Jewish World Review Jan. 26, 2001 / 3 Shevat, 5761
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- AGE sneaked up on me (or snuck up on me, depending on your dictionary). It must have happened while I was sleeping. Remember the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, about giant pods that took over people's bodies while they slept? I'm convinced that's the way age works. I swear when I went to bed last night I was about twenty-three----today I'm fifty-two and I don't know how I got here.
"Help me, somebody! You've gotta listen to me before it's too late," I can hear Kevin McCarthy yelling as he runs down the highway. "They're coming! Don't let yourself go to sleep or you'll wake up old!"
Most of the time I'm not aware of how old I am...until I pass by a mirror. It generally takes about two beats before I realize that the middle aged guy looking back at me is...me. It's a weird sensation because, subconsciously, I still think of myself as around seventeen or so. It's best, I've found, to simply avoid all mirrors --- although this can make for a really challenging shave in the morning.
I'm not sure I approve of myself as a fifty-two year old. I was really good, I think, at being a kid. And, after a bit of practice, I had my twenties down pretty well, too. Isn't that always the way things go? Just when you finally get good at being a certain age, you suddenly get older and have to learn all over again how to be a different age.
I'd often heard that age is relative --- unfortunately, most of my relatives are younger age than I am. And, boy, is it ever true that suddenly all the cops and doctors look like they're twelve years old. Wait. I'll tell you what's really scary --- when actors in movies from the thirties and forties start to look younger than you remembered. All my life Humphrey Bogart looked like a middle-aged guy. Lately, he doesn't look so old to me anymore. Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power look like kids. Even Monty Woolley and Lionel Barrymore don't seem as old as they once were. And I'll let you in on a little secret...I'm starting to feel romantic twinges toward Spring Byington. And I definitely have a crush on Billie Burke.
I'll be watching an old movie starring Gary Cooper or Clark Gable made towards the end of their careers, and it dawns on me that I am actually OLDER NOW THAN THEY WERE WHEN THEY MADE THAT FILM! I hate that.
All of a sudden, all the old-age jokes take on a new significance and don't seem to be quite as funny as they once were. Remember the line, "I've got socks older than you?" Well, guess what -- I really DO have clothes that are older than a lot of people. I'm pretty sure I still have a couple of things in my closet from the seventies.
Another gag was, "you know you're getting old when, of two evils, you choose the one that gets you home earlier." No longer a joke, now it becomes words to live by. Or, "at my age, my back goes out more than I do." Well, okay -- I'll admit that I still go out more often than my back does...but it's a close call.
Jack Benny had the right idea. Pick a funny age and stick to it. Thirty-nine is a
funny age. Fifty-two is not even remotely amusing. The great thing about thirty-nine is, the
older you get, the funnier it sounds. Okay, that settles it. I'm going back to thirty-nine.
Gee...I feel better already. Not younger, mind you. Just
JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.
01/19/01: He Got It His Way