Age, I do defy thee




Partner and I were in a fragrance boutique the other day (some stereotypes are true, once in a while).  The manager gave us some free samples, in molecule-sized packets.  This was one of those places that slaps a French name on everything, so I got a little giggle out of the following label: CONCENTRE JEUNESSE / YOUTH CONCENTRATE.  Like Wednesday Addams, who thought that Girl Scout cookies were made from Girl Scouts, I wondered idly how many youths had given their lives for this little dab of concentrate.

I tried the stuff, by the way, and it was very nice.  But it did not make me young again.

Getting old is a tricky business.  I was a jerky awkward young man, and I wanted desperately to be older, so that people would respect me.  Now – well, ahem, I’m still waiting for the respect.  I have rapidly degenerated into a stick figure with a big bulbous head and wispy gray hair.  If I wore overalls with suspenders, I would look exactly like one of my paternal uncles.

Adding insult to injury, I work on a college campus.  The students never age; they leave when they hit 21 or so, and a new supply arrives every year.  This means that I find myself getting older and older, right in the middle of a group of people who never get older at all.  About a month ago, I was walking across campus and ran into a former coworker, a woman about my own age.  We were having a lively little chat about the old days, but then I noticed the students on the sidewalk looking at us funny, and suddenly I had a vision of the way the students saw us: a skinny old man with a high shrill voice, talking to a fat old woman with a deep scratchy voice.


I have also become acquainted with the aches and pains of age.  I am reminded constantly that I’m Not As Young As I Used To Be.  I was talking to a coworker about a vacant position in our department and found myself saying “This would be ideal for someone young and energetic,” and as soon as I said it, the words turned to ashes in my mouth.  That young energetic person ain’t me.

And not to be morbid, but I probably don’t have more than another fifty or sixty years in me before my batteries run out entirely.

A friend of mine theorized a long time ago that we stop aging emotionally at a certain age, and stay that way for life.  I think it’s absolutely true.  Partner, for example, is about eight years old inside: beginning to feel grown up, but still vulnerable.  I, on the other hand, stopped aging emotionally at five: easily distracted, easily amused, easily hurt.

Now, all you young nymphs and shepherds, think of how it feels for that five-year-old to look into the mirror and see Abe Vigoda looking back.

And do you know why it hurts?  Because life is so much fun.  There are still so many things I want to do.  The idea that I’m running out of carnival tickets is a bad nasty thing.

I started in French, so I’ll end in French.  This is Erik Satie:

Quand j’etais jeune, on me disait: Vous verrez quand vous aurez cinquante ans.  J’ai cinquante ans.  Je n’ai rien vu!”

“When I was young, people told me: Just wait until you’re fifty years old, and you’ll see.  Well, I’m fifty years old, and I haven’t seen a thing!”



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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