I think one of the strangest things about growing up is getting old.
Or is it the other way around – in that the two seem inextricably opposed – if not altogether disconnected – but inseparable, just the same?
I mean, just think about it.
When we talk about someone “growing up”, we are referring to a blossoming – a path followed to a certain maturity – the Mickey Mouse Club growing its breasts, Alf Alfa growing a voice, Joanie growing to hate Chachi.
It is through achievement of this desired potentiality – where one attains the mantle of being, in fact, the “grown up”– a title almost primitive in its introduction to the language, a nakedly-blunt appropriation of the terms of endurance, something you’d expect to find dropping from the tranquilized tongue of Cindy Brady or Shirley MacLaine – that we set the increments of our growth as human beings.
“You are a grown up”
How awkward that sounds, how so close to the mouth of the fire lighting the cave, and yet, it is exactly what we say when our child has found his or her place in the systemized routine we call civilization.
It is this plateau achieved, this putting behind of childish things (to paraphrase a biblical President on the night of his crowning glory) that resounds in our societal cognizance, that forms the adult animal upon which we saddle our hopes, our dreams, our every ambition – ultimately, our very desire to foster new life, to cast tomorrow in our own image – the final recognition of oneself – Dorian Grey aging before the mirror.
“You are really old”
Conversely, when we talk of “getting old”, we are indicating a fall from grace, the shame of what had budded with promise, had bloomed with beauty – but now quickly withers on the vine.
Here, in the greasy embrace of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe – in the grip of their short attention to life – getting old is something we choose not to celebrate.
Instead, we approach it with discomfort, bearing disrespect, barely checking our disdain – motivated purely by fear – Joan Rivers shitting out the years, reaching for butterflies.
And really, who wants to get old?
Do you think your parents – still high on the plastic flower-infused 1960s – were thinking of their descent into senility and general disrepair?
Don’t you think instead they dreamed of finding their peak in the clouds, of discovering their untold limits?
“We’ll leave it to Florida to learn the face of decay – to feel the ache of the ages lived"
Who wants the smooth and the supple to wrinkle and crease, to hang about the skeleton like laundry on a line – all Stan Laurel in Oliver Hardy’s skin?
Who wants their immune system to diminish in its fortitude, to send trouble and disease through vitality’s port – Abbot and Costello barging at the door, two stooges in a china shop?
Who wants to see death – the black table passing the sun – a bouquet of black roses at the bow – a pair of black scissors set to sever the cord of life – Dr. Frankenstein forging for his son a bride built of the grave – a mother counting her days by the eggs nesting within the generations to come?
Thus, so do we seek our maturity, ignoring the warnings of age, content to find measure, and satisfaction, among others on an equal footing – those just as ready, and willing, to build this kingdom we call ours – this world we’ve based upon our temporary defiance of the inevitable rotting arc of our human existence.