Jun 01, 2023, 05:57AM

Coping with Old Age While You’re Still Young

It’s never too early to reconcile yourself to the bitter end.

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The author as an old man.

One day in the not-too-distant future, you’re going to wake up feeling old as hell. You’ll confirm that feeling with a glimpse in the mirror, whereupon—to paraphrase the great Dusty Rhodes, “if yewww weellllll”—you’ll discover your belly’s a little too big, your heinie’s a touch too wide, and your hairline’s a shade too high. What, then, are you to do about this sorry state of affairs?

Before you rush out and spend a fortune on Rogaine, Botox, TRT, scrotum inflation, and a gym membership, consider the many advantages your fallen condition affords. For the first time in your life, you’re completely washed up. Regardless of how high your peak was, you’ve already reached it and are now stumbling along the downslope. You were as clever, charismatic, attractive, and cool as you’re ever going to get.

Okay, you’re probably saying to yourself, this still sounds terrible. Here’s the thing, man: The pressure’s off. Nobody would ever expect a 25-year-old office drone with a beer belly hidden under a loose polo or a dudette trying on her first pair of stay-in-bed mom jeans to do anything that’s the least bit interesting. You’ve finally been freed from those familial pressures of “making it,” of “succeeding,” of becoming a person that anyone in his or her right mind would respect or admire. For the first time, you’re just you—plain, uninteresting, not-anything-like-Taylor Swift you—and you can spend the rest of your life chillaxing, kvetching, and daydreaming about what might’ve been if you’d just caught a few breaks here and there.

That’s right: Now that you’re a decrepit mid-twentysomething, you’ve earned the right to start dwelling in a halcyon and completely fictitious past. You can watch a few hot college comedies—which not only fail to evoke any genuine sense of teenage life but are completely unrelated to it, cast as they are with similarly washed-up 30-year-olds playing horn-dog adolescents in search of their first cherry-popping—and begin to craft a backstory for yourself not unlike the plots of these inane spectacles.

While you’re here, why not try a little myth-making on for size? Let’s start with your career as a notorious “party animal.”

What actually happened: You drank a few cans of Red Dog beer, got tipsy, passed out in your “flip and fuck” futon bed, and vomited in the toilet after waking up at noon.

How you can describe this to future acquaintances: “Brahski, there was this time in college where I got so frosty and smash-faced on Thirsty Tuesday—see, me and my then-brohams were doing keg-stands with this keg we’d filled with grain alcohol and Robitussin ’cause we were crazy sizzurp-sippin’ mofos and whatnot—that I didn’t wake up until seven weeks later. And after I succeeded in crawling from the wreckage of my so-called life, I discovered that I’d gotten a tattoo of dolphins on my ankle, two spouses, a Porsche, $5000 in parking tickets, the highest score ever recorded on Bejeweled Blitz, and the ‘director’s cut’ of season two of Veronica Mars on something we used to call a ‘DVD.’ I still have that set, if you want to check it out sometime.”

And we mustn’t forget your stellar athletic career.

What actually happened: You started at shooting guard for your high school’s junior varsity basketball team during senior year. At some point during that season, which saw your team go 2-18, you twisted your ankle and missed a game.

How you can describe this to future acquaintances: “Yeah, Coach Jamie Dixon was recruiting me to come to Pitt. So was Coach Dave Wannstedt. They both wanted me there, on account of how I was All-State and All-County and All-City and so forth. I set so many records in so many games, including Bejeweled Blitz, that I needed to rent a storage space for my trophies. Then, just as I was poised to sign my letters of intent so that I could receive all my scholarships and fame, I blew out my MCL and ACL, suffered a collapsed lung, slipped a disc, had a stroke, and developed leukemia while making the shot that helped my high school win a championship game that was so epic there’s no need for you to ever look it up to make sure it happened. After those tragic injuries, I started getting out of shape and disgusting-looking and unwilling to wear anything but unwashed hoodies and loose sweatpants that smell like unwashed crotch juice. But back in the day… dawg, I was something to see.”

Nor should you fail to romanticize the details of your love life.

What actually happened: Under the influence of a few cans of Red Dog, you made out with two or three different people during your six years in college.

How you can describe this to future acquaintances: “Well, back before I suffered all those injuries and couldn’t do anything but set high score after high score on Bejeweled Blitz, I was a hot commodity. I not only had a date every night of the week, I sometimes had five or six in the same day! Needless to say, as I got older and fatter and more mature and more involved in Bejeweled Blitz, I stopped doing as much of this dating. But once upon a time, I was a real cutie pie—a teen idol, almost. People used to say I looked like Taylor Swift’s prettier, more apple-cheeked little towhead brother. I don’t have many pictures from that time, because we didn’t have as much social media back then and the iPhone wasn’t out yet. Still, the memories…”

Once you’ve successfully fashioned a fulfilling fantasy life for yourself, you can put your boring adult existence on autopilot while your receding years draw you ever closer to the void. As you slip into these pleasant reveries, you’ll find yourself with faced with but one regret: that you hadn’t peaked sooner, like one of those pretty little pageant kids on Toddlers & Tiaras (Eden Wood, one of the stars of that show, ended up her high school’s valedictorian), so that you could have even more time to wax nostalgic about the wonderful person you never were.

It’s almost enough to make life worth living, true believers—emphasis on the “almost,” like when you’re remarking that West Virginia is “almost heaven.”


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