I've said it before and I'll shamelessly plagiarize myself: Facebook's killer app is birthday greetings.
I turned 68 last week and a bunch of people I know (and quite a few I don't) cheerfully spent about thirty seconds apiece to chirp to me on my timeline or feed or story or bouncy house or whatever they're calling it this week (I wouldn't know—I only do Facebook for self-aggrandizement anyways). It's the kind of cheap thrills social media specializes in, quick jolts of serotonin to set you up for the next push ad.
Still, plenty flattering, and who can resist that? Even if it is on a budget. And this time slaloming through this part of the zodiac, I unlocked a new achievement and learned a valuable lesson: you know you're in trouble when it's your birthday and people online call you "timeless."
Timeless is what they call dead people. Timeless is a statue covered with pigeon poo erect and proud in a weed-grown city park left unattended by the latest government shutdown. Timeless is a musician too venerable to call out for being off-tempo. Timeless is a watch that's right twice a day. To quote the last transmission from the Challenger, uh oh.
Some birthdays are easier than others. I was a hearty proponent of the 60-is-the-new-39 trope, which sustained me for several cycles of the sun. When the odometer turned o'er to 64, naturally it was Beatles Rerun time, and naturally my needs and feeds were reassured me by acquaintances near and far. Then 65 rolled around and it was all gold watches and testimonial dinners and a stipend from the government, plus I got all the discounts. Next up was GET YOUR KICKS ON ROUTE 66 YEAH BABY HITTIN' THE ROAD WHOO HOO CRAZY POPS, ie, creative self-deception.
Then 67 came knocking and suddenly I was old.
Still not sure how that happened, although I suspect automatic rounding-up in my unconscious life-o-meter cut in. And then 68 came along and pounded an iron stake of certainty into the whole matter. All the quaint little quirks and sprung mattresses of aging came rushing to greet me, like a pack of good-natured hyenas ambling up out of the bush. I can't in good faith gaze at my sagging visage in the mirror and tell myself I look pretty good for my age anymore. Anymore, I look exactly my age. Maybe if I can cling to this same level of decrepitude for another ten years, then I'll look pretty good. Though at that age, not being dead is generally considered ahead of the game all by itself.
So here I am teetering atop a ladder of 68 rungs, each one individually carved from my bones and upholstered with my skin. Or something. A glad and frolicsome and generally desultory life at that, for the most part. But with nowhere to go but down. I've already started getting used to actually getting colds in the wintertime, coughs and fevers that linger like unwelcome houseguests for weeks at a time.
Barring some shitty little incident, though, I fully expect to beat at least another 25 or 30 years out of this carcass. My health is mostly excellent, and my back and belly weigh in in the top percentile of my cohort. I should be able to keep shambling around just fine.
Better than fine, in fact. I've identified before the existence of an entire pack of senior woodchucks in my particular boat, too old to employ, too young (and way too obstinate) to throw under a nursing home. The Upper Middle Aged. Unlike our forebears and less happy contemporaries, we actually took heed of all those health tips we learned in school or picked up fron the hippies or Billy Rose: we actually took care of ourselves. We stopped/never started smoking, we lost weight, we watched between meal treats, we brushed often with Crest. Also, lucky genes. We may be crinkled but by hooie we're a wiry lot. Experienced, too. We also vote, and in our virtually unlimited free time we hassle other folks about what we think matters. The fact that society in its august wisdom doesn't know what to do with us just leaves us with more latitude to come up with wilder stuff to try out.
Whether I'm gonna get in on all this action remains moot—I already have. Glad and frolicsome, previously noted. But with each successive inexorable click of the ratchet of time, I find myself more and more counting the beans left on my plate and admonishing myself to pay attention and plant them wisely. Write that novel. Really learn to play those instruments. Get out and book some shows. Throw it all away and retreat to a zen monetary and become a saint. Save the world—it's a dirty lousy thankless job but somebody's gotta do it. Or maybe, just maybe, make enough of a difference to pay the rent on my privileged white brainiac slacker sensorium ride.
Don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean I'm about to do all those things. Desultory, previously noted. But there's nothing like the fresh, bracing breath of your imminent departure to stimulate you to actually get off your duff and do it. It's quite possible that I have a third or fourth or fifth or whatever it is act left in me.
In the meantime, though, I have a great little routine to torment my long-suffering wife with, cackling in a codger's croak I stole from the Firesign Theater, who stole it from The Goon Show (who undoubtedly stole it somewhere else) "You're only as old as you feel! I'm not 68 years old, I'm 68 years young! There may be snow on the roof, but there's a fire in the hearth! It's not a bald spot, it's—" at which point she pummels me with a pillow.
Hey, us Upper Middle Aged guys gotta get our laughs wherever we can. Besides, foreplay is where you find it.