I'm getting older. This was brought to my attention when an anonymous friend left a birthday card on my desk, along with a brand-new denture brush. Very funny.
What kind of person would mock a friend on the eve of his fortieth birthday? Just about every person, that's who. Apparently there is a bottomless barrel of mirth when it comes to the idea that people are becoming more wrinkled and closer to death.
Folks think it's funny that I am losing hair on my temples (while suddenly, out of nowhere, getting luxuriant growth from my ears). And they think it's a real hoot that I can't remember anything, including those three digits you're supposed to dial in an emergency. Well, we'll see how funny it is when they're lying on the floor with chest pains and the only phone number I know from memory is 1-800-COLLECT.
I suppose that one of the differences between men and women--besides their level of interest in Richard Gere videos--is their reaction to growing older.
If you're a man, you tend to take each birthday stoically, suppressing feelings of failure that spring from the fact that Bill Gates owned a billion-dollar company when he was half your age, while your career has only now advanced to the point where the boss can call you by name without glancing at your name tag.
Women are more likely to welcome each birthday with peaceful serenity. The same peaceful serenity that they feel bungee jumping over a pit of spiders.
Why do women view the aging process with such fear and loathing? All I know is that little girls can't wait to hold up the number of fingers that indicate their age, but ask a big girl her age and she'll target you with powerful eye-beams that shrink you to the size of an Ingathering can.
Strangely enough, when a woman hits her eighth decade, she once again becomes eager to tell her age. I recently had Sabbath lunch with Aunt Nan, who steered the conversation--as she usually does--to the fact that she's 94 years old. If she had been a competitive woman, I might have wondered if it was her way of saying, "See if you can make it this far, punk."
Actually, I liked her attitude. I hate to see anyone lament growing older. Why should we feel bad about losing our youth? Youth is the time when getting a tattoo seemed like a good idea. And when "The Fonz" appeared to be the perfect life mate. And let me tell you, "Muskrat Love" by the Captain and Tennille was great music only to the young.
So we can live without youth. We will embrace maturity, enjoying the comfort of jeans with elastic waistbands and the emotional power of country music.
But we still really hate to give up strength and beauty. We don't want to lose our pep and to feel as though the warranty has run out on our bodies. We don't want to admit that we're using Lancome's double-performance treatment for "facial elasticity."
How desperately should we hold on to strength and beauty? I don't know, but it seems best to relax our grip. Isn't the whole exercise of faith letting go of what we once held so tightly, and waiting to see what God puts into our empty hands?
So here I am turning 40, and people are laughing at me. I might as well join them.
Kim and his wife, Lori, are growing older together in West Virginia. They're deciding on the best place to put up a porch swing. Kim is director of periodical advertising for the Review and Herald.