There was an article in the Financial Times recently about something called “the old suit”: an outfit cobbled together out of heavy dungarees and oven mitts and kneepads and yellow goggles. When you put it on, you feel old. You can't dial a phone very well. Your vision is dim. You have a hard time climbing stairs.
I'm already old. I feel a pang in my knee that wasn't there a few months ago. I wear false teeth. My glasses have been Coke-bottle thick for a long time now. I am a pantaloon, in the purest Commedia dell'Arte sense of the word: an old man in baggy clothes, trying to tell people what to do, and having little temper fits when they don't do it (and even sometimes when they do).
It is interesting and a little pathetic, growing old. It's especially interesting when you work at a university, as I do, and have young adults – late teens, early twenties – around you. I hire them sometimes to work around the office, and I am invariably enthralled by them, and invariably feel very parental of them. They are sweet and innocent and just about to leap into the abyss, and I want so badly to warn them.
I recall, however, that when I was that age, I hated advice.
So I try to deliver the information to them in coded form. For example: I might groan softly as I pass the front-desk area. “What's the matter?” Noah asks.
“Nothing,” I say, with just a hint of a stifled sob. “Joint pain. It happens. You'll see.”
Noah is a football player, and very young and big and healthy. So: it is very important that he receive this information.
He needs to know (as I did, at his age) that nothing lasts forever, not even youth.
But he won't listen.
Because I certainly didn't.