire working lives will be spent paying hard-earned money for something that will quite possibly be gone by the time we need it. It's like raising kids.

Crooks love to target the elderly. Many old people are depressed or senile, and that makes them easy prey for scam artists and televangelists. We've all heard stories about people who were swindled out of large portions of their life savings. They are fooled into investing in ridiculous schemes such as swamp property, emu farms, and the National Endowment for the Arts. This debunks the myth that old people are "wise". Just because someone has lived a lot of years, that doesn't necessarily mean that he is any wiser than you or I. Some people spend seven or eight decades living sheltered lives, giving the physical appearance of being wise because we assume that wrinkled and gray folks have "been there, done that", but in reality no one can learn everything in one lifetime, so we are all ignorant about some things no matter how long we live. Of course, some of us are more ignorant than others. I, for example, am very proficient in this area. Through years of hard work, I have managed to become much more ignorant than anyone twice my age. Or any age.




ADVANTAGES  OF  AGING


Old Husband:"With that new haircut, you don't look like an old woman anymore."
Old Wife:"Thank you."
Old Husband:"Now you look like an old man."


A good thing about having been around for a long time is that you get to experience a lot of different things. In this country we are particularly lucky because there is so much to do and always so much going on. I have lots of good memories of my life so far: catching frogs, climbing trees, beaches, ice cream sundaes, swimming, fishing, 10-cent candy bars, Rowan & Martinís Laugh-in, little league football, carnivals, Wacky Packages, various pets, comics, fraternity parties, sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Such a plethora of different experiences enriches a person and makes life sweet. I look back fondly on certain times. Like when I was a senior in college - those were the happiest three years of my life.

Another advantage is that you amass a lot of knowledge. We make literally thousands of mistakes as we stumble through our existence, and we learn from those errors. For example, the only reason we know not to trust salesmen is that we have been ripped off by at least one, whether it was a smiling, suit-wearing phony; or a lying, glib telemarketer. Hence we are merely a bunch of injured souls, having endured decades of pain, illness, rejection, theft, ridicule and disappointment, and as a result we accumulate, as Helen Reddy sang in her song I Am Woman, "wisdom born of pain". Why am I quoting Helen Reddy? Because I'm such a geek.

You can help others with your wisdom. That is, you can warn people about certain dangers so they don't make the same mistakes you did. The problem with this is that many young people don't want some old fart telling them what to do or what not do to. You can tell your teenager until you're blue in the face not to drink too much, but you know darn well he or she is gonna go out, consume way too much alcohol, and then, after being brought back home, have an out-of-stomach experience. Depending on how quickly your child learns, this will happen anywhere from one to thirty-eight times.

What I particularly like about growing older is that people are constantly impressed with me. They say things like, "You're in great shape for your age." It's sort of a left-handed compliment because they always qualify their praise with the for your age clause. But I don't care. When I was young no one gave it a second thought that I worked out and didn't have a gut that hung over my belt; that was expected of me. Now that I'm in the latter half of my life, formerly trivial things are now admirable qualities. I can't wait until I'm in my eighties, because I know that people will be astounded by me. ("Wow, you're amazing! Most people your age are dead!")

I guess one reason it's easy to appear physically fit compared to other people my age is that most folks are out of shape. In the old days men were gladiators, carpenters, blacksmiths and the like. In today's society, men perform such heroic feats as selling aluminum siding and going to the mall. We get to sit in offices and read e-mail and call our insurance companies, all the while deluding ourselves that we are somehow "better" than the laborers of yesteryear. Come on, folks - who are we kidding? We are a bunch of soft, pampered weaklings who are able to own homes, automobiles, computers and televisions only because of technology and the labor of other people (many of them foreign). If society were to break down and we had to depend on our own physical bodies to survive, evidence of our existence would be found only in coyote droppings.

If you're in the medical profession, being old is comforting to your patients, probably due to the idea that you must have lots of experience. As for the gynecological field, there are two additional reasons that women prefer older gynecologists: 1) they are not as physically attractive as younger gynecologists, hence there is less sexual tension; and 2) their hands tremble.

Some aging advantages are rather small, but they add up to a better life. For example, having learned so much of our language, I now know most of the words in the monthly Readers Digest feature called "Word Power". I know the meaning of words like "couth", "responsibility" and "tact" - things that I had no concept of in my youth.

