This week, we learned that Peter Thiel, the billionaire and proverbial vampire who bankrupted Gawker through a covert legal war, is apparently interested in harvesting the blood of the young to slow down (or even halt) the aging process. While thematically satisfying, this sounds complicated. And messy. And cannibalistic. And needless in a world bursting with blueberries.
I say that from experience, I think. Like Thiel, I have been waging a one-man war against the inevitable sag of age. I’d like to be here as long as possible because sometimes it takes me a while to accomplish things—I’ve had a version of this post drafted for a year now—and an even greater fear I have than running out of things to say is running out of time to say them in.
And then there is the greatest motivator: vanity. Since coming to terms with my mortality in my mid-20's (up until then, it existed in my head as an abstract theory), I have read studies about reducing the effects of aging on one’s face and applied them as liberally as I do the moisturizer that makes my face shine like the top of the Chrysler Building (and Daddy Warbucks’s head). My decade of conscious upkeep has yielded the only kind of currency that really matters today: compliments. With a fair degree of regularity, new people I meet voice surprise when I tell them my age (37). Granted, the darker the venue, the more pronounced the compliment. In a low-lit bar, I sometimes hear that I look like I’m in my 20's. In direct sunlight, I do not. (Two years ago, when I was 35, on the Wildwood, NJ, boardwalk, the Ask the Guesser said I was “32”). We must also keep in mind that in our youth-crazed culture, complimenting someone for looking young is an increasingly banal pleasantry that strangers say and probably don’t mean like, “It’s nice to meet you,” or “Your penis is pretty.”
It’s hard to know what to make of this, or anything that anyone says given the selfish motivation behind virtually every human action. Is it true? Are people just being nice? (In which case, oh my god, why are they being nice?) Are we just aging more slowly as a species so that sixty is the new forty and thirty-seven is the new twenty-five (depending on the lighting)? Age ain’t nothing but a number, and feedback ain’t nothing but other people’s projections repackaged with your name attached. It’s all relative. It’s all subjective. What I mean to do here is merely present a correlation: I work at staying young, and I also get feedback suggesting my work is working. In the process, both of these things drive me a little crazy but at least I’ve got my blueberries for comfort.
Below is a list of the things I do in the interest of aging well.
I don’t smoke cigarettes.
I quit smoking cigarettes ten years ago, because I knew if I continued death was imminent and, more importantly, I also I had heard that if you quit around the age of 25, your face won’t show signs of smoking. I remember in high school, back when I was a pack-or-two-a-day kinda guy, chain-smoking on my friend’s porch with her and her mom. Her mom had a friend over who said that she never took up smoking out of “pure vanity.” Those words lodged in my brain. I quit smoking out of pure vanity first and out of fear of death second. I have not smoked a tobacco cigarette since March 14, 2005.
I work out until I want to die.
Immediately after quitting smoking, I began exercising. At first, I ran because I was too self-conscious to go to the gym and attempt to make sense of all of the weights and machines in front of strangers. Then a friend took me to his gym and showed me how to lift. Now I work out like a madman. If a workout doesn’t make me feel like I’m going to die, it’s a waste of my time. If I could afford Barry’s Bootcamp—whose classes alternate for an hour between running intervals on a treadmill for 10 minutes and doing a rapid succession of floor exercises with weights for 10 minutes—I would do it five times a week. Last year, I took up a workout from Men’s Health that includes about 30 minutes of straight torture with no more than 20 seconds of rest every three minutes. It’s hell and I love it (when it’s over). If I don’t have enough space to do that, I’ll run intervals on a treadmill, do a burpee-kettlebell swing combination for about 15 minutes straight, or jump-rope for at least 20 minutes (including at least 200 double-unders). And that’s just cardio.
No offense to our sister site, but the best workout program is actually one that you fucking hate. It’s one that strikes fear in your heart before, during, and maybe even after. Why do you like the elliptical so much more than the treadmill? Because it’s so much fucking easier. If you wanted to do something easy, why did you go to the gym in the first place? Why are you wasting time reading this when you could be hyperventilating in yoga pants?
Exercise, by the way, keeps skin looking young, according to at least one study. I like that study.
I drink so much water that I never don’t have to piss.
As I was quitting smoking, I read somewhere that drinking lots of water is a good way to stay feeling full and satisfied in the absence of cigarettes. I guess it’s true—I started drinking so much water that I stopped feeling basically anything except like I had to pee all of the time. I drink liters and liters of water a day, especially at work. My day is an endless cycle of getting up to fill my water bottle, sitting back down for a few minutes, getting back up to empty my tank and refill my bottle. Over and over and over again. I am the most hydrated person I know. I cannot sit anywhere in movie theaters except for at the ends of aisles because I am going to have to pee at some point. In the event that I am made to sit on the inside of a row (especially in a live setting, like a concert or a play), I spend the entire event thinking about whether or not I have to pee and if I’ll be able to make it until the end. I haven’t peed myself since I was a child, but the threat is constantly lurking. It keeps me moving and life exciting.
