“Act your Age”
As unlikely as it appears, both the Scientific American and Alcoholics Anonymous were important moments in my adaptation to learning to act my age. But if you are short of time or impatient, you can jump below to the final short paragraphs at “Sex is better than ever! Then you can decide whether you’d like to back up and find out how I got to that point.
What did it mean to me as a child to hear, “Act your age!”
I don’t think my mother ever explained that to me. But however confusing, I took it to mean that somehow I should be acting older than I actually was. This at first made no sense to me because, I reasoned, I was just as old as I was and so that’s the way I acted!
But such innocence did not last. I next came to understand that I should be ashamed of myself for NOT acting older than I was, which still made no sense. So somehow the shame was connected with something I had no control over, my age!
The only way out was to GET older, which seemed to take forever.
But faking being older was possible and I think I got rather good at it. But what was the right age to act? That seemed to shift as time went by. Being well behaved in school or whenever being closely supervised as when certain older relatives came to visit. I could parrot certain phrases from a radio comment about politics and thus impress, I thought, a great uncle who was a respected village doctor. I guess that worked because he gave me old copies of Scientific American to take home. I never told him that I had no clue what any of the articles were talking about.
I needed glasses
When I got into “college” I decided that as a serious scholar I needed glasses and I found an optician who prescribed me a pair even though there was no prescription in the lenses! It would have been much cheaper to have bought a drugstore pair of reading glasses but I needed the “prescribed” pair. A few years later I took up leather elbow patches and pipe smoking. The elbow patches were OK but the pipe smoking was terrible.
Don’t trust anyone over thirty!
But as I approached the ripe age of thirty in 1971, acting older started to look suspect, especially since the hippie counterculture was urging that we “trust nobody over thirty.”
Now a new and more contemporary understanding of “act your age” began to form. I deliberately began to act younger than the “sell-outs” who were passing me by in the normal terms of young people b
eginning careers, having children, buying all that stuff that I considered bourgeois and even enslaving. Strangely enough, I did in the context of those times, indeed act my age by acting younger than I was!
Skipping forward a few years, my bravado gradually shifted to despair as jobs and relationships, including my marriage, slipped through my fingers and I ended up working in convenience stores and drinking a lot. Earlier I had found it cool to smoke weed but the difficulties of avoiding arrest had steered my attention exclusively and conveniently to very cheap Scotch whiskey.
A bottom was in sight
A bottom was in sight and so, perhaps acting my age again, I entered treatment for alcoholism and after a month in an inpatient program began a long relationship with Alcoholics Anonymous where I found many peers and hence companionship, at about my own age. Privately I could just be who I was with them in a kind of honeymoon period of lighthearted escape from the bottle.
With everything going so well, I rushed into a marriage with a younger woman who had just “sobered up” herself and within a year or so we began training (such as it was) to become drug and alcohol counselors ourselves. She had brought a two year old son into our marriage and we soon added two daughters of our own, a model recovering family but whistling in the dark. Once again I found myself acting some idea of my age and discovering the more sober aspects of living sober. But we held it together during my 40’s.
Let’s speed up this story.
With 25 or so years still ahead before the present, let’s speed up this story. A pattern of guessing “up” or “down” emerged in regards to “age appropriateness.” Either approach has its plusses and minuses.
Guessing too old enables diving into activities or lifestyle heretofore pushed away as too bourgeois or stodgy or just plain conventional. The cost of that dive was soon felt as a loss of spirit, depression, anger, general crabbiness and self righteousness.
Guessing too young, however, often renewed a kind of adolescent energy and optimism, It’s cost could however include lack of foresight, unrealistic or nonexistent planning and a “foolish lack of maturity.”
Others (especially spouses) could be confused and angered by these alternations, even if several years apart. But I have come to see them in large part as simply different aspects of myself, my Conscious and subconscious minds not quite “in synch.” Two polarities which can compliment each other if not seen as warring camps! (more on this in the Afterward below the main text)
Proud to be pushing 75
And now we come back specifically to ageing. It too has its plusses and minuses, just as every earlier stage of life does! Currently I am proud to be pushing 75, three quarters of a century! It ain’t what i could he projected from even age 60, let alone younger.
On the minus side: bad teeth, bad right knee, bad left ankle, too urgent runs to the bathroom, too much a butler to our dog and 5 cats, shrinking peripheral vision, easily bruised skin, an irritating clumsiness, a fixed and subsistence income, etc. The usual “organ recital” view of getting older.
But the plusses! Not needing to shave every day, getting a haircut every three months “whether I need one or not”, no fashion worries that I take seriously, red Converse All Stars, a pleasure in drinking moderately after 35 years of total abstinence, dealing with negative emotions quickly and without scars, not worried about a subsistence income, NOT taking the half dozen prescription meds anymore, 4 years of Pilates which has changed my posture and agility, able to write what I really feel without excessive regard to how it may strike readers (or family members!), reconciliation with the consequences of past actions, not blaming others for my misfortunes, finding some actual (not employee-type) work to do that matters, at least to me and hopefully to some others, Seeing my final 30 years or so as up to me – in collaboration with others and society generally – as exciting and challenging (in the best sense) right up to the inevitable end. An end I no longer fear, though of course just before the end may prove to be another matter, but a transition to who knows what.
Sex is better than ever!
But another word before I end this rant. Sex is better than ever! It is true that from a young person’s point of view, it may seem like old people don’t have sex. Yes, they don’t have sex like old people do but we do have sex which can include the drivenness, the high energy and the sweating fury that we associated with sex in earlier decades, and we can have sex that lasts for hours, we can even talk about other things while having sex (and I mean penis in vagina sex) and we’ve even fallen asleep while joined together. We smile and laugh a lot – and do it often.
Beyond our wildest dreams
Neither my partner nor myself could have imagined what sex (and other aspects of intimate relations) has become because we could only have projected some better form of the sex we had already experienced. So our intimacy is indeed something beyond our wildest dreams!
And I am reminded of a phrase from my hippy-dippy chemically altered reality days: All flesh can come!
Finally, I am acting my age!
For clarity in separating two basic aspects of our mind – the conscious and the more basic and fundamental sub-conscious (or unconscious) – that make up a SINGLE mind I must credit two researchers, Bruce Lipton who describes the physiology of how the membrane or “membrain” (his term) of cells moderate cell function in the brain and elsewhere, and Rob Williams, a psychiatrist who has collaborated with Lipton and has developed methods for putting both conscious and subconscious aspects of our mind into agreement and thus eliminate the apparent conflict I reported above at various periods of my life.
Find a great example of their collaboration here on YouTube, Bruce Lipton here:
Followed by Rob Williams here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m7k7JauLTI