Friday, October 2, 2009

Fountain of Youth

From the perspective of 56 (56 “and a half”) I’m beginning to see the allure of youth elixirs. I think today is the first day in my life when I consciously wished I could back up the ineluctable march of time (a Macy’s parade that ends with Death, not Santa) for, let’s say, three decades or so.

Not that I’m pining for 1979, particularly—it was an okay year but not the best for me, and it was just a heartbeat away from Reagan and AIDS. But, oh, to be 26 right now—that is, 26 with a source of income, far from Iraq and Afghanistan (or Utah), and not living with Moms and Pops.

What’s most remarkable is it’s taken me this long. I hit my thirties without blinking—best decade of my life (if only I were more of an optimist I would add “so far”—as. if.) And my forties were so rocked by personal losses and flagrant, deliberate assaults on my self-esteem that I had little time to assess them—or really experience them.

But my fifties have so far trotted along with a chummy sort of knockabout charm—things are slowing down, to be sure, and the abyss is indeed opening before me, but my mood thus far has been to stretch my arms up, fingers pointed to the sky, and ready myself for the big dive downwards.

Not today, though.

Something (I don’t know what) snapped, and I found myself wishing I could be tomcatting with my studly male students and falling in love all over again for the first hundred times.

What a 26-year-old me couldn’t do with 2009! A society relatively (only relatively) open to homosexuality and atheism—I could have escaped whole heaps of private guilt and interior ping-ponging much sooner than I was able to. My personal kinks—wrestling and fighting—have gained a semi-sorta-legitimacy in the mise-en-scène in which I live and breathe. I could be going to gay clubs where hot dudes in jockstraps grapple under hot lights, instead of watching drag queens lipsync to Donna Summer.

(But, then, oh my, there were the dance floors of back then!—with Tarzan-boys swinging on ropes past glittering disco balls and over our jam-packed shirtless bodies!)

Had I owned DVDs of my favorite movies back then and pushed buttons on my laptop and iPhone to reach whole worlds of flashy new information and erotic provocations, I would have thought I had died and turned into God.

I’ve thought these things before, but never with feeling. Today the feeling came.

Impossible as I know it to be, I yearn to trade my old self in for a newer model … with standard tattoos, firm muscle, an unbustable sense of my own rightness and clarity of perception, and sure knowledge that, since I have not yet made enough decisions in my life, all options are still wide open and ready to be snatched up.

Sure, I realize that the switch would come with the usual side effects—blotchy skin, self doubts, fear of the future (hey, young people, it’s bad, but it’s survivable—so far, anyway), but, fuck, I could take it now—no problemo—bring it on—just to have hair on my head again and a spring in my slouchy walk … sweet bird of youth!

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