Aging along with each other means that we have that much more in common. We now share physical ailments that we can discuss (i.e. complain about) with each other. In this sense men become more feminine, because instead of competing to see who can lift more weight or bragging about how many women we're shtupping, we're admitting our weaknesses and empathizing with one another. On one hand this is a good thing, because we open up to each other and become closer. However, at the same time it's distressing because we realize that not only is our youth over, but also we're sitting around telling each other how old we feel. It's like we and our friends are in a bad surrealistic movie as one minute we're recounting events from our glory days, like a championship game we played in or a race we ran; and the next minute we're telling these same people that we strained a muscle last weekend pulling weeds.

As we develop age-related ailments, society compensates us with things like insurance and handicapped license plates. Unfortunately some people abuse this system by making fraudulent claims. One time I saw someone with handicapped plates park in a handicapped spot. When he got out of his car, there was obviously nothing wrong with him. So I ran him over. Then his mother got out of the other side in her wheelchair. Boy was she pissed.




AGING  GRACEFULLY


An old man takes a vacation to Miami and drops dead there. The body is flown back to his family. The funeral is open-casket, and two friends of the deceased are looking over the body. One of them says, "You know, he looks good." The other one says, "Of course he does - he just came back from Miami."


Stay active. The fact that you can no longer perform the physical feats you were capable of in your youth does not mean that you have to stop exercising. Light to moderate exercise is very good for you. I have altered my workout routine accordingly. I can no longer kickbox, lift large amounts of weight or run more than five miles at a time. But there are many physical feats that I am still able to perform: I can wiggle my ears, pick my nose, crack my knuckles, roll my tongue, flare my nostrils, cross my eyes, snap my fingers, and fart loudly (sometimes unintentionally).

In order to stay happy, you need to remain involved. Get together with friends and family. Work on hobbies. Attend festivals. Take walks. Have pets. There is no such thing as being "too old" to do something. I remember when the Friars Club roasted Hugh Hefner. He was 75 years old and had seven young, blonde girlfriends. Some people think it's disgusting that he's having sex with women who are one-third his age, but I say that you're never too old to pay $100,000 a month to have a harem of slutty, peroxide-using whores change your diapers and perform sex acts on you that they would never dream of doing with losers like me unless I hit the lottery.

Never lie about your age. If you do, it shows that you are embarrassed or ashamed. Be proud of your advanced years, because it both shows how well you're doing for your age and explains any age-related ailments you might have. Cathi never lies about her age. She tells everyone that she's as old as I am. Then she lies about my age.

There are always things you can do to help society. For example, you can give blood. I have personally donated more than 50 times. Now, you might be thinking, "Who would want an old person's blood?" Well, believe it or not, blood does not change a whole lot as we age. Our skin wrinkles, our muscles shrink, our organs degenerate, but our blood remains mostly the same. It has to; if the composition were to change significantly, we'd die. The very fact that we are alive indicates that our blood still has adequate amounts of red blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin, plasma, etc. Donating is an easy way to contribute a vital resource: it only takes an hour, your body replenishes the blood in a few weeks, and it costs no money. Blood is often in short supply, for several reasons. For example, a single shock trauma victim can use up to 100 pints of blood in a few hours. Additionally, only 5% of the population actually donates blood. This is partly because the Red Cross has a strict screening process designed to keep diseases such as AIDS and mad cow disease out of the blood supply. When you go to a donor center, you'll have to answer a set of questions:

Have you ever paid for sex?Yes - I've been married.
Have you ever had sex with a male prostitute since 1977?No, not since 1977 I haven't.
Have you ever visited a germ-infested area of the world?Yes, I've been to New Jersey.
Do you have mad cow disease?Not anymore.
Have you ever traveled to Bangladesh?Would you?

