Peter Chow: What Kind of Old Man Do We Want To Be?

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Wait, but I’m too young to be this old!!

Tough .

Deal with it!

There is no clear line when a person is old.

It’s a blurry line, something we grow into as we age.

Then suddenly, before we realize it, one day we are there.

We look into the mirror and realize we are old, and we never knew when we actually crossed that line.

 

Then, life becomes like a roll of toilet paper  –  the closer to the end, the faster it goes.

Aging gracefully is just a nice way of saying you’re only slowly looking worse.

You can live to be a hundred if you just give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.

The difference between sex and death is that with death you can do it alone and no one is going to make fun of you.

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I would prefer to achieve immortality through not dying.
It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

Student:   Mr. C?   How old are you?

Me: Take a guess.

Student: Oh, I don’t know.   Maybe 59?

Me: You’re really good at this.

When I ponder the years ahead and how I will spend my time, I have come to the conclusion that I have some decisions to make.

I need to decide now that I have retired from Medicine, how I want to spend the extra time I have, and what kinds of hobbies and other interests I will pursue.

The most important decision, however, is what kind of Old Man I want to be.

As I think about it, there are 5 distinctly different kinds of old men, each one with its own set of characteristics, looks, and behaviours.

I have known plenty of each kind, and each kind has its advantages and drawbacks.

Here are the choices.

THE GRUMPY OLD MAN

We’ve all witnessed the classic, “You kids get off my lawn!” syndrome, so typical of 60-something Grumpy Old Men.

The look: A scowling face, a wagging finger, and a shaking head.

The targets: The economy. Teenagers.

Some dub it “Grumpy Old Man Complex.”

Or “Irritable Male Syndrome,” a spike in the outward crankiness of guys of a certain age.

As more Baby Boomers hit 60  –  the age when male grumpiness seems to kick in  –  be ready for a growing chorus of grouchy flare-ups, like a Donald Trump set to explode.

The government is on the wrong track, taxes are too high, kids have no respect, multi-millionaire-athletes are on performance-enhancing drugs, the world has gone Twitter-mad, your computer locks up, your cellphone drives you insane and everybody else’s cellphone drives you even more insane.

 

Just thinking about all of this was getting me, yes, irritated.

He used to be the rock; the strong one; the one who took charge.

Feeling that he is no longer useful, especially, if he held an important position in employment prior to retirement, can result in severe depression at worst and general grumpiness at best.

 

He used to like to learn new things.

Now he’s gotten set in his ways.

The world is changing around him and he doesn’t like it.

He used to be athletic.

Now he’s got a litany of physical complaints.

His back hurts.

His knee is killing him.

 

Testosterone grows muscles, reduces fat in the body, affects energy, and improves sexual desire.

However, it also has neural-psycho effects.

And in some men, those effects can be mostly low mood and irritability.

Grumpiness is even used as a mood description in screening questionnaires for low testosterone.

One form many male patients are asked to fill out is a test for Androgen Deficiency in Aging Men (ADAM).

Question No. 6 on that form reads: “Are you sad and/or grumpy?”

The Grumpy Old Man is sometimes as humorous to watch as he is aggravating to deal with.

Becoming the Grumpy Old Man takes time and is achieved by honing a bad attitude on a daily basis.

If this is the kind of old man you want to be, there are certain criteria you need to meet.

You have to be the “Debbie Downer” and look for the bad in everything.

If you read the news, it is imperative not to read the happy, feel-good stuff.

You have to read the bad news  –  the shootings, the corruption, any article that tells you the world is going down the toilet.

You have to cultivate your Inner Grump.

You have to embrace it.

You have to check your smile and don a consistent frown.

It helps if you practice at home in front of a mirror.

The Grumpy Old Man has to master the technique of harrumphing whenever the occasion arises, and sarcasm is a must.

Quick, snappy retorts and rapid repartee are the lifeblood of the Grumpy Old Man.

My favourite Gumpy Old Men:  Grumpy in Snow White, Ebeneezer Scrooge in Scrooge/A Christmas Carol and Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.

I would normally have handed the trophy to Eastwood’s Detective Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry, but he wasn’t really an old curmudgeon.

He was more of a middle-aged curmudgeon

 

THE DIRTY OLD MAN

You become a dirty old man when you are old enough to stare at high school girls, and nearly have a car accident.

When you’re a young man and you get caught checking out a pretty young girl, you might get a flirty look back.

But when you’re over 60 and you get caught checking out a pretty young girl, she’ll probably shoot you a look that says, “What are you looking at, grandpa?”

The day you realize you’ve crossed that line from potential suitor to lecherous senior is a very sad day indeed.

As we grow older, we don’t stop noticing attractive women and we still lust after the things we did when we were younger.

Even if our bodies can’t keep up anymore, our minds are still thinking things like, “Reverse Cowgirl sounds like fun!”

That doesn’t make us perverts.

That just makes us men.

But society isn’t comfortable with us having active libidos after a certain age.

We’re supposed to hang them up and never show them in public again, just like our skinny jeans.

