It had to happen. There was only one way to stop it, and I didn’t want to go that route.
I turned 50 a couple of weeks ago. I know, it’s hard to believe. If I still had my column picture from 15 years ago plastered next to this article you’d be amazed as well. “Gosh, he doesn’t look a day over 35,” is what you’d probably think. Or “Who’s this guy trying to fool?”
It’s hard to know what to make of being 50 these days. When I was growing up, 50 was old. Everyone smoked and their hair and teeth fell out. These days lots of 50 year olds are doing CrossFit and are in better shape than they were when they were 30. Hell, I’m not THAT much older than the quarterback who won the Super Bowl last year! That has to mean something, right?
Everybody asks, “Well, how does it feel to be 50?” I guess the same as it did to be 49 … at least so far. I do have some trepidation. My back went out for the first time about three weeks after I turned 40 as I was getting into my car carrying a Red Bull. It’s hurt off and on ever since. So I’m not completely discounting the march of time and the dangers of “0” years.
One of the things that comforts me as I start the downhill run to 100 is that this has to be the very best time in the history of humanity to be 50. Or 40 or 60 or 80, for that matter. People are just in better overall shape than they were a generation or two ago. My own parents, both in their 70s, are in far better shape than their own parents at the same age. My first memories of my grandparents were when they were in their 50s and already smoked so much North Carolina made them honorary citizens.
So there’s hope.
As I turned 50 I have to take stock: I still have all my hair, which is a bonus. All my teeth as well, minus the two a baseball knocked out when I was 14. I haven’t become morbidly obese — yet. All positive developments.
I’ll admit, there are a few troubling issues. I have a knee that sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies when I bend it — courtesy of running 10,000 miles through Mobile’s broken streets while wearing high-tops. As an aside, it seemed like a smart way to keep from twisting my ankles on our jacked up sidewalks, but I’m pretty sure cheap high-top shoes wasn’t the right way to go.
The gray hair is slowly making its way in, although for some strange reason it tends to come and go — and no it’s not Just for Men! But I do take great pleasure in the fact my brothers five and seven years younger have heads full of gray. Looks like you boys done lost the genetic crapshoot. Smiley face emoji!
Without doubt the biggest physical reminder of hitting the half-century mark, though, is my eyesight. I had eagle eyes my whole life — 20/15 vision. I could have been a sniper or at least a great Peeping Tom, but now everything from about three feet in is fuzzier. I have three or four pairs of “cheaters” scattered around my house and office so I can read. I always forget to bring them out with me, so if any wait staff reading this have gotten either a 200 percent tip or a 2 percent tip, you can thank or blame the ravages of time.
Perhaps surprisingly, there are some things about turning 50 I’ve really been looking forward to. The colonoscopy that typically serves as a rite of passage for those entering their sixth decade is tops on that list. It seems like a great opportunity to be highly embarrassed in front of a bunch of medical professionals.
For some reason, in my mind the colonoscopy machinery will look like the giant laser in the James Bond movie “Goldfinger,” when 007 is strapped to a block of gold spread-eagle (although face up) and the long, silver contraption slowly works its way toward his crotch, shooting out a deadly laser beam. Bond (the Connery Bond!) says, “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger retorts, “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”
I imagine it’ll be a lot harder to deliver my lines with my face shoved into a pillow. The truth is I’d talk anyway. Just call off the machine!
The previous few paragraphs are a fine example of perhaps the biggest challenge age brings about — the inability of younger people to understand what the hell you’re talking about. There probably aren’t many people under the age of 40 who have any idea who “Goldfinger” was or why he wanted to cut Sean Connery’s crotch in half and why in the world that would somehow remind me of getting a colonoscopy. I have to understand that, but it’s hard.
I recently bought a new house in which the previous owner — a gastroenterologist, to keep the theme going — converted a garage to a really cool “man cave.” Speaking to some younger friends the other night I likened it to “The Honeycomb Hideout.” Pretty funny, right!? Just a lot of polite smiles, just like you’d give your grandpa when he starts talking about what a dame Zelda Fitzgerald was.
I realized my friends had never seen those commercials where people sequestered themselves in a cereal-themed clubhouse so they could scarf down delicious Honeycomb cereal without fear of interference from their parents or the cops or the government. My friends hadn’t been children in the ‘70s when almost all breakfast commercials centered on someone trying to steal delicious cereals or otherwise prevent kids from enjoying them.
But maybe that’s their problem, not mine.
I was a kid in the cereal-stealing, helmetless-bike-riding, Bruce-Jenner-was-still-a-dude 1970s. And I went to high school in the one-rotary-phone-in-the-kitchen, sleeveless-shirt-mullet-wearing, Dukes-of-Hazzard-loving 1980s. I lived through dial-up and actually having to develop photos if you wanted to see them. That’s all part of being 50.
So I’ll just wear it as well as I can and try to dumb things down for those people who don’t know anything about The Fonz, Night Ranger or “Road House.” I’ll survive the approaching colonoscopy with dignity and honor and keep looking on the web for some kind of stem cell cream for my crackly knee and wrinkled forehead. I shall endure.
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