On my forehead stand a couple relics, hairs that have bravely refused to recede. They demarcate the old boundaries of my hairline. A stinging reminder of what was. Proud but sad, like a luxury hotel in an abandoned country.
I noticed them years ago when a Cool Barber downtown cut them off. Why is he applying a razor to my forehead? It was my first time at a Cool Barber so I thought maybe that was a trend? What I’m saying is, it was inconceivable to me that my hairline could recede.
When a buddy told me in 2014 that I was in fact losing some hair, I feared he was losing his mind. Me? When time begins to deteriorate the body, it doesn’t usually announce itself. Timing and severity is the difference between the balding 20-year old and the Silver Fox whose thick grey hair signals, unfairly, both old age and youth. But my situation seemed doubly unfair: Not only am I subject to hair loss, but why do I have in several places where hair isn’t strictly necessary, but not my head? What kind of shit is this, fate, you bastard?
My dad used to point to the skin on his head and say to me: “Look, son: this is your future.” I laughed. It was funny then and even now, despite the statement’s latent horror. The unavoidable fact is I am older than I used to be.
People say when you return home after skipping town things stay the same. That isn’t quite true. The cost of Toronto housing has become three or four tiers more insane and my social circle includes literal babies. The sign you have completed one major revolution in life’s cycle is hanging out with people well under the legal drinking age.
How, when did it come to this? Timeless questions. Age and time was once automatically measured and felt when it was linked to a school year. Time was divided into neat sections, then every few months was a milestone. Summer. As reward for completing some little time unit, go drink and smoke in the woods for two months (camp, fun place). Then start it all again. Repeat. Such was time. One day there is nothing left to graduate.
But my god, I’m not dying! I’m 33. Growing up, especially for males, was to have an immortality complex. The first signs of aging doesn’t mean death is around the corner, but it’s a sign that I am in fact subject to death. This is new and tbh not altogether pleasant.
With age comes responsibilities, some great and inevitable, but I don’t want age to determine things.
One of the best nights I had in India was hanging out with a 55-year-old friend, drinking and singing songs on guitar until 5am. In North America and in consumer society in general people are slotted into demographics. The more they are targeted, the more its reinforced and they come to think of themselves in narrow age terms. This is reductionist and limiting. People feel they can’t learn new skills or art, adventure. Age groups do not mingle here. It’s not like that elsewhere.
In 2016 I went to a rager Holi party loaded with babies and grandparents. That obnoxious class of people—20-somethings—were in abundance too. There was a kiddy pool, fully-catered food and open bar. I was wet, full and drunk. Some military gentleman hosted it in his Defence Colony home. The dance floor was hot, karaoke was bumping. I wasn’t sure what affect bhang would have on me, so I took it twice. Everyone went home by 4:30pm.
This party would never happen in Canada, not just because Holi is Indian but age here creates rigid barriers. Silos. Surrounded by people of different ages, people perform. The young strive to appear mature. The older, mature enough. People try to be an age, instead of themselves.
This different schema/outlook has parenting implications. My good Delhi buddy is a 40-year-old father with an 11-year-old kid. The boy came to some parties and saw us smoking hash. It’s a funny time in Toronto as we await Canada legalizing weed—there are people (crusty obsolete weenies) who would call child services and report this maniac of a dad, even as conservative politicians who recently demanded mandatory minimums for possessing weed jostle to become drug dealers. (Great article on Julian Fantino’s hypocrisy) My buddy justified it on very principled, philosophical grounds. In thrust, “I live a moral life, so why should I have to hide anything from my child?”
Aging requires answering one fundamental question: Will I live how my parents/community did, or carve out something different? There is no right answer There are probably elements of both. It’s worth saying, some otherwise indefensible values are defended simply because it’s the traditional way of doing things. But the familiarity and sense of belonging to one’s own culture can be meaningful, too.
This will affect where people decide to live, whether to raise a family, what kind of values underlie all this in our adult lives.
Actually, I no longer believe there is any such thing as “adults”. When you’re six, the nine-year-old at the playground is intimidating because they’re enormous and, being nine, they know life. I wonder what senior citizens think, as they watch people in their 60s and 70s fuck up the planet so badly. As a kid you see a friend’s parents, or your own, and you assume they’re responsible and wise. No, some are just children ravaged by time, so they look like that. Really they have coke problems, mid-life crises or other complexes. Maybe they’re terminally immature.
Age guarantees nothing. There are many very wise children and elderly maniacs with no grip on reality. Don’t get me wrong all things being equal, age brings wisdom and I respect people who lived through stuff. But all things are not equal, and the notion that people are on a guaranteed track marching forward towards Responsibility and Wisdom simply because they haven’t died yet is not true.
Wordsworth and Blake were onto something when they praised children. I’ve never seen an infant commit genocide! Everyone loves childhood innocence. What about adult guilt?
My hope is AI replaces everybody so we can all chill for a living. I’d like for us to all age gracefully, without being so fixated on the look rather than the health of our bodies. I don’t want to be forced or nudged into abiding by social mores concerning age that aren’t mine.
I won’t be a different man when those lonesome, heroic forehead hairs finally admit defeat. Other hairs will surely go, too. I accept my age now. It’s OK! Again, I’m not 101. But when I am fatter and even more severely weathered I hope there’s still a party for me somewhere, playing guitar until late. If there isn’t, I’ll make my own. Even if I’m saddled with those ever-present things going around these days, children.
Happy New Year’s, everybody!