But it doesn’t work that way.

We can’t help it.

Is sex dirty?

Only when it’s being done right.

Love is the answer, but while you are waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty good questions.

Our sex drive is on autopilot.

If we could have controlled it, we wouldn’t have gotten into so much trouble when we were young.

 

But now that we’re old, we’re expected to hide our sexual desires like a priest conducting a boys choir.

We have a socially accepted word for older women who date younger men, which is “Cougar.”

It even sounds sexy.

But we don’t have a commonly accepted or sexy sounding term for older men who date younger women.

We just get called “Creepy Old Guy” or “Dirty Old Man.”

Some people find this man funny.

Other people find this man disgusting.

This guy is always on the make with younger women, middle-aged women, and elderly women.

He will hit on nurses that are caring for him in the hospital, waitresses at every restaurant he goes to, and even the people that care for him in a nursing home.

There is no one this guy won’t hit on.

Even the crack of dawn has to be careful around this guy.

The Dirty Old Man tries to be cute and funny, but most people just tolerate him, barely.

The Dirty Old Man makes inappropriate sexual remarks, embarrasses women with whom he comes in contact, and is probably the loneliest of the five types.

After all, the only thing more pathetic than a young pervert is an old pervert.

There is no real way to prepare or train for this.

You either have it or you don’t.

My guess is that most dirty old men had lackluster sex lives, few occasions for intimacy, and become dirty old men to hide the fact that part of their lives was mostly unfulfilled.

This is not one of the types I am considering pursuing, and unless being lonely in your old age is something you look forward to, I suggest you steer in a different direction.

I suppose there are young women who generally love men who are old enough to be their fathers, or grandfathers, and the fact that those men are always wealthy is just a coincidence.

But I understand why people might be a little grossed out when they think about the two of them having sex.

Of course, we shouldn’t think about that because it’s none of our business.

But it’s really difficult for that image not to pop into our heads, and to get it out after it does.

There are times when most guys will feel conflicted and uncomfortable with their own reflexive thoughts.

Like when a little girl they’ve known her whole life, seemingly overnight, becomes a full grown woman and sprouts boobs.

What?

Are we not supposed to notice?

Suddenly it’s uncomfortable when we hug them and we become self-conscious about just kissing them on the cheek.

Should we stop doing that?

Are we in danger of turning into “The Creepy Uncle”?

There’s a beautiful old song from the ’50s called This Is All I Ask.

It’s sung from the point of view of a sweet old man who is appreciating his life in a whole new way.

One of the lyrics is, “Beautiful girls, walk a little slower when you walk by me.”

Nobody thought that was creepy when Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett sang it.

But these days, it has a completely different connotation.

Now this sweet old man would be the object of scorn and would probably get sued for sexual harassment.

So how can an older man, who still has an active libido and appreciation for beautiful young women, not be perceived as a Dirty Old Man?

Hide it.

Really well.

THE LOVABLE OLD MAN

Everyone loves the Loveable Old Man.

That’s why we call him that.

The loveable old man is easy to pick out of the crowd.

He is the one smiling, and generally has people around him.

He is the old man people throw birthday parties for and shower with gifts.

At Christmas, he is the person wearing the ugliest sweater proudly, just grateful for being alive.

He is often seen with small children on his knee telling them stories as their eyes grow wide with excitement.

Becoming the Loveable Old Man requires that you can be, well, loveable.

I am reminded of what the Wizard of Oz told the Tin Man upon receiving his heart.

The Wizard told the Tin Man:

“A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”

Like the Grumpy Old Man and the Crazy Old Man, if you are planning to pursue this lifestyle, it is best to start early.

After all, if you are going to be loveable, someone has to love you, and that requires participation.

80% of being loveable is that you show up.

THE CRAZY OLD MAN

There is no telling what the Crazy Old Man is thinking or what he will do.

The Crazy Old Man is capable of doing almost anything and will do it at the least expected time.

It is always hard to say whether this particular man is truly crazy, or just having fun at your expense.

Like the Grumpy Old Man, if you are interested in becoming the Crazy Old Man, you have to start early.

If you lead a perfectly normal existence, and then suddenly start acting crazy, there is a high likelihood you won’t be believed, or some might think it is a temporary condition resulting from the wrong medication or something along those lines.

It is probably best to begin the journey by talking to yourself.

Everyone does it, but most people are embarrassed when they are caught doing it.

The key here is not to be embarrassed.

Just keep doing it like it’s normal.

 

Another technique I cannot emphasize enough is to let whatever hair you have grow out a little.

You are going for the Einstein look.

Don’t comb it, unless you combing it to stick out more than it already does.

You don’t want to overdo it though.

You are going for subtlety here.

 

But more seriously and sadly, it’s very common for older adults to develop persisting fears, worries, and complaints that often strike their family members as irrational, paranoid, absurd, or ridiculous….or crazy.

This is often related to underlying cognitive impairment.

Meaning, Dementia that hasn’t yet been fully diagnosed.

