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May 26th, 2008
Hap Mansfield’s Blog: Oh, to be old again

I recently read an article on MSN claiming that interests of “tweens” (8-12 year olds) were maturing so fast that 10 is the new 15.

Almost everybody has heard at one time or another in the past few years that 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40. I guess this means, theoretically, that in the future, when 10 is the new 25 and 50 is the new 25, we’ll witness 12- and 53-year-olds cross-dating and hanging out at bars.

This would drop the level of numbskull bar conversation to an absurd level; while one of your “homeys” is complaining about the math test that Mrs. So-And-So dropped on them yesterday, you can talk about how you saw her at the heart surgeon last Saturday.

I’m only half-joking here. What is it about aging that makes us all so stupid? Sure, you want to be older when you are a kid and don’t know that the freedom that comes with adulthood has a big Visa bill attached to it. You don’t know that jobs require emotional stamina. But wanting to be younger when you’re finally old enough to navigate the pitfalls of aging seems really dumb.

Aging is a wonderful thing. It’s the cycle of life, the way things are. No amount of “relating” to the kids or working out at the health club is going to make you one day younger. I know that age, as the great Satchel Paige once said, is nothin’ but a number. But, in my case it’s getting to be a mighty damn big number. And, oddly enough, I like it.

I don’t want to be young again. I went through a lot of lame stuff in my younger years that I just don’t give a hoot about anymore. I don’t want to exchange my newfound wisdom for a flatter stomach or tighter cheeks (on either end, take your pick.)

I don’t feel like I’ve turned into my parents, because I did not make my parents’ choices. But, in at least one respect, I have turned into my parents, because they were old and, now, so am I.

I have aged physically just the way they did, just the way 12-year-olds will someday be 60-year-olds. It the cycle of life. While you can slow it down somewhat with exercise and nutrition, you ain’t ever gonna stop it no matter what you do. It’s laid in cement – time passes and everything ages.

I know it’s challenging to age gracefully. It’s hard to lose the spring you once had on the basketball court, the ease with which you could arise in the morning with no creaking or stiff knees, the sheen of your hair, the amount of your hair, the alertness of youth. It evaporates while you are busy doing something like helping your kids with their homework, donating time to a charity car wash and getting that project done at work. It doesn’t seem, in the brain anyway, that you should be one day older than twelve (which is now, of course, the new 20). I suppose it’s only natural to feel a certain ferocity about holding back the inevitable tide of physical decline.

But I’m really angry with everybody who wants me to look younger than my age. I deserve this aging time. I deserve to be 25 pounds overweight and happy about it. I deserve my wrinkles and my flab. I’ve earned it, and I don’t mind it, and I’m sick and tired of Suzanne Sommers and Lauren Hutton et al telling me I can still look youthful and vigorous.

I’m not youthful, dammit, and I’ll be as vigorous as I want to be, thank you very much. I think I need a twenty-minute nap. I’m tired of reading the asinine under-informed meanderings of young journalists or advertising copywriters who were never taught anything about the culture because their parents were too worried about aging to tell them anything of our history.

I have no suggestions for feeling younger or acting younger once you have aged. I do have one suggestion, though, for being older: grow up. Take responsibility for where you are. Adults can pleasurably take responsibility for the environment, the economy, our veterans and our schools. I’ve got something that no young person is ever gonna have and, baby, I’ve got it in spades: the compassion that comes only with living for many years. You just won’t get what I’m talking about until you get here.

We’ve got a country full of spoiled children and most of them are older than 40. We’re all so busy trying to act younger that, like little kids, we ignore what aging is all about: the conscious and joyful stewardship of the community, the country, the planet.

Like children, we let the “old fogies” with all the money and the ambition run and ruin the country because, hey – we’re cool. We dig rock. We wear the hip clothes, we’re up with the latest fads and down with the hot iPods. Of course, those “old fogies” are sometimes younger than we are, and they know that they can run rampant on our civil rights as we remain childishly uninformed about what’s really happening.

You think you know what it’s all about and now can spend your income on fun stuff because you’re a cool older dude or chick who’s in the loop?

Then you know, of course, that the diamonds and gold you bought for Christmas are covered with the blood of slaughtered Africans, the athletic shoes you wear are made by criminally under-paid third world labor (no athletic shoe is made in this country) and the chocolate you eat is harvested by 10-year-old slave laborers who ardently wish that, for them, 10 were the just the old 10.

If you know all this and don’t care, then I’ve got news for you: 40 is the new five.

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