Hooked on Aging

Our writer tries to just say no to getting older

It all started when I was a kid. Like most kids, I just couldn't wait to get older. I thought it was "cool" to "grow up." I can still remember my 10th birthday. Double digits! The big one-oh! My dad gave me a hundred dimes and a new bicycle. My mom made me a devil's-food cake with red candles. I was hooked.

And, of course, like so many age addicts, I was unable (or unwilling) to admit I had a problem. I kept telling myself I could handle it. But every year, despite all my resolutions, despite all my best intentions, I somehow ended up "doing" another year. "All right," I remember thinking, "I'll just 'do' 20 and that'll be it, I swear." But then I hit 20 and found myself saying, "Oh, what the hell, just a couple of more years, what harm can it do?" And before I knew it, I was up to 25, then 30, then 40. I actually began to build up a tolerance: when I started, all it took was a year or two to make me feel older; but the more I "did," the more I needed. At this point, as a hard-core addict, I find I need as much as an entire decade to feel really methuselated.

It's almost as if I'm biologically programmed to age. (My parents suffered from the same problem, and ultimately it cost them their lives.) Yet there's also a social factor. Everyone I hang out with keeps getting older (even if some are in heavy denial). We rationalize, telling ourselves, hey, it's good for wine, it's good for cheese, it's good for prime beef. Why not for us?

But in our hearts, we know: getting older is associated with everything from loss of virility, to tired blood, to bad fashion choices and worse. In fact, though you'll seldom see it listed on a death certificate, compulsive aging is one of the major causes of mortality in this country. Age addiction can also take a tremendous toll on family life. I personally know of a man who had to divorce his wife because the poor woman simply could not—or would not—give up her aging habit.

My own friends and family, bless them, tried their best to help me. One year they threw me a surprise "birthday party" that turned out to be an intervention. They showed me pictures of myself when I was young. They showed me gray hairs. They made me listen to James Taylor records. It was all as loving and scary as could be, but that very year I went out and got totally superannuated. The desire to change, as I discovered, must come from within.

I'll never forget the night I hit bottom, the moment I realized I was totally out of control. It was way past midnight—one of the effects of age addiction is that you don't sleep very well—when my teenage daughter staggered home from a Cherry Pie Reaction concert. There I was, going at it like a ripe cheddar, really geezed out, rereading Shakespeare's sonnets. And I looked up at her through the haze of my abject maturity and asked: "What's a Cherry Pie Reaction?" Well, that girl, my own flesh and blood, that little person I used to carry in my arms, shot me a look of such intense disgust and pity that I was seared to my very soul. "Oh, Dad," she sneered, "You're so...old!"

It was my wake-up call, and I swore then and there that I was going to kick the habit. I know it's not going to be easy, but with patience, determination and support I'm sure I can lick this thing. I just have to take it one day at a time.

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