Aging with Character

In our minds’ eyes we all think we are a certain age. When I dream I am usually right around the 17-24 year old mark. I’m not even kidding. Nobody roams through their dreamscape with the aches and pains and scars of a 40 plus year old.

Sometimes these moments all catch up with me. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and see a lot of grey in my beard. I no longer have the thick nearly black hair, full of long curls or otherwise. This weekend, I shaved my beard and noticed older skin underneath. The stubble is coming back in already, more salt than pepper.

I’m 44. And I freakin’ love it.

I was told once by someone that the best gift you get when you turn 40 is you no longer give a fuck what other people think. I think to a degree that is true (for some of us). Something inside of you gives out. A watershed moment that was concerned about image and outward appearance finally collapses and your vanity turns into a soft patina that allows your character to emerge.

Anyway, that’s what I’m going for. I think a part of you does change. Confidence begins to flood in and you begin to not take some things as seriously as you once did before. Confidence is a commodity that is extremely valuable. I’m talking about real confidence, not the bravado of youth where unearned victories are claimed. Cockiness follows in its wake.

I’ve always tried to be lighthearted about some things. My motto used to be “if you can’t laugh about something, what else is left to do?” But until recently, I haven’t achieved the ability to just shrug something off and laugh about it. Work is still annoying as hell, but that’s a whole other post. I’m talking about things that no longer bother me. Like aging.

I felt the weight of my years on my trip to the UK. Not just because I didn’t have much of a desire to head to a club or experience the nightlife of a new city halfway around the world, but mostly because I just hurt. Walking nearly ten miles a day is something a younger man is better prepared to do. Maybe some better suited shoes could fix that problem. Other than that, physically, I’m in better physical condition than I’ve been in years.

I go at my own pace, which is sometimes Run and sometimes Walk. Or Sit, kick back, and have a scotch. In my younger years, I could devour a 14oz. steak and a fried onion in one sitting. Now, I’m fine with asking for a box to take leftovers home.

I wanted to write an entirely different post today, but seeing two things on Instagram inspired me to write about this. The first was an old friend of mine from High School who was given the senior discount at a restaurant without being asked, or asking for it. That cracked me up for a variety of reasons. It reminded me of the first time someone called me “sir.” My dad doesn’t even get sirred. It bothers some people. It smacks of getting old and no longer being able to dazzle the young chickies or hang with the bros. Personally, had I been in his position, I would have just tipped more to make up the difference. Rather than looking like someone just threw a glass of ice water into your face.

Unlike a lot of men my age, it doesn’t bother me. I think it shows that some people still have respect for others. I don’t mind being a Sir. Most people who call you sir aren’t in your life much longer than the span of a few breaths anyway. So if the honorific bothers you, the feeling, like the encounter, will likely pass soon enough.

At the other end of the spectrum, I saw Neil Gaiman’s Instagram. The man who used to be the fresh young face of comic books, fantasy, and the inspiration for Dream himself (see the Sandman comics)–and probably breathed a second life into Dr. Marten’s for combat boot wearing goth kids of the 90s–is now more akin to Terry Pratchett than the literary rockstar he used to be. But certainly a man of character who exudes the confidence of his years with a coolness befitting a man with great stories to tell, rather than a cocky frat guy clinging to irrelevant tales of wild exploits.

Not a bad way to be, sir. Not at all.

In retrospect, I do realize a lot of these posts do reflect on age, but part of Getting Out More is also maturity. Which, thankfully, is a close cousin of age. It’s just one of many journeys we take in parallel. And so far, one of my favorites. I love the Sunscreen song, but I have to laugh when the comparisons in age are between your early 20s and 40. I’m past that point. I’m as old as my dad was when he visited me in college one day and I marveled at how old he was. Hahaha! I have a son who is an adult now himself, a daughter on the way, and a kid just nine years old who reminds me of how much energy I once had. I’m pretty sure he absorbs it like some sort of vampire. It’s the only explanation.

I always used to tell people, “All women want to be beautiful and all men want to be interesting.” Maybe that’s just me. I would rather be interesting than “young and beautiful” as Lana del Rey croons in her dulcet tones. Here’s my hope that with more greys (in the hair that does bother to grow back), creaks and groans in the morning, and other trappings of age, I can replace that with character. Because wouldn’t that be cool?

It’s the journey we all take alone, more or less. Sometimes we are lucky enough to have a companion for the trip, but in the end, this body is what we get to drive around in for the duration of our lives. I get to look older a lot longer than I ever got to be young. So why not embrace that? Savor it. Drink it in like wine or let it melt in your mouth like a grassfed steak.

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