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Communiqués From Geezerville: What It’s Like Getting Old

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Communiqués From Geezerville: What It’s Like Getting Old

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Corie Skolnick’s latest Communiqués From Geezerville “What It’s Like Getting Old” talks candidly about what it’s like getting older, and conversations had between generations.


In spite of the lingering cloister due to the pandemic, a young friend of mine recently breached the security gates here in Geezerville. We spent some time catching up. It’s been a minute or two since ’Rona ruled o’er the land, but somebody somewhere on social media told me that if you yourself are over age sixty and you don’t have a mentor under age thirty, you’re missing vital current information. My friend is a wee bit over the thirty mark, and I am way, way, way over sixty, but we will make it work.

It was a lovely long visit, and as the sun was setting, I walked her outside to her car. She abruptly looked at me quite pensively and asked with a sincerity that broke my heart, “What’s it like getting old?” I had a mind to crack some irreverent jokes, but we had just made a pact to always be honest with one another. So, in the thrall of that solemnity, I restrained the impulse.

What I told her went more or less something like this (embellishments added for both clarity and recreation):

Let’s begin at the top, shall we? I mean literally. Like the top of our heads. Hair. Where is it now? Oh, sure, the shower drain. I get a handful every night, the nights I can bring myself to shampoo. Here’s one thing “they” don’t tell you about getting old. Stuff that used to be easy and routine, like washing your hair, gets hard to do and easy to put off; and the stuff that was hard but doable is now impossible. Like carefully washing all the interstitial spaces between your toes. A geezer we know recently confessed that he no longer takes a daily shower. Couldn’t be bothered. So, if you were wondering why Uncle Barry smells like dirty gym socks, there you have it. And this is undoubtedly the answer to the question, “Why does Aunt Lou wear so very MUCH Chantilly?”

But, back to hair … and note here, please, that as we get on in years another thing we geezers are prone to do is digress … like a lot. So, anyway, hair … lately I’ve been noticing that there seem to be little repositories of shedding hair everywhere I go. The couch in front of the TV. My desk chair. The car. And on the bathroom floor, especially all around the toilet. I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time on the pot, either. I’m a stop, drop, and GO kind of girl. I don’t linger and I usually do not read there. Alright, that’s not entirely true. Lately, I’ve been catching up on social media on the toilet, which does seem appropriate, don’t you agree? The flushing toilet is where most of that content belongs. The water closet is also the only locale in our house where one can be assured of a modicum of privacy. Pablo does not approve of my Facebook/Twitter habit, so I try to conceal it as much as possible. Just this morning I almost made it through a whole video of Paul Simon singing “The Boxer” live in Paris before I was found out. I would have finished it too if only I’d had earphones.

But I’m trying to tell you about the toll this aging thing has taken on my hair. So, back to hair, or more accurately, hair loss. As a society, we’ve tended to focus all our angst about hair loss on balding men, but I have recent testimony by several geezer lady friends that they are also losing hair at an alarming rate. The thing is, we are all ONLY losing the hair on the top of our heads (and other critical hair spots on our bodies where we actually WANT it—eyebrows, eyelashes … that’s about it). Superfluous body hair spontaneously disappearing from all our lady chins or our lady toes would be a welcome thing. I shall speak only for myself here. Alas, chin hairs are abundant and show no signs of reversing the direction of this unwelcome growth pattern. I could start a Geezer Lady Band called the Ancient Bearded Sisters if I only knew three old gals who could carry a tune and be willing to tour. Don’t get me started on toe beards. What evolutionary advantage do stringy little black hairs on my big toes provide? Pray tell.

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A dear person (who shall remain nameless in this missive because she’s REALLY sensitive about being hirsute) consulted an electrologist for the problem of excess facial hair. This expert in hair removal asked her directly if her genealogy could be traced to the Scandinavian countries, which of course it could. You may not be aware but the hairiest women on earth are not, as some maintain, women from the Mediterranean region of earth’s globe. The hairiest women are generally Norwegian. So those ancient depictions of Vikings with long flowing blonde locks and generous beards to their nipples? Those pictorials are apparently featuring the Norwegian girls. The Norwegian men were maybe off inventing skiing or something while, apparently, the womenfolk were the ones invading on the longboats. (Another reason why your 23andMe came back 2% Viking.) More than one first-degree relative has made me swear that no matter where I am when her death throes begin I’ll get a tweezer and a 20X magnifying mirror to her on her deathbed so as to avoid criticism from her undertaker and scorn from her offspring. And still, while we sport post-menopausal full-on beards, our once gloriously thick head hair continues to fall out all around us, clogging our drains and our vacuum cleaner bags to biohazard levels.

