I turned 49 a couple of weeks ago. On the face of it, this seems ridiculous. At this age, my grandfather was wrapping up his career and preparing to retire nice and early in his mid-fifties. When my father was forty-nine years old, he was just a half-decade away from heading to Hilton Head and concentrating on golf. They were adults, y’know? They knew who they were and where they were going. I didn’t observe any significant change in them after this age. (Not much before, either, to be honest.)
Your humble author, on the other hand, is far from being settled in any sense. I have no idea where I’m going to live in a few years. Don’t know what job I’ll be working, whether I will be richer or poorer. I might save up and buy my destination race car, a Radical SR8 — or I might sell all the race cars and never think about that again. Could build a new house, or I could live in a condo. No matter what happens, I still expect to be: intemperate, easily distracted, riding children’s bicycles, playing great guitars badly, continually and heartlessly tortured by the basest and most juvenile of desires.
Not a grown-up, in other words. And yet I can dimly perceive the edge of a certain… process… going on in my mind. The same way that one’s near-field vision is just great until it isn’t — but you knew it was going bad nevertheless. Something terrible is happening to me. Perhaps it’s accelerated by this oh-so-manufactured crisis all around us, perhaps not. Can’t say. Anyway. What’s going on is this: I’m losing what we will, for lack of a better phrase, call emotional elasticity.
We all know that old people are fussy, finicky, unwilling to change their minds, unable to effectively consider alternate viewpoints, and so on. It’s not something that happens the day you get your AARP card. It’s a process. As a child you’re malleable, you roll with whatever changes are presented to you. Over time you lose your instant willingness to adapt or accept. Your mind turns inward; you don’t listen as much to other people, new music, recent research, and so on. The future becomes less interesting, the past more so.
It’s happening to me. I finally gave up on pop music about a year ago; the mumblecore rap-crap and Auto-Tuned obscenities have become too much for me to accept. Intellectually I know this stuff is no more or less vacant of value than, say, the forgettable ditties of the Fifties or the bulk of RUN-DMC’s work; emotionally, however, I’m revolted by it. Virtually all of the new fiction I see now strikes me as mewling trash written by the subliterate for the illiterate. Is it any worse than the Marie Calloway book? Nah — but that came out when I was 42.
I’ve started deliberately avoiding people, largely because I’d rather not spend any processing cycles on hearing what they have to say. Over the past couple of years I followed my son as he hopped across video games, but his latest hop (from Fortnite to Among Us) just seems like too much trouble. Worst of all, I’ve started reading books about history, which is the gold standard for approaching senility and/or dissolution of intellectual curiosity.
All of this was put into sharp relief by the arrival of a Genesis G90 Ultimate 5.0 to my house on Tuesday. My God, did they build this thing just for me or what? It glides along every road surface in perfect serenity. I can listen to all my old music in it, and it all sounds great. Driver comfort is total and unwavering, as is noise suppression. Most of the time, it drives itself down any marked road while I rest an indifferent thumb (or, whisper it, knee) on the wheel. It has zero implied prestige or road presence, so people ignore me when I drive it, which is nice. What would be even nicer would be if I had someone to drive me around in it. That would be best. Then I could just read a book in silence.
I’ve owned a lot of big, bland sedans, of course. What’s changed is my approach to them. I drove my Phaetons like a madman and customized them to insure that everyone knew that it was my car. Today, I could own this grey G90 just the way it comes and not put so much as a license plate frame on it. I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas. I see myself lately as a coelacanth, this spectacularly ugly and unbearably ancient creature dragging itself along the ice-cold ocean floor and eating scraps. Scientists couldn’t figure out how they went two hundred years thinking the coelacanth was extinct. I can tell them: it was because the fish in question had nothing he wanted to share with the world.
The average middle-aged fellow is spectacularly and grossly unaware that this ossification is happening to them; I know a half-dozen fifty-something men who have cheerfully mistaken their own decline for a general or global equivalent. Hint: Any time you hear some old dude going on about how they drove all the fast cars and engaged in all the misbehavior but the next generation needs to live responsibly, that’s brain rot in process. My own guiding principles (“live in reality”, “keep a consciousness loop at all times”) have allowed, perhaps forced, me to see the shadow even as it creeps across my mind. Gonna fight it, that’s what I’m gonna do. In this effort, I am enlisting all of you. If you see me exhibiting the brittle and ignorant attitude of the aging bon vivant, please call me out without hesitation. Thank you, in advance, for your support. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put on Kind Of Blue and read a book about the Spanish Civil War.