It Ain’t For Sissies!
By Tom Nussbaum
“Getting old sure ain’t for sissies,” Ann the special education teacher said, paraphrasing an old Bette Davis quote, a few days before retiring. The choice of words, perhaps, could have been better selected by both women. The phraseology could have been considered offensive to some, as being homophobic or non-professional. But Ann was saying this to Norm and me, two of her assistants, and she knew we were gay. She, and we, also knew we weren’t sissies. We had proof. We had taken a test measuring the sissy level in gay men… You doubt there is such a test? You calling me a liar? Why I ought to scratch your eyes out…and, although I had a 14.2% sissy score versus Norm’s 17.6%, our sub-20% scores assured we were not sissies. Our low scores indicated we were so masculine that we likely could attend a Cher concert without shrieking, could name two professional sports teams and place them in the correct city, and had a 50/50 chance of identifying the hammer in a picture of an open toolbox provided the picture was in color.
Nevertheless, the words “Getting old ain’t for sissies” rang in my ears long after Ann said them, continued echoing in my head as I entered my sixties, and have repeatedly yelled at me once I retired.
As we age, we face physical ailments, situations, and problems we never thought about when we were younger. Some are specifically female, some male. But many are equal opportunity pains-in-the-ass. Asses, in fact, are one of the issues with which we have to deal. By asses obviously, I mean sagging asses.
There was a time I could feel that my gluteus maximus was firm and round without thinking about it. I didn’t need to consciously flex or tighten any muscles to make my rear look better. It came naturally. Having a firm, high-riding butt was part of being young. Now, however, whenever I walk, I feel like a basset hound’s ears are hanging down the back of my legs. And, worse, I feel like everyone can see it because my hind end is so flat, my pants have fallen below what once was the bottom curve of my butt. And to make it worse, my underwear’s elastic waistband has become totally ineffective, hanging on to my flattened behind like a cartoon character desperately clinging to the edge of a disintegrating cliff fully aware of the looming inevitable fall.
Digestive issues and regularity also are an issue we never had to think about when we were young. Now, when I order pizza, I no longer opt for the large special with 47 ingredients piled on it. Instead, I have the small size pizza covered only with Metamucil. Mexican food, too, creates problems because most of it is served with salsa. But the onions and peppers in most salsas cause digestive havoc. Therefore, I find if I crush pain-killers and sprinkle them over the Mexican dishes, instead of adding salsa, I can make it through the night without waking more than three or four of my neighbors with my crying.
I’ve also learned to hate shoes as I’ve aged. Putting on shoes require bending over. They require nimble fingers to tie the laces. And they require immediately removing them and replacing them with a matched pair. If Donald Trump really wants to make America great again, he would invent Perma-Shooz.
Hair, the loss of or the unexplained appearance of is another problem I didn’t think about as a young man. Some women have to deal with thinning hair or the disturbing appearance of facial hair. Many men deal with losing their hair, going bald. The men in my family were not bald. In fact, we never even had bald tires. But when the top of my head got sun-burned on a trip to Puerto Vallarta, I realized my hair was thinning, exposing my scalp to the sun. As a result, I would look at old photographs of myself with thick Beatle bangs, a full wavy Jew-fro, shoulder length tresses, a ponytail, and even an unflattering mullet and I would sob. But as I wept, I realized the tear-driven snot from my nose was dripping from hairs longer than Miss Piggy’s eyelashes. My hair once thickly arranged atop and around my head had simply relocated to my nostrils and ears.
Now, I’m a practical, enterprising person, so I started cutting and saving these hairs. Some of the nose hairs, in particular, were so long I sold them to school children to glue on to map assignments as rivers. Two, deftly connected, could easily serve as the Nile, Amazon, or, if they were particularly dirty, the Ganges. And the shorter, thicker, coarser hairs bundled in my ears like sheaves of Kansas wheat, got stuffed in zip-lock sandwich bags and are now being used as padding to give elderly flat-assed people the illusion that they still have the firm round bottoms they had in their youth.
But I think the aspect of ageing I dislike the most is when elderly friends say, “Remember when…” or” Remember how…” or “Do you remember…?” Of course I remember the incident. I just don’t remember the friend’s name or if the person with whom I am talking is still alive.
And that brings me to the issue of memory. There was a time in our lives when a senior moment meant posing for your final yearbook photograph, getting accepted by the college of your choice, being elected prom queen, or getting your skirt irremovably caught in your locker as you slammed it necessitating stepping out of the stupid skirt in front of a judgmental crowd of students and staff, exposing that you had left your underwear behind the bleachers at lunch—all experiences I had as a senior.
Today, of course, a senior moment has a completely different meaning. Like yesterday, I sat down to write an article about…oh, hell. I forgot. What the hell was I going to write about? Oh, yes, my retired teacher friend Ann and her painfully true quote about ageing. She was telling me about her two assistants. I think she said their names were Tom and Norm. But I have no idea who they are. She says they are getting old. But neither of them are sissies.