A lot of people focus more on their careers as they age. Not me. I focus more on my loved ones and hobbies, because these are what make life worth living, and as I get older I become more and more aware of just how precious they are. Why do so many people spend increasing amounts of time and energy at their jobs? I see two possible reasons: 1) They're trying to compensate for what their private lives lack. The thing is, if they spent this extra time and energy on their friends and family, they would be happier and not feel the need to pour more of themselves into their work. 2) Money. Providing food, shelter, medicine and education for oneself and one's family is expensive. People work harder or longer in order to impress their bosses and thereby get promoted, which would mean more pay. Some people feel a little embarrassed or ashamed about this pursuit, so they try to dignify it by saying that they're "building their career", as though they would spend just as much time and effort working if there were no chance of taking home any more money. I wonder if it's all worth it. When people look back after their kids are gone, are they happy that they spent less time with them in order to perform more work and buy more things? Or do they regret having thrown away family time that they can never get back and wish that they had just spent less money instead of buying things that they had very little time to enjoy anyway? My point is that there is no grace or dignity in working to the point where you neglect your loved ones. Don't work more as you get older; work less. Take my lead. I'm a government employee, and I haven't done a bit of work since the Reagan administration.

Realize that age doesn't necessarily mean a decrease in productivity. Many great things have been accomplished by people in their 70s, 80s and even 90s. By taking this into account, I realize that my productive years have only just begun. I spent my first four decades learning life skills such as how to crawl, walk, eat, use silverware, catch frogs and drink beer. I had a physical body that needed to be exercised, so I satisfied it with football, soccer, wrestling, kickboxing and other activities. I made mistakes such as chasing the wrong women and making bad investments. Now that those young years have passed, I have moved on to higher pursuits such as making beer, having sex, listening to loud music, drinking... No, I mean, producing fine literature and raising a family and owning property. I have become more responsible and more valuable to society, and I feel good about it, whereas if I had known in my 20s that this is what my life was going to become, I would have jumped off the nearest bridge.

We've all seen old people who have obviously lost some of their driving abilities. If you fall into this category, at least don't advertise to the entire world how old you are by displaying an annoying slogan. The next time I see an old couple doing 35 mph in a 50 mph zone, with a bumper sticker that says "Ask Me About My Grandchildren", I'm gonna pull up alongside them and ask, "Any of 'em got nice tits?"

Graceful aging enables us to accept life's disappointments with a peaceful mind. I remember when Al Gore lost the controversial 2000 presidential election. According to him, the confusing Florida ballots cost him a victory. He spent a month fighting a legal battle which he eventually lost. He wrote a concession speech that needed several revisions before it was appropriate for airing on television. Here is the first draft.

What a pisser. What a goddamned pisser of an election. Yo, Bush. Suck my big ass hog leg. I'm not conceding a fucking thing. Yer daddy packed that collection of right wing wackos on the Supreme Court and every damned one of 'em voted against me. They best be watching their back because I'm still the Vice Prez for a few more days and I do know where I can get my hands on some assault weapons. Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader: take note of what I just told those Supreme Court nut jobs. You better get your friggin' wills in order, because I'm the one who took care of Vince Foster and, by God, you assholes are next. To those ignorant ass morons in Palm Beach: hey, thanks a lot, you dumbasses. Next time, before you go to the polling booth, take your fucking Geritol so you've got enough strength to punch through a fucking paper ballot. You clowns cost me the election. To the 50% of Americans who didn't even bother to get off their lazy asses in front of the Internet that I built: now you're getting Dan Quayle Jr. as the leader of the free world. Hell, if you'd all voted and written in Goofy you would've been better off. And to my home state of Tennessee, the "Volunteer State": I got your "volunteer" hanging right here, you bunch of backwoods first-cousin-fucking hicks.

What a pisser.




LIFESTYLE  CHANGES


Three old men are discussing their physical problems.

Man #1:"I have terrible prostate trouble. I can't pee until the afternoon."
Man #2:"I'm always constipated. It's evening before I can take a shit."
Man #3:"I'm like clockwork. Every morning I pee at 6:30 and take a shit at 7:45. My problem is that I don't wake up until 9:00."


We all have to make some changes to our lifestyle in order to accommodate our physical limitations, ailments, retirement, etc. A big decision that a lot of older people make is whether to move. We might want a smaller house because of all the time, effort and money required to keep up the one we've been living in. Perhaps we no longer have any ties to our current geographical location because a significant number of our friends have died or moved to faraway exotic lands like Des Moines.

As it becomes more difficult to take showers, you might find that you shower less often. That's quite all right. You don't have to shower every single day. In fact, soap strips your body of beneficial bacteria and oil. But you can't tell most people that. A large sector of our population has a veritable obsession with cleanliness. If I tell someone that I didn't shower or change my underwear that morning, he or she will look at me as though I just confessed to kidnapping Chandra Levy.