Sometimes that water comes in the form of tea.
I dream of a world in which mint iced green tea flows from taps like water. I have an iced tea brewer and I’d say I go through about a gallon a day.
Many teas, including green and black, are high in antioxidants. Though plenty of doubt has been cast in antioxidants’ ability to be the fountain of youth they were once made out to be, I have faith in them. Why not? You have to believe in something. And even if tea does nothing to help slow the effects of aging, green tea is still really fucking good for you and worth drinking regardless because it’s enormously refreshing.
Berries by the crate.
I try to eat blueberries every day. Sometimes on my way into work, I can only find raspberries, but I like those too. I do not like blackberries because they are like 80 percent seeds. It’s like chewing on grape stems.
Sometimes I haven’t eaten a single berry the entire week by Wednesday and I’m like, “What am I doing with my life?”
Berries also are high in antioxidants. But they’re practically free calories (every trainer I’ve ever talked to about fitness has only expressed pro-berry sentiment), and worth eating just in case the antioxidants come through.
I slather myself with sunscreen.
Here is a list of things I wanted to be when I was a kid: straight, able to fly, and tan. Guess what happened? I grew up and realized that knowing what I’m not is at least as important as knowing what I am. At the very least, knowing what I’m not has ended up saving me precious time.
I don’t want sun damage on my face, I don’t want skin cancer, so everyday I use a moisturizer that’s SPF 30. If I’m doing something outdoors like running or going to the beach, I cover myself in sunscreen with an SPF of at least 40 (I prefer 100, even though it’s basically the same as 40, just for psychological reasons). Sometimes I use so much, my face is streaked white and you know what? I don’t fucking care. I’d rather look like a mime than let a single UV ray penetrate my face. Laugh at me now, worship me later. As a white guy, this sun aversion may make me pasty, but at least I’m not dead or so dried up that I look dead.
I’m this close to wearing a pillowcase over my head every time I leave the house and you know what? I’m fine with that.
I wear sunglasses always.
Even at night. I don’t trust the moon, either.
I use eye cream even though I barely know what it is.
I was talking to an esthetician at a Pride party two years ago and he asked me if I used an eye cream and I said, “No!” and then I started using an eye cream that I bought from the Sephora-biting section of Duane Reade. That area under the eyes is sensitive and I figure I can use all the help I can get. I especially figure this when I am staring myself down in the barber shop mirror under harsh neon lights at 10 am in the morning – sometimes it looks like I’m stopping by on my way to the airport wearing my baggage on my face. And I’ve never been one to pack lightly.
Anyway, I just got some free eye cream samples at Kiehls. It tingles when I put it on. If it’s not working, I at least appreciate its effort.
Tazorac is my god.
Tazorac is a retinoid that my dermatologist prescribed. I’ve been using it for about five years and I love it. From age 12 until I started using Tazorac, I had at least one giant zit on my face at any given time. And now it’s rare for me to ever have one. My skin texture is way less bumpy, which is really what I was going for when I went on it. Dermatologists typically prescribe Tazorac and other retinoids for their anti-aging properties (though their effectiveness is contested by non-dermotologists). In this case, that function is secondary to my main objective, just like not dying from lung cancer was secondary to my reason for quitting smoking.
I sleep like I’m dead.
Never ask me, “Did you sleep well last night?” because the answer is always, “YES.” I don’t know anything but good sleep. I collapse wherever and whenever my body is ready to sleep and it won’t let me get up until it’s rested. I get no fewer than six hours of sleep a night, though it’s generally more around eight. Once I fell asleep in the club.
I generally do really bad stuff in moderation.
I get drunk a handful of times a year, mostly because a hangover destroys the next day for me and makes me feel very wasteful. (I’m so old! I need all the days I have left!)
Weed is the only drug that I use regularly, and even that is mostly confined to weekends. Now, I’ll grant you, I’ve partied, but that’s always been moderate and has only become more so over time, and there’s a laundry list of shit I will not touch under any circumstance. How the Faces of Meth campaign hasn’t scared every soul on the planet away from that shit is beyond me. Do drugs to make yourself feel good—methface is not going to make you look good!
I eat carbs because I enjoy life too much not to.
The thing about all of this is that it’s so integrated into my behavior that most of it barely registers as a chore (streaming piss constantly from my body, though, can become inconvenient). It’s just how I live. None of it is particularly expensive, and all of it benefits my health beyond the driving vanity.
Insecurity is just unrealized motivation. I refuse to take getting older lying down, but if I must lie down, it’s always on my back, because I hear that, too, is good for aging.