Reflecting on the indignities and rewards of middle age, the American author David Sedaris (I got this from the FT) writes, ‘Yes, the washer on my penis has worn out, leaving me to dribble urine long after I’ve zipped my trousers back up. But I have two guest rooms.’ And I think, as 65 peers with hilarious malice through the window, ‘How nice to be middle-aged. Won’t be seeing that again.’ Time, it turns out, is a movie you can’t see twice, a book that is always and only in it’s first, tumultuous, embarrassing draft. A book, moreover, where you don’t write the ending, the ending writes you.
Our ending has many parts, and one of the parts – one of the list of parts, is the parts that don’t work. My hip, for instance, the left one, is like a rusted car jack: it winces and protests when I crank the handle and won’t fully rise up. And the body on top, the inert mass that the jack is supposed to lift – a ’53 model, rusted, much used, not exactly well maintained – looks like it would be right at home in Old Havana, though without the pretty girls up front.
There is a certain sang froid, however, that comes with age. Maybe it is whistling past the cemetery but, at almost-65, I have the confidence these days to say what I think, do what I want, remain impressively calm under all sorts of pressure. The reason is simple: I no longer care. There’s no-one left to impress, no greasy pole left to climb. Confidence should not be confused with performance, however. Ask Donald Trump. The lesson of almost-65 is that performance is no longer something you can expect, though it is something to be grateful for. How can you expect – how can you be expected – to perform, when your equipment these days is so much less reliable than before, puts out so much less horsepower, is more so much more inclined to break down – with wry apologies – than to lift you up?
Mind you, these days I carry it off better than before – failure, I mean. Just think, for a moment, of the meaning of that phrase – wry apology. That is not a young man’s phrase. A young man with my spectacular failures to perform would be wracked or peppered with shame, as with a rash or pimples, but the almost-65 year old man draws back, with a smile, a dry little laugh. ‘It’s nothing,’ he is saying. ‘It happens all the time.’ By which he infers, though he does not mean to commit, ‘there’s always a next time.’ Until of course there isn’t.
So sang froid, at age 65, is helpful: helpful because necessary. Necessary, because you don’t have a washer either, in that place, and you have one guest room, not two. But I’m doing okay, of that I am confident. No apologies there.
Enjoy the pictures.