I Hope I’m Old Before I Die
I ran into a couple good customers the other day. They are a nice, fun couple in their mid sixties and they have been to the club with friends and with their grown children on several occasions, but it had been sometime, well over a year since I had seen them. We had a nice chat and then they told me they had a little confession. They wanted to tell me why they hadn’t been in for so long. Bad food? Slow service? What could it be? Then they hit me with this. “Tony, you make too much fun of getting old and it’s depressing. We’re not old. We’re young!”
I didn’t know what to say. It’s true many of my signature parodies lampoon aging. “My Hair Keeps a Fallin’ From My Head” says “It won’t be long before a big old nurse puts Depends on me.” Or the Bob Seger routine that begins “Just take that Ben Gay off the shelf, I rub it up and down all over myself These old joints ain’t got the same pull, but this Old Timer Rock and Rolls!” This Bob Seger routine (where he goes on to talk about his the new line of walkers from Harley Davidson “with genuine leather saddlebags, where you can hide your donuts from your nurse, if you’re rebel like me”) was inspired by an appearance several years ago he made on the David Letterman Show. The 64 year old leader of the Silver Mullet band appeared on stage that night with holes in his jeans, a torn t-shirt, a cool goatee, and made a geriatric stomp through a song from his new album with an act that looked more like a Viagra commercial than a rock show.
There is very little dignity in aging male rock stars. Wasn’t this the generation who wanted to die before they got old? In his final years Frank Sinatra’s toupee may have looked like wounded road kill, but he and his generation of singers always looked classy in a tuxedo or a suit. Watch a Motown or Soul music revue. These guys look great. Contrast that with Steven Tyler who looks like an elderly gypsy woman being swallowed by a sea of scarves and bracelets. Or The Rolling Stones who are so frail they may tip over if they put on one more necklace. Thank God the guys in KISS wear make up and Spanx while they “Rock n’ Roll All Nite and Potty Every Day.”
Let’s give credit where it’s due. Elvis Costello has managed to look somewhere between an NPR talk show host and the world’s classiest homeless man into his late fifties. Sting, now in his early sixties, looks like an actual adult male. If you didn’t know better he could be confused for a person (although it may be time to drop the “deadly” stage moniker and revert back to good old Gordon.)
Unfortunately these dear customers of mine, who insist “we’re young!” have missed the whole point. There is nothing wrong with aging, we all do it, and when it’s done gracefully it’s a beautiful thing. What’s depressing is pretending you’re young. Embracing growing older is a joy I have looked forward to my whole life. I didn’t like young people when I was young, and now this sentiment fits like a well-worn glove. As
I sail through my forties and into my fifties I have a message for today’s youth, “Get off of my lawn!”