McGinnis: Getting oldWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The first sign hit me like a ton of bricks one morning. I stumbled out of bed and to the bathroom, resisting every urge to be considered awake. As I went through humanity’s most time-tested morning ritual and relieved myself, I glanced up at the mirror in front of me. And there it was. Peppered among the sideburns that have been part of my face since childhood.
I wouldn’t exactly say the arrival of the gray was a crisis, per se. But it was a solid reminder, a warning shot from Father Time. You are getting older, McGinnis. No matter if you fancy yourself as some ageless teenager, forever concerned with making jokes about the minutiae of pop culture for your audience of dozens, the march time carries on, and you go along with it — whether you want to or not.
Soon, other signs began to make themselves known. The smile lines I had cultivated over decades of laughing at my own jokes no longer went away when I stopped smiling. The lines in my forehead that appeared when I cocked one eyebrow — a talent I developed trying to copy The Rock — now seemed to be a permanent addition to my facial landscape, too.
The gray that started on my face began to make guest appearances on my chest and elsewhere. No matter what they say, gray doesn’t make one look distinctive, especially when it begins to creep toward areas of the body that are already pretty distinctive on their own.
I reacted to these small signs of mortality in a very Jeff McGinnis fashion: Denial. I already pretty much hate looking at myself in the mirror, and now I just have more reasons to avoid it. And as long as I can’t see the changes, I can forget that they’re there. I’m not old! I’m not even young! I don’t wanna grow up! I’m a Toys R Us kid!
But the passage of time has insidious ways of making itself known, even beyond the superficial physical changes. The people I work with seem to get younger with each passing year.
One day I mentioned “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and got blank stares in reply. Dear God, is “Rocky” so old a reference you young whippersnappers have never heard of it? I shudder at the thought of mentioning any films from before even my time. (“It’s called ‘Citizen Kane.’ KANE. K-A-N-E. Directed by Orson Welles?” “Oh, that guy from the end of ‘The Muppet Movie”?)
That’s just the tip of how ancient I am in pop culture terms. I am no longer in the prized demographic. Advertisers are aiming several years below me now. They’re beginning to reboot toy lines I was too old to play with the first time around. They’re remaking movies I saw in the theater, for God’s sake! I’m too young to pay to see the same thing twice!
But I’m nowhere near too young. I’m thirty-(cough!) years old now, well into adulthood, far past most generous starting points for middle-aged. But I think we all trick ourselves into believing that wherever we are on the roller coaster ride of life is still “young.”
Old isn’t us. Old is our grandparents. (Not our parents, though. Even as we jokingly refer to our folks as “old,” we never really mean it. Because if we have to admit our parents are aging, by proxy we’re aging, too.) But to deny the pain of aging means you miss out on the pleasures. Perspective is gained with time. Experience earned. A dollop of wisdom, perhaps. And most importantly, there’s a new generation to pass that on to.
My nieces are growing up faster than even cliché can imply. Kadence, the elder, is 5 and just started her first year of preschool. Kendra, the younger, is 3. She is the most curious and cheerful child I know. They brighten my life every time I see them, and make me want to be the best example for them I can.
I am so happy I will get the chance to watch these two tiny human beings grow up. And if the cost of that pleasure is a few more lines on my face and a few more numbers added to my age, well, so be it. A bargain at the price, I’d say.
Stick around, gray. I’m starting to get used to you.
Jeff McGinnis is pop culture editor at Toledo Free Press. He can be reached at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.