Posted 04 December 2004
WE HAVE RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE FROM PATRICK AZADIAN
Society has a way of shielding us from the realization of growing old. If everything goes according to one of the conventional roadmaps of life, we end up racing through all the pre-fabricated phases while the awareness of aging is syringed into our veins in small doses. Growing old around people of the same age makes the process more palatable.
In the particular sub-society where I have roots, the cookie-cutter formula for life is quite simple. The induction into society begins at preschool level. The road leading to institutional socialization culminates in graduation from college and is followed by marriage, employment, and the lease of at least one German luxury car. Later, the birth of the first child accompanies the purchase of a house. If one manages to survive this long, the rest can be on autopilot.
Although this simplistic formula can impose unreasonable demands on men as well as women, it does offer some benefits. First, the warmth of family life can shield a person from the turbulence of outside world. Sticking to "the plan" can also earn the family a certain degree of respect among peers.
Moreover, being a card-carrying member of this party can guard the individual from the awareness of growing old. If for any reason the individual falls off the predetermined track, aging can begin to occupy his/her thoughts. Two major incidents in my life made me realize I was actually getting older. The first was after my ex-wife and I came to the mutual decision to switch off the lights on our 14-year-old relationship. And the second was when I mustered up the nerve to trade the dark world of "hard" sciences at UCLA's "south campus," with the sunny skies of social sciences in the north.
Once my application to the single world had been accepted, my longtime membership to the circle of couples assumed an associate status. Married friends were inclined to spare me the agony of gatherings where conversations revolved around the best way to dispose infant poop or puke, and the quickest way to concoct mohammara (a Lebanese side dish made from pomegranate, roasted red peppers and walnuts; tastes yummy but looks yucky). Thanks to their thoughtfulness, I was only included in social events where they believed I wouldn't be bored. So by default, I ended up spending some time with single people. And in my surroundings, single meant young.
I got my feet wet quickly. I was on one of those prerequisite post-divorce outings with a younger member of the tender gender, when I first felt the sting of the "getting-old-realization syringe." During dinner, I noticed a familiar face at another table. When the time came to leave, I glanced over to see whether I recognized the elegant femme. Once I identified her, I turned to my company: "It's Sophia Loren."
"Sophia who? Who's that?" was her response.
The generation gap seemed as colossal as the deepest crater on the moon (Newton, 29,000 feet deep). It was probably the first time I became aware of aging.
A few years later, I decided to return to UCLA to complete my undergraduate studies. A statistics course was my first pick. Aging was on my mind as soon as I walked into class; the professor was a few years younger than me.
The first exercise in class involved writing down the number of people we had romantically smooched in our lifetime. Being proud of my relatively "pure" past, I quickly turned in my magic count. The professor tabulated the results and recorded the numbers on the board in ascending order. Then, he crossed out the lowest and the highest figures.
"To get the 'smooching average' of this sample population we'll exclude the extreme values."
I was stunned; I had landed on the high end of the spectrum. It was now official; I had to deal with aging.
The following spring I enrolled in a popular sociology course titled "Deviance." Three weeks into the quarter the professor made a reference to the "Iranian hostage crisis" and followed it up with:
"Oh, none of you are old enough to remember this..."
Not old enough?! I had lived right through the darn thing! I probably remember all the 444 times I had turned on the television set to see whether it was safe for the brunet people to step outside their homes. Later on that day, I asked a classmate when she was born. She answered: "1980."
"Ouch! I knew you were 18, but being born in 1980 is unreal! I was an adult by then. Is it legal for us to be in the same class?"
"Don't be stupid!" she said.
So what is my point? Does being around the younger crowd make you feel younger? Not necessarily. Does it make you feel old? It shouldn't, but it sure made me realize our time on Earth is limited.
And is there a moral to my story? Hopefully not, but I feel like throwing in a quote from Mark Twain at this point:
"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."
Patrick Azadian lives and works in Glendale. He is an identity and branding consultant for the retail industry.
Reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was published in "Los Angeles Times", Glendale News-Press, 13 November 2004.