For a variety of reasons, it’s pretty common for older adults with Dementia to experience a delay in getting diagnosed.

In other cases, this kind of complaint ends up being one of the very earliest signs of clinical Dementia.

Lewy-Body Dementia in particular is associated with visual hallucinations.

But any process causing Dementia (Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, Parkinson’s etc.) can result in anxieties spiralling out of control, with persistent strange beliefs.

That said, it’s quite possible for an aging person to express such fears and not have it be Dementia.

Maybe there really is an animal in the house, or a person stealing your parent’s things.

It’s also possible for people to develop confusion or false beliefs due a problem other than Dementia, such as mental illness or delirium.

 

THE WISE OLD MAN

The quest for wisdom is an age-old effort.

Grumpy, dirty and crazy are kind of default states.

Loveable and wise take a lot of effort.

 

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit;  wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

Intelligence is commonly associated with knowing something.

Wisdom is different.

It’s different because it has more dimensions.

Wisdom not only knows, but it also understands.

And the distinction between knowing and understanding is what makes things interesting.

Simply knowing this doesn’t make a person more equipped to soak in wisdom, but with awareness and practice, new thinking patterns can be created.

The way you do this shapes everything else.

It’s worth working on.

Knowing is generally factual.

You have learned a particular kind of knowledge and you know its truth as it applies to a particular problem.

Understanding, however, is more fluid.

You have learned a particular kind of knowledge, but you don’t see it as a fact or a truth applied rigidly to one thing.

Rather, you understand that knowledge’s essence and you can see how it relates to everything else, with nuances and contradictions included.

The difference is subtle but potent.

While intelligence gives you specific utility, wisdom inspires flexible versatility.

It provides a more textured lens for interacting with reality, very much changing how you think.

 

The Wise Old Man archetype is one of an elderly man of philosophical bearing notable for his possession of great wisdom, knowledge, temperament and judgement.

Traditionally depicted in literature and art as a father-figure, the Wise Old Man is a kindly and gentlemanly figure, often with an aura of mysticism about him – e.g. Confucius.

He is a vivid and compelling storyteller, often using his storytelling as a means of passing on his wisdom and guidance to those whom he mentors.

The Wise Old Man is an old geezer with great foresight, who offers measured advice and guidance to help the hero in his quest, and at the same time letting the hero choose his path towards destiny.

This archetype has been described in various forms throughout literature across cultures.

The Wise Old Man archetype makes its presence felt in modern popular fiction as well, for instance, as Yoda from Star Wars, as the Wizard Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings and as Professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter series to name a few.

The Wise Old Man believes above all in the power of knowledge and in the importance of truth.

A self-reflective individual, he is often depicted in literature as a person on a quest for the “truth” or a sense of enlightenment.

 

This makes the Wise Old Man an introspective and sometimes introverted person who prefers their own company and lives with a degree of solitude.

The Wise Old Man is representative of the values of discipline, self-control, duty, rules, habit, temperance and rationalism.

There are a whole host of historical examples of individuals who fit the Wise Old Man archetype, including Confucius in China, and the Sages of Talmudic lore and Abraham, Moses and Solomon in Judeo-Christian tradition.

In film and literature the Wise Old Man archetype makes a regular appearance.

Examples include Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, Yoda in Star Wars, Mr Miyagi in The Karate Kid and Iroh from Avatar.

 

The Wise Old Man is easy to spot.

He is the one who continues to read, continues to learn, and he always has some kind of hobby going on.

The Wise Old Man not only has a head full of knowledge, but he knows when and where to apply it, and just as importantly, when and where not to apply it.

The Wise Old Man does not give advice.

He offers to give advice.

There is a difference.

 

The Wise Old Man has lived a long time, and he remembers.

He makes connections between things that others might not.

He sees the transience in the things we do, the impermanence.

He doesn’t seem to fear death.

Rather, he seems accepting of it as a natural part of being alive.

He is a man comfortable in his own skin.

 

Becoming the Wise Old Man is not easy.

Even though it sounds like a great choice, it is fraught with problems, the main one being wise in the first place.

You have to value wisdom.

You have to think like a wise man.

Wisdom is not something you can buy at Target for $19.95 (Made in China, of course).

If you know this, you are already on your way.

 

TAKING THE FORK IN THE ROAD

 

Which course to pursue??

 

As Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

I am confident that I would not make a very good Dirty Old Man, and I think I embarrass too easily to ever be the Crazy Old Man.

There are days that I feel myself becoming the Grumpy Old Man, but then something comes along to snap me out of that.

The Loveable Old Man or the Wise Old Man sound like nice personas to wear in my later years, but I’m still debating.

Stay tuned.

2 COMMENTS

  1. “don’t be a grumpy old man”

    next article will be like a 10 page diatribe of weird ad hominem about Musk, Trump, and whatever vaguely right-wing clouds Peter Chow can shake his fist at

    reading this inspired a lil poem for me

    windmill tilting, awkward stilting, Peter to a tee /
    a life of posting wordpress blogs is not the life for me

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