THE greatest fear I have in my 60th year is that I’ll become an old man. No, not that I’ll become a man who is old, because I’m resigned to that, but an old man. The two are different, of course.
Some men of my age have been old men for some years, and nothing gives them away more than what I think of as the spangled drongo hair. You know, as you look at them you see the long hair at the back curling out from the neck in the shape, I like to think, of a spangled drongo’s tail. Only a man sinking into the old man bog could imagine that such hair marks him as hip or vital or free-thinking or desirably different from other old men. While an ageing man with an ear stud, or studs, is a pitiful sight, an ageing man with both spangled drongo hair and an ear stud definitely warrants the suspicions that spring to everyone’s mind.
Recently I’ve been more worried than I should be about becoming one of them. There are worrying markers.
My wife, for example, has been telling me that I make old man noises and, even more troubling, that I’m usually unaware of doing so. Grunts and groans mainly when I haul myself out of a chair or bounce down to pick something off the floor or climb into or out of her LandCruiser. I’d prefer to see any noise as an expiration of effort. She says, too, and always with a great deal of noise, that I’m missing the bowl more often.
Noise is a problem for old men even as their hearing declines and by far the worst noise is young people’s music. I’ve never met an old man who wasn’t beaten by how they call that music whenever he hears it, so I try not to comment on it. I do, though, blank out my teenage son’s radio presets whenever I’m in the car.
And I worry so much about the most glaring old man marker, a disgustingly high waist, that I’m still buying hipster pants that are becoming increasingly difficult to keep in place. What is it that compels them? Is it that they’re seeking the trouser braces look without the braces?
From about the age of 50 married men find themselves waiting for their wife or following her about at a shopping centre, but old men do it patiently, as if they’re resigned to their fate. They sit at a seat outside the supermarket and they just sit for as long as she takes, they follow her around at markets carrying her bags without so much as a note of testiness, so I guess that’s why I like to call her on her mobile to ask what the hell she’s doing and why I refuse at some point in the market crawl to hold any more bags. It’s as if I’m telling her and the world that I’m not yet totally submissive.
And old men always give their age as that of their next birthday, as in ‘‘I’ll be 83 in June’’. I hope my claim in the opening paragraph to being in my 60th year rather than merely 59 doesn’t tick this old man box.
Old men obsess about other males’ haircuts too.
Have you noticed a difference between men who are merely old and old men? Can you offer me any tips on how to avoid becoming an old man?