I wish it were simpler but it is not. The idea is cruel but that is the way it is and will always be.
Growing old is a bitch.
Just this afternoon at the gym, a friend of mine (actually someone who dates as far back as high school) said hitting 50 was a pain. But hitting 55 was worse. His was a case of hypertension. He did not even know he had it until one of the trainers decided to check his BP. So there.
Now he has to watch his diet because he is evidently overweight. Now he has to take maintenance medicine to keep his blood pressure within a safe range. And his dreams of going back biking and taking the spinning classes would have to be placed on hold.
And to think that, like me, he has dedicated a substantial amount of his waking hours working out in the gym. Unlike most of our contemporaries who have assumed the living pattern of slugs and sloths, we opted to fight age with the best antidote that exists: exercise.
Although we could take great risks creating eternal damage to our spines with ceaseless crunches and leg raises, the truth of the matter remains. When you hit your golden years, your metabolism gets all screwed up and everything moves in slow motion. Years ago, all it took was ... uhm, three days of watching your carbs and sweating it out ... and five pounds were immediately shed off as if you flushed out the fats. But now ... three weeks of intensive cardiovascular exercises matched by strict dieting (hooked on Phase 1 of the good ol' South Beach Diet) ... and you hop on the weighing scale to find out that you've lost a grand total of two kilos. After all that misery, after all the sweat ... and you end with two kilos?
But let's not even go there. That's Mother Nature telling you that there is such a thing as a human time line. No amount of Sustagen, Ginseng, wheat grass or even Botox can reverse the evident changes brought by time. No existing procedure: liposuction, thermage, Aptos surgery ...can truly disguise the inevitable onslaught of the years on natural human design. Regardless of what you stuff into or pump out of your body, aging is an irreversible process that cannot be avoided, denied ... much less disguised.
So it is no wonder that some of the more desperate attempts to insist on eternal use with the aid of science and cosmetology end up being the Greatest Living Disasters. We do not need to enumerate a whole set of examples of men and women, who in their desire to remain forever young, ended up looking embalmed. Like cosmetic zombies, those who have the money and resources to exhaust all possibilities of knives and chemicals interfering with their systems end up with waxen skin, lips like those of a trout and eyelids that seem incapable of any vertical motion.
But that again is a personal choice. No one is entitled to pass judgment on others who have opted to use available miracles to freeze time or whatever gets them through another day. After all, what may be ridiculous in the eyes of others may be a thing of beauty to somebody ... or any body ... but hopefully the owner of the face or body who conjured the gods of science to perform such miracles.
Yes, any which way you look at it ... aging is a bitch. And it can only get more miserable if you think of the years wasted or how indeed youth is unappreciated by the young. But that is where the irony lies: youth passes all too quickly. Even as the young condemn or laugh at anyone or anything old now (or haven't you realized that nowadays being called old is already tantamount to an insult?) they will be shocked one day when they find out that they too have outlived their collagen-rich days.
There is no other way to deal with growing old than by enjoying it. Mortality is ... well, a very large and hard pill to swallow but something that no one (except mythical vampires and other creatures of the underworld) is exempted. So we deal with it and enjoy it. Sure, beauty is a passing thing but who really cares about such temporary pleasures ... when, in the long run, what really matters is how you are remembered and not by how much you have accumulated through your earthly existence.
In my high school days, I was enthralled by an actress named Ali MacGraw. Even before she appeared in Love Story in 1970, I already had a really bad high school crush on her when I saw photos of her first film entitled Goodbye, Columbus. That was some time in 1968 or 1969. Then came Love Story and all the embellishments which came with a phenomenal movie that ushered in the so-called Return to Romance in the middle of the Youth Revolution. I remember that Ali MacGraw became the cover of Time Magazine.
And I have kept track of her through the years. I was a fan who had clippings of her photos, played Francis Lai's theme from Love Story until my father threatened to smash the 33-1/3rpm album on our stereo. I could quote Erich Segal's wafer thin novel by heart.
And some time in the late 80's, while I was in New York City with a friend, who should I bump into at Barney's but ... Ali MacGraw. I remember standing in front of a bin of sweaters, looking absolutely touched as if some unreal moment between two parallel universes collided. I could not believe that standing a few feet away from me was Ali MacGraw.
Why am I babbling about all this? Because recently I saw an episode of Oprah where the stars of Love Story had a reunion: it has been forty years since the movie became a phenomenon. It has been four decades since Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal gave life to Jennifer Cavilleri and Oliver Barrett IV.
In those four decades, so many events have transpired to define the lives of the two young stars who brought back romance amidst the age of protest. Ali MacGraw has give up Hollywood (or the other way around, it did not matter to her) and lived a simple life in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she dedicated her time to civic and social causes while practicing yoga and living by herself in a simple adobe house.
Ali MacGraw is still beautiful. And she proudly announced that she is 71 years old.
It was then that I realized that who cares about age. It is with what you do with your life, with what meaning you give to your days that define who you are now ... and now your numerical worth. I remembered that my family dentist is in his late 80's and he is still practicing his profession: Dr. Roger Librojo has the most alert mind, keeps himself up to date with the recent developments in his field of specialization and is a proud music junkie. He loves music to the extent that it has become the very soul and energy of his life. My God, I said to myself: the man is nearing 90 years old and he is still a masterpiece of mankind.
That is why I feel good at 56. That is why I have come to realize that ... well, I may not be 28 ... I may look a bit weird wearing skinny jeans but screw it. Age only matters if that is all you make of life. There is mortality but there is also humanity.
And that is what makes all of life worth living.