Increasingly, I’ve noticed a new condition among certain friends. Many of them seem humorless, world-weary, whiny. At first I had a hard time diagnosing the problem. Were they clinically depressed? Coming down with an energy-zapping virus?
Only while attending an Oscar party where half the guests failed to identify the red carpet stars ("Bridesmaids? Never heard of it.”) did it hit me: A freakish number of my peers were suffering from something I’ve decided to call early onset oldness. In friendship, this can be even more divisive than opinions about how to solve the Social Security crisis.
I’m not talking about physical decline, from which no human being escapes. Early onset oldness goes beyond demanding 6 o’clock reservations in silent, blindingly bright restaurants and a sudden affinity for shoes so sensible you could drive a tractor in them. It’s reflected in the choices we make, the subjects we discuss and the megawatts of vigor we bring to tasks at hand.
An alarming part of express-aging reveals itself in attitude. As some of my friends’ strides have slowed, so has their curiosity about the world. I see inertia congealing like a 1959 Jell-O mold, with get-up-and-go that’s got up and gone.
Whenever I’m with certain friends exactly my own age, I suffer through a conversational loop that rarely strays from kids, grandchildren, health histrionics and future retirement to sunbelt locations that breed lassitude, and wonder if early onset oldness sufferers feel that because they’re approaching or have passed a milestone birthday, they are court-ordered to kick it down a notch?
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