The older we get, the more often we see our doctors. This is normal and expected. We should have a medical professional monitor our health as our bodies wear out. In contrast, going for annual check-ups when you're young is ridiculous. Your youth is a time of peak physical health, and there is nothing your doctor can do for you other than tell you not to forget your $15 copay on the way out. It is when we are older that annual doctor visits become important. Just make sure your doctor is licensed to practice - and not just in Guadalajara. Also, discuss your problems with your doctor in detail so he can make an accurate diagnosis. For example:

Patient:"Doctor, I have a serious memory problem. I can't remember anything."
Doctor:"How long have you had this problem?"
Patient:"What problem?"

Sometimes when a friend refers me to a doctor, he or she will say, "Tell him you know me." Why? How will knowing this person have any effect on how the doctor treats me? I can hear the doctor now: "Well, Ben, it's fortunate that you know Mary. Otherwise I was going to take your temperature rectally."

As I get older I try to do things that are not very stressful on my body. For example, yoga. At least I thought it wasnít stressful when I rented a yoga video from the library. I was all set for a relaxing session of sitting and meditating and whatever else I had pictured yoga to be. Well, the guy in the video was apparently born without a skeleton, because he contorted his body in ways that even a Filipino hooker would find impossible, and he expected his viewers to do the same. "Place your right ankle behind your neck while keeping your left leg straight. Lift your body off the floor with your right hand. Reach behind your back with your left hand and grab your right elbow." What kind of alien beings does he think watch his tape? Probably the same ones who attend "awareness" seminars and eat mung. He even gave each position an upbeat name. For example, youíve probably seen the one where a personís legs are crossed and their feet are on top of their knees. He called this the "happy position". Happy? Who the hell is happy? Maybe the surgeon who operates on you after you tear all your ligaments. Anyway, needless to say I was unable to do any of his torture routine. In fact, the most athletic thing I did was take the video out of the case. So now I have a new-found respect for people who do yoga. Folks older than me can twist their legs into the shape of a carnival pretzel, while I canít even touch my toes without the help of some sort of artificial arm extension, like, say, a three iron.

For some reason, a lot of people buy big cars as they get older. These are the same folks who, in their younger years, drove cars the size of a toaster for fuel economy. Remember those ads?


The Ford Uvula
127 MPG highway, 89 MPG city *

* Actual mileage may vary depending on driving conditions such as whether the engine is running, whether youíre going uphill or downhill, whether youíre on Earth or the moon, and whether there is actually anybody in the car.


Now these formerly fuel-conscious couples drive around in Lincoln Continentals or minivans, even though they have no dependents to chauffeur. Some of them even drive those enormous Hummers. They look like theyíre about to invade Poland. Meanwhile their bodies are shrinking with age, so that when youíre behind them and you and look through their rear windshield, all you can see is eight knuckles and a hat.




THE  FINAL  YEARS


A Jewish couple decides that it's time to put the man's father in a rest home. All the Jewish homes are full, so they end up putting him in St. Anthony's. After he's been there a few days the couple visits him. "How do you like it here?" they ask. "It's okay," replies the old man, "but they have a strange sense of humor here. For instance, you see that guy over there with the voice box? They call him Singing Sam. You see that guy over there with no legs? They call him Dancing Dan. And me, who hasn't had an erection in 20 years, they call the Fucking Jew."


As we get on in years, our problems might go beyond mere nuisances such as back pain and weaker muscles. We can become senile, which means that we lose a portion of our mental faculties, much like the House of Representatives. This can be catastrophic because it means the end of independence. It is quite frustrating to lose your independence, and sad to witness it happen to a loved one. Some families invite their ailing parent or grandparent to live with them. However, the more dependent a person is, the more difficult it is for her family to care for her. This is why there are nursing homes, or, in politically correct jargon, assisted living communities. Some people believe that folks who become terminal invalids should be euthanized rather than housed. After all, they don't work, they use up resources, and they are just burdens on society. Of course, this also describes Rodney King.

One problem with nursing homes is that they're very expensive. In addition to housing and food, a nursing home must provide a staff of caretakers. These things are expensive, and the cost is passed on to the customers. This can drain the financial resources of a person and/or his family. One way around this is to have your elderly family member run for the U.S. Senate, which is basically a nursing home where the residents get paid rather than pay to be there.

