Wednesday, February 26, 2014

As a Man Grows Older

Italo Svevo
“I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight, together in the dark, with the sweet warmth of a hip or a foot or a bare expanse of shoulder within reach. Those of us who have lost that, whatever our age, never lose the longing…” says Roger Angell in his essay, "This Old Man,” (The New Yorker, Feb. 17 & 24, 2014), subtitled, “Life in the nineties.” Angell also quotes another New Yorker writer John Updike citing a story entitled, “Playing With Dynamite,” where Updike offers the choice of “sex or death." Actually Angell doesn’t seem all that negative about death which he refers to as being “less like a threat than like a family obligation.” Certainly there are those who would choose death over sex at a certain age. All the Botox, Viagra and Astroglide are not going to allay nature’s revenge on its old creation. Age is cruel. However, beautiful dried flowers can be, they lack the magic and pheronomic power of spring. There is no substitute for the flower in bloom. And, despite the fact that the human being’s neurogenic pathways may be wired in such a way that he or she may find themselves navigating highways that have become obsolete, the pressure to employ medical science to provide substitutes for the declining sex drive represents a failure to accept the inevitable. But Angell seems to be talking about something more subtle, not the sexual act itself, rather the bonding that is the product of sex. Even animals need to be touched and held which explains the unusual cruelty of solitary confinement as a punishment. Age is a sentence that may seem short, seeing how few years are left, but can end up feeling attenuated due to its boredom, despair and loneliness. There is nothing more grotesque than an elderly man or woman who attempts to act and dress like someone a quarter their age. The sight of a 94 year old man in a tight tee shirt or his female counterpart in a leather micro skirt is merely an advertisement for senile dementia. Senilita, As a Man Grows Older is the title of a novel by Italo Svevo. Angell’s charming and humane piece demonstrates how gray panthers can still get a piece of the action.

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