I am old.
As far as I can remember, I didn’t used to be old. Back in the late 1980s in Ontario I remember being young. I had a good group of friends, mostly around my own age. We played charades and drank beer and made tofu casseroles and talked about Saul Alinsky and swam at the swimming hole. Life was good.
Then everything came crashing down: marriages ended, people moved away, feuds started, and Catherine and I skipped town and escaped to remotest Prince Edward Island.
My social life on the Island since, such as it is has been, has consisted mostly of spending time with people over 60 or under 30; people in both groups are distant enough from my own age so as to allow me to exist in a sort of age-free neutral zone. Because I’m neither a 25 year old rocker nor a 75 year old hipster, I’ve been able to coast along inside a delusion that I’m neither old nor young.
This all came crashing down yesterday when Catherine and I, in what appeared to me to be some sort of social destratification accident, were invited to the edge of Brighton for a house party attended mostly by our peers: couple in our 40s with children.
In the run of my day-to-day life I have some evidence that people like this exist in Charlottetown — I see them in them in the shops, and follow them on Twitter — but to be suddenly confronted with my own demographic, en masse, after a 20 year drought, was bracing to say the least.
This is how old I am?
I don’t mind being old: it’s been my goal, since I was a child, to get older.
And it wasn’t like there was anything wrong with my 40-year-old peers (although their taste in music could use some work). As much as it’s possible for me to have a good time drowning inside any group of people, I had an entirely pleasant time.
No, the shock to my system was more about the sudden jump out of hyperspace: when I last checked in with my peer group we were young and wild and free, and now, by all appearances, we have children, we talk about velorailing in France, and we’re in charge of the universe.
This isn’t a novel revelation, of course: there’s an entire genre of sitcoms based on this plot device (although usually they involve divorce and star Hank Azaria).
But is is a kick in the head for me; the Whole Earth Catalog told us that “we are as gods and might as well get good at it” and suddenly realizing that I’m an adult makes me realize that it might be time to pay closer attention to that notion and start to get some stuff done.
My social hermitage being what it is, it’s likely that the next time I check in with the peers we’ll all be in our mid-60s, and another 20 years will have flown by. So it’s best that I leverage this sudden realization of my oldness and run with it for all it’s worth.
Don’t let us get sick
Don’t let us get old
Don’t let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight
— Warren Zevon, “Don’t Let Us Get Sick”