A nursing home is a good place for old people to meet and befriend other people in their age range. This way they can enjoy companionship. Unfortunately some residents have lost their mental faculties, so they don't make good companions. Another problem is that people in nursing homes are on their way out, so there's a good chance of losing a newly acquired friend. What's going to be interesting is in about 70 years when today's young people are in nursing homes. Imagine a room full of old people with names like Tiffany, Kyle and Britney.

A lot of nursing home residents are lonely, because they're visited only occasionally by their families, or perhaps not at all. Just goes to show how ungrateful some people are. A woman spends 20 years raising her kids, and when she needs them, they're not there. Maybe this is why old people allow themselves to be swindled by con artists - it's their way of keeping the money from their ungrateful progeny.

Nursing home staffs tend to remain emotionally distant from the residents. You might have been the starting quarterback on your high school football team. You might have been the homecoming queen. You might have won the Pulitzer Prize. But now, to your custodial caretakers, you're the old prune who smells like a urinal cake. You can't blame them, though: if they become emotionally attached to anyone, then they will be grief-stricken when the person dies and they will have little emotional energy left for their own families. The residents sense the detachment, and this exacerbates their loneliness. This is one very good reason not to live in that kind of place. If it's within your power to decide where you live, then see if any of your children will take you in. If they won't, then get your own place. The more expensive the better, because it's their inheritance you're spending. After you've settled in, write each of your adult children a little note showing that there are no hard feelings. For example:

Dear Bob,

I just wanted to let you know that I do not hold your refusal to allow me to live in one of your four spare bedrooms against you. Forget the decades of exhaustion I endured raising you. I also do not hold it against you that your father dropped dead while working three jobs to feed you and put you through school.

The house I'm renting is wonderful. I have 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, a walk-out basement, a nice yard and a modern kitchen. At only $3500 a month it's such a bargain! Perhaps my money could have been put to better use, such as helping you with your mortgage or paying for Johnny's braces, but in retrospect, it's for the best that we don't get in each other's way.

I bought a new Lexus. I didn't think I'd need a car because I thought I would be living with either you or your sister, but since I'm on my own, an automobile is a necessity. The man at the dealership was very nice. He got me a loan with payments that are only half of what I'm currently paying in house rent.

Don't worry about my financial situation. The proceeds I received from selling the old house are enough to cover my rent and car payments until my next birthday, at which time I will be old enough to collect Social Security. Also, I found some great investment opportunities on the Web. By the way, did you know that emu leather is great for making handbags?

Love, Mom

P.S. As I was cleaning out the attic, I found some of your old tax returns and pay stubs. I noticed that you forgot to add the pay stub amounts to the returns. Don't worry, though - I sent them to the IRS, and they thanked me very much.


Even if we retain our independence, our body still gives way. After a certain age, the human body becomes a painful, frustrating disease-making machine. Our life revolves around medical visits. Every week or so weíre having a specialist examine and/or prescribe drugs for our back, feet, heart, cholesterol, prostate, hormones, eyes, colon, joints, or mind. The one good thing about all this is that it enables us to cash in on health insurance. In our youth we might object to the fact that premiums are so high because old people require so much care and thereby raise everyoneís costs, but when weíre the old people making constant use of the healthcare system, weíre glad to accept treatment for a $15 copay.

For some reason, many people spend their final years in Florida. Especially Jewish people. My mother is a good example. She likes it down there because itís never cold out and there are plenty of things that she likes to do. One activity she took up is bingo. She enjoys it, except for the fact that the games are held at a Catholic church, and they keep calling out the numbers in Latin to keep the Jews from winning.

A lot of money and effort is put into prolonging old, terminal lives. It's part of the quantity-over-quality mindset that pervades this society. When a dog gets old and decrepit and becomes a burden to us, we caringly and logically put it out of its misery. But when the same thing happens to a person, we spend tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars on medical procedures and equipment in order to prolong his or her painful, bed-ridden life as much as possible, as though dying one month sooner would be some kind of horrible tragedy. Let the person go, for God's sake. Speaking of which, if you believe in God and the idea that He has a plan for each of us and He should decide how long we live, then why interfere? Just as it is a crime to cut someone's life short, isn't it also a crime to artificially extend one's pre-programmed life span? If you were God and you created someone's body to wear out on, say, March 28, 2011, wouldn't you be rather ticked off that a bunch of humans used technology to keep that person's heart beating for several more weeks or months, thereby making him or her wait that much longer to enter Heaven and keeping that technology away from young, diseased people who could derive much more benefit from it but just can't afford it? Isn't it hypocritical how Dr. Kevorkian is criticized for "playing God" when he administers help to people who want to die; but when doctors keep someone alive merely because they get paid lots of money by insurance companies for doing it, they are revered as being wonderful?

