ASSOCIATES (2009, November, v. 16, no. 2)


Library Life:
A Column of Eclectic Rantings

Katie Buller Kintner

Another issue of “Associates” comes along and once again, I am bereft of ideas for my column. Actually, about a month ago, I had a great idea but since I did not write it down, my memory has selectively purged itself of it. This comes with getting older and finally I have to admit, I am getting old.

You youngsters of fifty or less out there will not probably have these problems for a while, so pardon me while I commiserate with the rest of us oldsters. Yep, we finally have to admit—time is marching quickly and bearing right down on us.

I first noticed the following phenomena when I was working in an academic library. Most of the staff was around the same age. I am not sure if this was deliberate or just coincidence, but we were graying together and when I last worked in this library, I looked around one day and suddenly felt very old. People I had known for years were showing streaks of gray in their thick hippie locks, wearing bifocals and getting wrinkles in their elbows. It got worse during the 1990s when the majority of women staff members were going through menopause. Oh, what a joyful place to work it was during that time!

I thought I was old then, but wouldn’t you know it, time did not freeze and let me stay 45 in peace. No, it kept going on and I kept getting older. Will this never stop? Well…yeah, it will but when it does, I probably will not care to partake in that event but won’t have much choice.

Aging is a process I would not wish on anyone. Working in a pharmacy part time that caters to many senior citizens, I am seeing my own future walking, caning, rolling or otherwise ambulating through the door all the time. I feel fortunate that I am still on my own two feet but that is about all I can lay claim to. I am barely on them anyway because retail work is horrible for feet and backs. My feet almost feel as if I am standing on lengthwise on a couple of two-inch diameter PVC pipes. I can’t balance all that well anyway, as my ankles are endemic and weakened by several sprains over the years. It is not unheard of for me to step on a small uneven crack in a sidewalk and wind up on my face in the concrete.

I am getting fatter too and I do not just mean a few pounds. When I shop for clothes, XL or even XXL will not do. I have to get the Goodyear Blimp sized drapery. I cannot blame age for all of that though—there is also the fact that the pharmacy sells candy and snacks. Even the organic “healthy” stuff will add pounds. After all, sugar is organic.

Then there is the weird stuff that seems to be happening. My eyes, once dependably myopic and astigmatic, are changing. Bifocals don’t even seem to do the job either so I’m constantly removing my glasses and putting the newspaper up to my nose to read the small print. Fine print? It’s just a black blob of whatever at the bottom of an aspirin bottle. Laser printing has made it possible to print in such tiny letters that I would need to be a Lilliputian to read it.

Next, what is up with toenails? My toenails used to be easy to clip, but now I need to hire three dockworkers to squeeze the clippers for me, especially my pinky toes. Why should my pinky toes, who never hurt anyone but me, be forced to bear such a weighty thick toenail? Is this fair?

Then there is hair.

First, my mousy dark brown hair was just fine the way it was but a gray streak coming in the front seemed to add an air of elegance. Now this gray streak is insisting on spreading itself all over my head! Stop it, gray streak!

Trying not to get too graphic, there is also the hair in my nose. I’m not growing a mustache out of there but it is disturbing to see a gray hair poking out. It must be pulled immediately or I look like I have to blow my nose.

Facial hair is also a mystery to me. I keep having these little black bristles growing out of my chin. Okay, I confess that hunting those little brutes down and pulling them has become sort of a pleasant pastime for me. One time however, I suddenly felt something like a fishing line pulling at my mouth and discovered, to my horror, that a silkier hair had grown to the point that it was long enough to get caught in my mouth. How had I not noticed this during my many plucking sessions? The answer must be that it literally grew over night from a little wisp into a thread at least two inches long!

Getting away from hair now, which I am sure you appreciate. Probably the most irritating thing about aging is the obliteration of my many cultural references. Things I thought were classic never-to-be-forgotten events are just a footnote in history to younger people today. I used to be able to ask nearly everyone where they were the day President Kennedy was shot and get a detailed answer. Now I mention that historic event in my own context of being alive that day and get looks from younger folks that make me realize I sound like their grandparents. Come on, 1950 is not all that long ago, is it?

Changes in the use of language also have left me behind. The word “sick” used to mean that you were ill or more slangily, were disgusting or deranged. Now “sick” means “great”, which leaves me scratching my graying head. I suppose it’s similar to the 80s idiomatic use of “bad” meaning “good” or “tough”. I didn’t understand that one either. Then the terms of my generation such as “fab”, “far out” and “groovy” mystified my parents, so I suppose it’s just a bit of karma coming back at me. Excuse me while I gulp down some Geritol.

Music is the biggest generation gap indicator of all. I do remember Elvis’ appearances on the Ed Sullivan show, cranking his pelvis around. My memory is much clearer when the Beatles arrived. My image of gray and wrinkled Paul McCartney is still that of his dark haired energetic youth. I suppose it is all relative—today’s youth is tomorrow’s senior citizen. I hope I’m around long enough to cackle when their kids and grandkids cringe at the sound of the Jonas Brothers and Kanye West, then ask how they could stand listening to that stuff.

This ancient scribe is going to close out this issue’s column by wishing you a fab, groovy, far out holiday season. Stay safe and remember to crank up those oldies good and loud when the grandkids are trapped in the car with you!