Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Growing older

            Getting old sucks. I wish I could say it more delicately, but there it is. I first typed ‘getting older sucks’. That made me feel a little less old, but it didn’t disguise the fact that, age wise, I’m peering down the long dark hallway of old. I don’t feel old, most days. I don’t think old. I don’t act old, or I don’t see myself as acting old. Okay, my 12 year old stepdaughter rolls her eyes at some of my antics, but what do 12 year olds know? The point is, I don’t think of myself as old until…
            Sometimes I’m reminded of my age, like when a young woman wears a low cut top and, as I’m talking to her (not chatting her up), she’s constantly pulling the edges of the top together. Let me state categorically that I don’t look at women’s chests. That’s just rude. I look into their eyes. They adjust their tops instinctively, I think, because they don’t like the idea of an older man looking where they purposefully drew the eyes.
            There are other reminders of getting older. I was leaving the office of a customer this afternoon. At the door, I said, ‘see you on the flip side’ to the young woman at the desk. She might be 30, I don’t know. She smiled. I was using an expression that she had heard but which came for a time well before hers. She didn’t know the origin of the phrase. I explained that it must have originated in the days of vinyl records. A hit single by some group sold the record but those cussed things had two sides and something had to be put on the ‘flip’ side. Someone made an association and a phrase was added to the lexicon.
            The young woman smiled an appreciative smile, but I wasn’t through. I asked if she knew the origin of saying that something sucks (see first sentence above). She blushed mildly, laughed uncomfortable and looked away. Most people think that the phrase has a sexual (unless you’re Bill Clinton) origin. The truth is, it has a … (wait for it) … farm origin. You heard it here. When we say something sucks, we’re abbreviating the original phrase, which was something ‘sucks a hind teat’. Let me give you a visual.
            Some years ago I lived in a small subdivision which backed up to a pasture. One day I was watching the cows. (Yeah, I’ve needed to get a life for some time.) It was Spring and calves were everywhere. I watched one as he stood beside him mother and nursed. She finished a clump of grass and moved several steps forward to another. The calf, not to be foiled by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, walked up behind his mother, put his head between her back legs and picked up where he had left off. Mom dropped a load – right on her calf’s head.
            So now you know what it means to say that something sucks a hind teat. And now you know how it feels, sometimes, to be getting old(er).

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