Another quick word about eyebrows, if I may. Except for that nanosecond when Brooke Shields was all the rage (when was that? back in the 1970s?), I don’t remember eyebrows being central to a woman’s beauty regime. When did that become a “thing” again? I have a hunch about this because mother nature appears to be one perverse bitch when it comes to aging. Glorious female abundant eyebrows probably became all the rage again the second mine started to disappear. Oh, I still have a few. Most of them are now growing on my chin, but they used to be where they belonged. To be 100% honest, I previously never had to give my eyebrows a single thought. I was downright smug about my naturally glorious eyebrows.

Now, like the rest of womanhood worldwide, thanks to my vulnerability to marketing and peer pressure, I am a sucker for any product promising the illusion of lush, full brows. Also, eyelashes, but that whole trend of artificially mimicking copulating spiders on your lids is one I’m going to let expire without my participation. I can resist a trend when it involves outright stupidity or unseemly expense, and I am hereby apologizing to all my friends who have succumbed to this ridiculous (and ridiculously expensive) new-ish beauty trend. I’m judging you. I suspect that these friends who have monthly appointments at the Brow and Lash salon are the same friends who were having their coochies waxed back in the day. (Are we still doing that, or not? I can’t keep track.) Full disclosure: I never waxed my cooch. And I’ll bet dollars to donuts that all my friends who dutifully went to Pink Cheeks on the reg in the way back so they could have absolutely bald pudendum now wish they had saved all that pubic hair for a nice weave up top today. I’m just saying.

Still, hair and where it’s going is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the unwelcome changes of Geezerhood. While we’re in the above-the-neck neighborhood, let’s discuss eyes. This agonizingly slow deterioration of my eyesight bullshit has been going on now for decades. I remember the precise moment I realized I was getting old and losing my sight. It was a balmy night and I was driving up in one of the canyons in the greater Los Angeles area. I had to pull over and take out a street map to try to locate a destination. I turned on the dome light. I can’t tell you how long it had been since I’d had the need to consult a map, but I can tell you that it was a damn shock to realize suddenly I COULD NOT SEE ANYTHING. I vaguely remember sitting there shedding a tear or two behind the wheel in full realization that I was getting old and inevitably I would require reading glasses. The year was 1990.

Let’s move around the corner and talk about ears. Really, hearing. What? Hearing loss is not something to joke around about, so naturally, it’s what Pablo and I do all day long and twice on Sundays. We both have “good” hearing in only one ear. Miraculously, his good ear is his left and my good ear is my right so when he’s driving we can’t hear each other. This fortunate reality comes in quite handy for the preservation of our marriage. He can’t hear my snide cracks about his failure to stop at stop signs and I can’t hear him tell me to STFU. It’s a kind of marital bliss in a very strange way.

Miraculously, his good ear is his left and my good ear is my right so when he’s driving we can’t hear each other. This fortunate reality comes in quite handy for the preservation of our marriage.

There I was, just getting warmed up to my subject; I hadn’t even tapped the horrid daily humiliations involving the changes going on inside my head or the nasty indignities occurring below the neck when it dawned on me that my young friend was giving me the same look my students used to give me at the very tail end of my teaching career. It was a sure sign I had digressed in what was probably the middle of an otherwise scintillating lecture.

“Am I answering your question? Is this what you wanted to know?” I paused.

She froze and blinked, looking both a little confused and a little horrified, rather like a gecko halfway up the hotel bathroom wall in Hawaii when you flip on the light switch in the middle of the night.

“Ummmm,” she dithered. “I think you misunderstood my question. I said, ‘What’s the time? It’s getting cold.’”

“Hahaha,” I chuckled. “I thought you said, ‘What’s it like getting old?’”

She blinked again then without even a hint of a smile, as only a woman less than half my age would do under the circumstances.

Waving her on her way and watching her taillights disappear, I stood in the middle of the darkening street and I recalled a tender conversation that Pablo had recently recounted to me after spending a similar afternoon with his friend Paul who was, at that time, almost ninety-five.

“What’s it like being ninety-five?” Pablo had asked him.

And Paul told him. “It isn’t too bad considering the alternative. But you want to know how it’s different from being in your seventies, right?”

“I do,” Pablo told him sincerely.

So, here’s what dear Paul said to him. “If somebody invited you to an event that was six months down the road, would you commit to it if you wanted to go, and put it in your calendar?”

Pablo nodded in the affirmative.

“Well,” Paul told him. “I wouldn’t. And THAT’S what it’s like being ninety-five.”

RIP, dear Paul. You were a true gentleman and a pillar of decency and kindness.


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Corie Skolnick

Corie Skolnick is the author of two novels, ORFAN and AMERICA’S MOST ELIGIBLE, both published by india street press the publishing subsidiary of indie record label, Mannequin Vanity Records. She is a contributor to the non-fiction anthologies, ADOPTION REUNION IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA AGE and ADOPTION THERAPY. Her essays have appeared in THE BIG SMOKE AMERICA and NAILED MAGAZINE. She writes regularly for the travel website, DESTO3.com. She is a San Diego State University/Hugh C. Hyde Living Writers Series selectee. Her first novel, ORFAN is in development as a feature film.

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