You’re pooping right now, reading this. Probably constipated. Or you’re in the back of an Uber, stuck in traffic. You’re half-listening to a conference call. You’re watching the refs watch a replay, watching our democracy crumble, watching the subway doors close in some dude’s face. All the while, time is marching on. And look at you. Straining on the toilet while your life slips away. While that jerk Steve outpaces your sales numbers, while your freshman roommate Instagrams the interior of his new yacht, while the kids coin new slang you’ll have to learn, while a little worry line begins to burrow its way across the perfect skin of your young face.
I used to be like you. Twisted up about falling behind, losing a step, raising my belt height. Not anymore. I let myself get old, and I’m here to tell you that it’s wonderfully freeing. Come sit with me here at my Early Bird dinner table, and listen to the joys of the elderly lifestyle.
I let my gray hair spread, unpainted. I wear slippers in April. I groan when I sit down. I hit the elliptical because I have trouble with plantar fasciitis. I eat oatmeal for breakfast everyday. Steel cut, ya hear? Keeps the digestion regular. I go to RV shows. I read the made-of-dead-trees newspaper. I watch This Old House.
You can grow old, too. Just gotta find your jam. Maybe you yearn to collect newsboy caps, or maybe you’d like to clip coupons. Perhaps you’ll build model trains, or take lazy Sunday drives to view butterfly migrations. Whatever your secret, embarrassing, mild-mannered desire happens to be, go out and do it. Just stay hydrated. Wear orthotics.
It’s the perfect sweet spot, opting into aging. I’m 38, but if you’re only as old as you feel, I guess that puts me at about 56. Too culturally decrepit to be relevant to advertisers or hiring managers or movie executives. Too physically young to have to stand in line at the pharmacy for Flomax and Crestor and Zestril. I’m no longer impulsive enough to spend my disposable income on the newest video game system, and I haven’t worked long enough to amass enough income to attract the attention of wealth managers.
On this path, my spirit animal is Grandfather Buffalo. He sees no reason to hurry. He will get where he’s going eventually. Why risk pulling a hammy? Grandfather Buffalo appreciates nature. The herd rushes ahead, but he likes to watch the birds, to listen to the prairie grass swishing in the wind. He likes to fart in peace, without the young bulls laughing at him. He appreciates a good nap. And when Grandfather Buffalo sees a lady buffalo who needs help, he’s not like “ay bby u wnt sum fuk?” He just helps her out. The young bulls are distracted trying on skinny jeans or something.
True story: Late last fall, I was at Trader Joe’s on a Saturday night. It’s not busy then, and I never have plans anyway. I was trying to decide which type of hummus to buy when a group of college-aged women walked through the store dressed for the club. I swear to you, the only thought in my head was: They must be freezing, it’s too cold outside not to be wearing coats! Back when I was their age, I’d have probably been like, “ay bby u wnt sum fuk.” But now—I just pulled my stocking cap down over my chilly ears, and steered my cart toward the oatmeal.
The aging process had begun long before then. The year my brother turned 30, his wife planned a big celebration with their friends, and I flew into town to tag along. Dinner stretched far into the evening, with talking and drinking and laughing, and after about nine o’clock, I felt my brain beginning to tuck itself in for the night. We all headed back to his place to crash, and those motherfuckers stayed up past four in the morning playing Cards Against Humanity. “It’s a pity that kids these days are getting involved with ___________” (Running sleep deprivation experiments on their elders).
Living as Grandfather Buffalo is a little disorienting sometimes. Here in Seattle, the cradle of grunge, many radio stations broadcast the soundtrack of my deceased youth. Whenever a really great song comes on the radio, I crank the volume, but my kids complain about the “old-fashioned” music. So I spin the dial over to Today’s Best Hits, and they sing along to shit like this. Now, I realize that taste is subjective, and music reflects the changing times, but come on. That’s just somebody fucking around in ProTools with the word “down.”
It’s not just music. The Pepsi ad everyone hates? I understand the political and cultural outrage about that commercial, and I share in it. As a white dude, I don’t pine for the good old days. You kids can stand on my lawn with your protest signs. Hell, I’ll probably make one myself and come out to join you. In fact, all my energy for personal growth and societal awareness is directed at shit that matters. I’m concerned about doing what I should, reaching out the way I ought to, in order to be a better friend, a better father, a better partner, and especially a better citizen of the world. I push myself to learn about what I’ve been missing, what injustices I haven’t noticed before.
But, back to the commercial. There’s a person in it who people are mad at, and I have no idea who she is. I can read her name, and recognize that it’s composed of words, but I’ve never said those words together. Google tells me she’s associated with other words, like “Tyga” and “lip gloss.” Sorry guys. I’m old, and I’m not going to learn all of those words and what they mean. I lived through one Pepsi commercial that tried to destroy a celebrity, and there’s no room in my head for another.
There’s such a wide chasm between what I know and what’s popular that it’s exhausting just to think about. I’m not going to hike across that chasm. I’d rather stroll the neighborhood on my evening constitutional. I’ve lived long enough to see hard workers get laid off while shit bags get promoted. Long enough to see sports heroes push themselves too far and hobble off the field. Long enough to see the hottest celebrities wither away to anonymity. Back in my day, the whole world ogled the crumbling television marriage of Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey. Who? Exactly. The world has moved on, and I’ve lost the impulse to compete—professionally, culturally, athletically.
Perhaps you find it sad and pathetic, my early-onset elderlyness. Maybe you’re inclined to rage against the dying of the light. Well, buddy. Let me tell you. That’s when the real trouble starts. It begins with fashionable trousers and a little botox. Then comes the sports car and the lipo. Pretty soon, you’re sucking down creatine shakes and throwing haymakers during pick-up basketball games. You’re crossfitting in between Tough Mudders. Ultimately, you find yourself traveling to distant lands, so that you may slaughter exotic animals— a misguided effort to display a limitless engine of vigor, to defeat death by wielding it against the beasts over which you have dominion. That kind of asshole.
Grandfather Buffalo shakes his head at your fruitless attempts to defeat father time. We’ll all get where we’re going eventually. Why risk pulling a hammy? Grandfather Buffalo is content to putter around the house in his slippers, reading the newspaper. He might take a walk later, so that he may hear birdsongs, but not just yet.
The oatmeal should be kicking in any minute now.
Geoffrey Redick is a freelance writer and radio producer. He lives in Seattle. He’s on Twitter.