I was having coffee with my old friend Jack this morning, and as we were talking, I noticed he and I have reached the age where a measurable portion of our conversations aren’t about the latest and coolest cars or the (now) classic cars we sold for a song when we were kids, but about aches and pains. We spend some time on people we know who have died, but for the most part, we compare this time in our lives to that anxious time after high school and before the legal drinking age. “No [adult] man’s land.”
At 18, you’re in college but not old enough to drink, legally anyway. Dating was a bitch. You needed all your money for school, but dating was the only thing getting you some action. In our time anyway, you couldn’t even hang out in a bar waiting for your table at a restaurant unless you were 21.
But now, were are paradoxically there again. Too young to retire and too old to put up with our employer’s snot nose children using us as a rung on their nepotism ladder. Since we have both been married since we can remember, we decided that aging is not growing old, aging is “conforming.” It’s learning how to substitute phrases. For example, “I did that last week, honey, you just don’t pay attention” with, “You’re right dear, I’ll get right on it.”
So Jack and I acknowledged that we haven’t reached the stage of complaining about the price of gas or groceries, just yet, we remained focused on bone aches, headaches, and things that worry us about being stuck in traffic. Although our items may differ, we both agreed the word “regular” has taken on an entirely new meaning.
Conforming comes in all aspects of daily life only the word changes with the age. At 25, it was called “rationalizing.” Today’s 25 year old build his “man-cave” wherever his wife or girlfriend allows as long as her car still fits inside. At 35, you’re experienced, but too young to take over. It’s called “tolerance” as you quietly work your way to the top. At 45, you start to search for pants with elastic bands and worry about the width being a larger number than the length. It’s called “acceptance.” You know we are never going to look like you did at 35, so you learn to shop alone. At 55, you avoid the confrontations you would have started at 25. It’s called “restraint.” You know you can beat up the little punk pissing you off, but it’s gonna hurt for a few extra weeks and you have plans.
We both gleefully acknowledge that our lives have been consumed with indulging the wife, kids and dogs. We have no complaints or regrets, but admittedly, find ourselves in constant search of that “excuse.” An excuse to get out of the house; visit with buddies, go to Home Depot…guy time. Now Jack and I have daughters, and don’t misunderstand, there is nothing that makes us melt like hearing them call out, “Daddy!” But nowadays, they are old enough that we hope their cry means fixing something.
So I spend my days now trying to get along, conforming and anticipating 65. I think about retirement and the pension I don’t have. Occasionally, my thoughts revert back to those failed "coulda, shoulda, woulda" moments as I pull out a copy of the family will and check in with the folks. But I always come back a line in a movie “Kingpin.” Woody Harrelson’s character asks his neighbor Bill, “Hey, Bill..how’s life?” Bill responds, “Taking forever.”