There I stood, in the pharmacy section of the local Publix grocery store. I've been down that aisle literally hundreds of times before, buying deodorant and shampoo and toothpaste. And as the years have flown by, I'd pass various items in the aisles geared toward old people and just snicker to myself.
...Except in that moment, when I was holding a box of Preparation H it in my hand, reading the back to determine which particular variation was right for my particular butt problem. Did I need Maximum Strength, or would regular strength do me just fine? Why did they even make a regular strength? Don't they know I want the maximum available relief for my butt problem? What about the kind with aloe?
It dawned on me just then: I'm old.
When you're a teenager, you cannot conceive of the fact that you're going to be old one day. It's just not going to happen to you. Sure, you're going to age. You'll be an adult, and that's gonna ROCK, cause then you can do all the things you want to do without anyone's permission! Except you won't want to. And even if you did, you won't be able to. Not in the ways you could then.
There's plenty of things we accept are going to happen to us when we get older, but put off worrying about: aches and pains. Grey hair. Medications. Stuff like that. But then, there's these moments where you're screaming in your head, "NO! NOT ME! IT'S NOT TRUE! IT'S IMPOSSIBLE!" and you want to fall from a scaffolding into a mile-long ventilation duct under a city in the clouds. And then, you realize, there's an entire generation of kids who won't get that reference because they've never even heard of The Empire Strikes Back. And it's these moments that truly hit you across the face and make you realize you're old.
These are some of the things I always heard about and knew happened with age, and never once believed they'd happen to me.
Preparation H... The name alone is just plain funny, isn't it? You can't read the name and think in terms of the word "preparation" and the letter H, conceptualizing how they made preparations A-G. No. When you read, hear or see "Preparation H" the first thing you think is "Huh huh... Butt." As an adolescent -- hell, as a full-grown adult -- I couldn't think about it without laughing. I mean, it goes in your butt! It relieves hemorrhoid flare-up. It even has a butt applicator tip! There is NOTHING not funny about Preparation H!
Except when you have to use it. And believe me, it's not something I embraced easily. I put off even considering the idea of using it for weeks, until the flare-up started feeling like what you see in the commercials where the guy's butt is literally smoking.
I couldn't find the commercial with the guy's butt smoking, so here's a still shot from the show Whitney, which is about as funny as a hemorrhoid.
And if there's one thing less pleasant than actually having to use it, it's having to buy it. There you stand in the check-out, your Preparation H stashed alongside a tube of toothpaste and behind a case of Coke Zero. You hope that the clerk will just mindlessly whip the box across the laser scanner, just like he did with everything else... Nope. He saw. Now he knows that you've got butt problems. And then the bagger kid, he examines it as he puts it into the bag, and then your secret is out: you're old in public.
And then, there's actually using the stuff. It's not something you're really going to be prepared for the first time. You have two methods: the "applicator tip" or your finger. Neither is pleasant. One is foreign and cold and plastic and creates the immediate feeling of "this does not belong here," and the other is your finger.
The moment of acceptance: When you finally force yourself to apply the cream, and the feeling of relief is enough to make you go "yeah, fuck that shit, I'm old and this stuff works and I'm over it." From that point forward, you have no issues with jamming whatever apparatus you've chosen up your exit, because to not do so is to live in a fiery hell of discomfort.
The Ring Of Fire
"Oh man," you say, "I can't wait for Sunday and the big game! Beer and hot wings, here I come!"
Then Monday arrives, and your stomach is turning and your butt is burning. And not even Preparation H can help. And you don't want to accept it, so you don't -- not for weeks. But inevitably, you hear yourself utter the words "Man, my stomach just can't handle that anymore" and a bell inside you dings. You've just ticked off another item on the list of issues that show up with age.
Other dietary issues begin to show up, like lactose intolerance and gluten resistance, and suddenly, you're making a conscious decision at every social gathering and friendly lunch. Do you play it safe and just go for the salad, or do you suffer tomorrow's hell for today's delicious stack of Extra Blazin' hot wings followed up with a bowl of ice cream?
The moment of acceptance: when you realize exactly what those kinds of food are doing to the rest of your body as well, and you make that mid-life diet shift to become more fit and healthy. And then you realize, you're not craving that stuff anymore, because in all the ways that count, it just doesn't do you any good. Plus, reading your Kindle on the toilet is so much more enjoyable if there isn't a fire kindling in your colon.
I'd LOVE to play Skyrim all night, but...
I was a hardcore gamer. I say "was" with a pang of sadness, as this year, I had to accept I'm not hardcore anymore. First of all, I've started playing games at "normal" difficulty or below because it's so much more fun. I used to love the challenge of Insane difficulty settings. But now, the ability to afford a replacement television has caused me to abandon the need to suppress my urge to hurl the controller at the screen out of rage. The challenge is no longer a challenge, it's a frustration.
And while that's hard to stomach, it's nothing compared to the first time you put off gaming out of "responsibility." You promised to get up early and take the garbage to the dump, or you agreed to help your Mother-In-Law install shelving. This means no all-night Skyrim romps.
There used to be a time when I could slay these assholes for hours on end. Now, I'm lucky to kill one a night if that.
Sure, you'll try it. A few times, even. But as you age, your ability to work without sleep starts to fade, and there comes this moment when you begin realizing you're miserable the next day. That's not the "I'm getting old moment." No.
The "I'm getting old moment" is when you find yourself thinking how nice it'd be to slay dragons for the next few hours, and then start calculating the amount of sleep you will miss and how horrible the next day will be without it.
She's Half Your Age
You're out at lunch with a friend, or you're shopping, and you both pause for a moment as you spy a beautiful young lady (or young male, if you're female. Or if you're not. Either way). You share a knowing glance with your friend. Then, somehow a conversation starts -- maybe she's your server at the restaurant, or asks your assistance at the store.
In conversation -- benign as it is, without any motive -- something comes up. A song might play on the speaker system, or a reference to a movie is made, and it comes out: she just graduated high school and is starting college. She's 18 years old.
Literally half your age.
Did you know that the minimum age to work at Hooters is 17 years old? There's something deeply wrong with that, considering the clientele of Hooters is made up almost exclusively of sad lonely men desperate for the attention of a sad desperate girl. Also, I don't care how much you swear to me you eat there for the wings, you're a liar.
And it only gets worse as you get older, I imagine. I'm 35 tomorrow, and this just happened the other day. I felt dirty, even though I wasn't hitting on the girl in any way whatsoever. It was the mere fact that I thought she was pretty that made me feel like Chris Hanson was going to pop out from behind the Customer Service counter and ask me to have a seat.
These Kids Today...
And on that topic, it's even worse when they aren't attractive because they look like this:
Seriously? Do they own mirrors? What the hell am I saying, of course they do. That's not the problem. It's not that they look retarded and tacky, it's that they THINK THEY LOOK GOOD.
I swear to God, these fucking kids today...
...until you realize that, in the 90's, we looked like this: