We Mortals Be

           It may not be a universally acknowledged truth, but it should: Growing old is easy. It is. Piece of cake. A veritable walk in the park. You do not have to do one single thing to get older. Simply stay alive, and it just keeps happening, like your own personal Bataan excursion.
           However, dealing with all the problems that come with automatically tacking on those happy birthdays, finally hitting an age where they put you out of your misery by permanently employing only one candle to replace the ever burgeoning forest of flames that could take your hair and eyebrows in an instant or bake the cake themselves – well, that can be hard. The inevitable loss of brain cells is only one of the beauties of time moving you on.
           For instance, I don't like to have my picture taken anymore. I actually never did, but my aversion gets worse as time flies. Nothing to do with soul stealing or any other kind of belief such as that. I'm just not photogenic anymore. Anymore? I flatter myself. I doubt I ever was. I mean I cannot stand going back through photo albums to see myself grow up all over again. It's been hard enough to get to this point in my life without constantly having to relive the awkwardly captured candid or formal moments of my past. Seriously, if someone accidentally takes a halfway decent photo of me now days, I consider it a miracle. And miracles really don't happen. That's one thing I've learned for sure over the decades. Except maybe at Hogwarts.
           Some of you definitely know what I mean about not being photogenic. I've seen pictures of you. In some cases lots of them, year after year, and I know you know that you look not-so-hot in them. Even Photoshop could not come to the rescue for people like us. Unless we swap out heads. Which I've thought about doing. Right now, Brad Pitt's head would be a good substitute for mine. But I'll have to act quickly. Before Mr. Pitt wakes up one morning to find that time is moving him forward as well. That's right, Brad. Even you – Angelina too — will not be able to escape the inevitable.
           The last time I had to renew my UH ID, the young lady working the counter asked me if I'd like to use my old photo. A ray of hope. "I could do that?" She assured me I could. "It doesn't matter that my hair is dark in the old one, and that I've put on some weight since then? It almost doesn't look like me."
           She thought about this; I was sorry I'd even bought it up. Honesty is, on rare occasions, not the best policy at all.
           She took photo number one and asked me what I thought. I cringed. "Can we do it again?" She took photo number two and asked me to try smiling for this one. It looked worse than the first. I never did figure out how to smile for cameras. I envy people who know how to do it correctly.
           Shot number three was three times more nauseating. I asked if we really could just go with the old one. I think she allowed it to get the line moving.
           This is also why over the years I have managed to have fewer and fewer mirrors in my house. And the only reason I force myself to look at the one mirror I try to look at as little as possible is to shave. So I don’t accidentally cut my throat. I've considered some kind of permanent solution. Electrolysis even. If I could only not have to look at myself for even that brief period every morning, I would be beside myself with joy.
           Ever catch yourself glimpsing yourself in your car's rearview mirror? It's a kind of luckless sneak attack. Horrors. Sometimes I'm so aghast at what I see, even for a brief moment, that I suddenly think I'm in the middle of some kind of obake urban myth, and I'm sitting in my own back seat to scare myself. Like the faceless lady who used to inhabit first the women's bathroom at Waialae Drive In and then migrated to the women's bathroom at Kahala Mall by the theaters. I tell you that seeing her in the mirror would be a relief to me, something to distract me while I'm standing there in front of those wall to wall mirrors. Unfortunately, I always do wash my hands.
           A few years back, I was visiting my friend Gabe. When I went to the bathroom, he excitedly told me I was in for a major remodeling treat. To my dismay, one of the new features was a mirror the size of the Aloha Stadium jumbotron mounted on the wall opposite the toilet. So I had to sit there admiring myself for as long as it took me to get my business done.
           This morning when I approached my bathroom sink, I was wearing one of my favorite T-shirts. I don't have the guts to wear it outside my house. If I wore it at work, had it blasting its message all over my office, I think my boss would fire me. I know it would generate complaints. I can't tell you, though, how many times I've wished I had it on when I talk to folks who really should read it and get the message.
           So this morning I did my usual decrepit ninja like sneak-up on my bathroom mirror to shave, and while I'm shaving as quickly as possible, trying not to count the gray hairs, or notice new creases and crinkles, age spots, more tiny red veins surfacing to fill out an aerial view map of the Mississippi delta, and more little pillowy bumps making my face look like some kind of grotesque brocade out of a Tim Burton nightmare – time momentarily stops.
           A sense of humor is the only valuable weapon I know in the war on aging. A chuckle, laughter – it can stop time, or even take you out of time completely.
           In the mirror, I catch sight of my shirt: "I'm sorry, my fault, I forgot you were an idiot." Something like that always lightens me up, makes me smile a younger smile. No matter how old I get, sparks of humor, like this shirt, will always save me for a moment, even if I'm the only one who ever gets to see its message.

Mahalo for reading!

Talk story

  1. dearspirits says:

    I enjoyed reading this Lanning. And since I'm in the same boat as you, I understand completely as these feelings you wrote about. My driver license pic looks like my maternal Grandmother; whose name is also Mary. And very much loved by me so I shouldn't be too sad; except that I don't want to look like a Grandmother yet, even though I'm a Great Grandmother! In a few weeks I'll be 62 and on early retirement, but I still go to rock concerts and blend in with the crowd of younger people who make me feel young again. I think I'll keep on going no matter how time marches on. And I do admit, I look in the rear view mirror sometimes and think, "Who is that middle-aged woman?" I look pretty good for my age, but one day in the not too distant future, I will be an elderly lady. Graceful and elegant I hope. I will try to be.

  2. lanning says:

    Mahalo, ds, for reading my piece. That's true. In addition to a sense of humor, being with younger and younger thinking people helps as well : ) Remember, we are only approaching — always only approaching — middle-age : ) Happy Wednesday!

  3. kristel says:

    I can really see you wearing a shirt that says, "I'm sorry, my fault, I forgot you were an idiot." You have such a great sense of humor and I think it keeps you looking so young! By the way, Mr. Teter told me about your Obama-esque bumper stickers and I think they're HILARIOUS.

Leave one comment for We Mortals Be

This website uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. By browsing this website, you agree to its use of cookies.