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The Heart Never Grows Old

by Susan P. Blevins



What is it with age? When we’re very young all we want to do is grow old in a hurry, then when we’re teenagers we act like toddlers. As do many seniors. The big crunch comes in middle age, and stems from the looming terror of growing old, but it manifests differently in men and women.

Men are very predictable. They dump their wives but not their bellies, dye their hair and drive a flashy convertible, and always keep a few little blue bills tucked inside their wallets next to their hopeful condoms. And naturally they are looking for a girlfriend who is at least twenty years younger, so they can siphon off her youth in some mystical, magical way. 

Women resort to plastic surgery (admittedly, more and more men are resorting to it as well), nip, tuck and lift: face lifts, butt lifts, boob lifts, that leave them looking like conveyor-belt plastic effigies, or inflatable dolls, which I’ve heard Japanese men favor. But nothing can save them from betrayal by their sagging honeypots. Making love with the lights out is a requirement for most women by the time they’re in their late sixties. And I don’t mean that they just want to conceal their own bodies. They’d probably prefer not to see the aged and wrinkled old man puffing away on top of them hoping for an orgasm that proves infuriatingly elusive.

Old age can easily turn into second childhood unless care is taken to prevent decrepitude and senescence. A geriatric outlook does more to age a person than a wrinkled body, and I should know because my father was born geriatric. In vain my mother tried to convince him to go somewhere different for their annual vacation, and God forbid if he should ever have to eat something new and different.  

Learning a new language and reading music keep the brain synapses snapping and the mind alert, so I’ve read. At this point I can heave a huge sigh of relief, because I’m always studying a new language, and playing my piano. I mean, there’s no point in keeping our bodies flexible if our minds are as rigid as clogged arteries. The need to keep our minds open and elastic is perhaps even more important than keeping our bodies in good working order. I absolutely must quote the Roman poet Juvenal here, translated from the Latin, because his words are as appropriate today as they were in the second century CE:

     You should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body.
      Ask for a stout heart that has no fear of death,
      and deems length of days the least of Nature's gifts…

In vain Ponce de Leon searched for the Fountain of Youth, and nothing has changed. We keep looking, and hoping, rushing to try the latest miracle put out by the pharmaceutical companies. Little blue pills, soon to be little pink pills for women, pumps, creams, jellies, all attempts to hang on to our illusions. If we’re not careful, this crazy quest for eternal youth will result in a society of old men with eager erections, old women with bouncy breasts, and no one who remembers what to do with their appendages. 

Fear of death is another potent stimulus to stem the tide of aging. Perhaps, we think deludedly, we can trick the clock if we look younger on the outside.

Applying all these optimistic bandaids, however, does nothing to heal the fears that plague us. Regrets for the past and fear of the future means we miss the beauty of the moment, the eternal ‘now’, which in reality is all we have.


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