February 11, 2009

Keeping up with the upkeep

By Steve Brewer
Published author who maintains a blog titled HOME FRONT with various writings that can be found here.

Having recently “celebrated” the passing of another birthday, I’ve given much thought lately to aging.

I’ve decided it’s not impending mortality that makes getting older so hard to take. It’s not the decline in vitality and possibility. The worst part of aging is all the damn maintenance.

Talk about a paradox. We have less life ahead of us with every passing day, but more and more of our dwindling time is spent on caring for our faces and our bodies and our overall health. By the time we take our final breaths, we’re ready to die, just so we can stop fussing with our hair.

It’s so much easier for the young. I watch my sons get ready for school in the morning and marvel at how little effort is required. They roll out of bed, throw on some clothes from the array on the floor, shovel in some breakfast, and they’re ready to go. They barely give the mirror a glance. They’re teens, they’re male, they assume they look fine.

If pressed, I can still do the quick shower and dress and out-the-door in fifteen minutes. (What we call around here “sliding down the Batpole.”) But most mornings require that more attention be paid to the mirror.

We aging men have skin spots to study, wrinkles to sigh over, gray whiskers to shave. The hair on our heads may get thinner, but stray hair pops up in strange places -- our eyebrows, our ears, our shoulders. Fallen hair apparently migrates while we sleep until it finds new and more interesting places to attach. These migratory hairs must be addressed. Throw in a beard, like I wear, and you can easily snip, snip away the entire morning.

(An aside to those men who sport bushy, spidery eyebrows: Dudes, buy some scissors. Really. It’s not funny anymore.)

When I was young, I gave no thought to working out. I got enough exercise shooting hoops and chasing women. I couldn’t gain weight if I tried. Now, I work out every day, and I’ve never been plumper. You’d think the fat would smooth out the wrinkles, but no . . .

Age weakens our eyes, loosens our teeth, flattens our arches, broadens our backsides. Remedial action is required at every turn, and it‘s all so time-consuming.

If personal upkeep is a hassle for men, it’s a hundred times worse for women. Society puts more pressure on women to look their youthful best, but every wrinkle and sag is a reminder of futility. No wonder they spend so much on cosmetics and hair dye and magnifying mirrors and Botox. No wonder it takes them longer to get ready in the morning. No wonder they resent their hairy, slovenly husbands.

As the years pile on, the physical maintenance becomes too much for us to handle alone. We seek professional help -- doctors and dentists and cosmetologists and manicurists and plastic surgeons and personal trainers. We spend our golden years wandering from one waiting room to another, trying to maintain our health and our teeth and what little looks we’ve got left.

Having an aging body is like owning an old car. Lots of dents and dings and strange noises. A little leakage now and then. Too much time in the shop, and we can’t rely on the old clunker the way we once did. But as long as it keeps running, we’ll keep on driving.

We’ve still got many miles to go.

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