Most of us fear having our minds degenerate to the point where we are no longer capable of making our own decisions. Provisions can be made for such an occurrence with a living will. In it you can specify what actions you want to be taken if you should ever become mentally incapacitated. For example:

I, Harlow Gleeb, request that my life be medically terminated if I ever:

When I die, I don't want some corny inscription on my tombstone, e.g. "Here lies Benjamin Dover, rest in peace, yadda yadda yadda." I want my epitaph to be more terse, e.g. "So much for exercise and healthy eating." Actually I don't even want to be buried. I don't think anyone should be buried. Why waste human corpses, not to mention land, by putting them into holes in the ground when they can be donated to medical schools, or made into food, or propped up in passenger seats so drivers can use HOV lanes?

I hope I donít outlive my friends because I hate going to funerals. Iíve already had one friend die - he took an overdose of Viagra. Not only was the funeral a bummer, we couldnít get the coffin closed. So I hope I go next. Iíve written a eulogy to be read at my funeral so no one else has to write one:

Whew! What died? Oh, sorry. Weíre here to bury Ben Dover, a man who -- HOLD YOUR APPLAUSE UNTIL THE END, PLEASE -- a man who we will all remember for at least the next fifteen minutes while we try our best to find nice things to say about him without laughing. Ben was a generous man who never gave much thought to himself, which is why he never bathed. He was always helpful to others, supporting local brothels and offering candy to children at playgrounds if theyíd get into the back of his van. He ate right and exercised, and a lot of good that did - we all outlived him. He produced lots of beer and books, which he gladly gave away, mainly because nobody thought they were worth paying for. Ben was a good person. The only time he was unpleasant was when he was sober, which fortunately was hardly ever. He became very inoffensive when he was drunk, because he was unconscious. Let us line up at the casket now in order to give him the sendoff he deserves. And please, only one hit per person with the mallet - we need to make this quick because heís starting to spoil.




APPENDIX


How I envision a typical day in my retired life. (Note that this is not very different from the way I live now.)

5:00 AM - 5:15 AM Wake up, cough, spit, pee, fart, cough some more.
5:15 AM - 6:00 AM Complain.
6:00 AM - 7:20 AM Breakfast: juice, oatmeal, Metamucil.
7:20 AM - 8:35 AM Read newspaper (headlines, obituaries).
8:35 AM - 8:55 AM Do light chores.
8:55 AM - 9:25 AM Take a dump.
9:25 AM - 9:55 AM Drive to internist, cardiologist, podiatrist, dentist, dermatologist, chiropractor, urologist, or proctologist.
9:55 AM - 10:20 AM Wait in doctor's office.
10:20 AM - 10:35 AM Wait in examining room.
10:35 AM - 11:50 AM Get examined.
10:50 AM - 11:20 AM Drive home or to restaurant.
11:20 AM - 12:30 PM Lunch: Geritol cocktail, Viagra salad, Kaopectate smoothie.
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM Shop. Complain about prices.
2:00 PM - 2:30 PM Drive home. Slowly. Piss off other drivers.
2:30 PM - 3:45 PM Nap.
3:45 PM - 4:00 PM Decide where to go for dinner.
4:00 PM - 4:30 PM Drive to Murray's House of Fiber.
4:30 PM - 5:45 PM Dinner: crudités with Ex-Lax dip, Tofu Flambé, prune sherbet.
5:45 PM - 6:15 PM Drive home.
6:15 PM - 9:00 PM Watch TV, surf Web, take medications.
9:00 PM - 5:00 AM Sleep, fart, cough, get up a few times to pee.



ABOUT  THE  AUTHOR


Don't let Ben fool you. He's not very old - he's just aged beyond his years. He's 44, which is only seven years Celsius. Beer and parties have made him the wrinkled, graying has-been he is today. He's so unattractive to members of the opposite sex that if a woman flirts with him at a movie theater, she's after his popcorn. Imagine what he'll look like when he reaches 70. That is, if he reaches 70.