Saturday, August 05, 2006

As a Man - Getting Older

I am a 55 year old White male. My father died of stomach cancer at age 46 when I was 13 and my brother was 11. I recently retired.

I am very conscious of getting older. When I was younger I could easily deny issues relating to getting older (when that meant something potentially negative). My body was strong and most things I did or tried to do I succeeded or failed at them unrelated to "being older".

I have increasing reminders of what it means to be "old", though I don't feel "old" (yet). Sometimes when I get out of the car, my body is stiff an feels immobile for a few minutes. It can be hard to move onto the ground or to get up from the ground. My back aches at various times. My vision is clearly weakening. Now I have trouble both with things close up and far away. My eyes can be blurry at times and things can seemingly "get in the way" when I look at things.

Over the past 13 or so years I have had increasing issues with getting and maintaining an erection. Viagra helps in one way at times, but I don't like it. My sexuality is not defined by my penis, but my partner is not happy with this limitation in our sex life (though she's never experienced me without this limitation).

I am also in well above average physical shape. I rode my bicycle for three hours at a good rate last Sunday and could have gone several more hours easily. I lift weights and do plenty of aerobic exercise.

As a man I have learned that I should "be in control" of myself. Learning to live with aches, pains and simply the knowledge that I'm "going downhill" isn't easy. I can laugh at some of it, but at other times my mortality is a reminder I can't ignore. I used to be extremely driven in the moments of my life. Now I appreciate taking some things slower and allowing myself to enjoy individual moments I didn't experience before. This also gives me time to think of my own limitations and the fact that I won't live indefinitely in the future.

I believe that it is different getting older as a man in some important ways from the experiences women have. I'm not sure that I fully understand the differences. Because I've not emotionally taken care of the needs of others in important ways that many women do, I am different in looking at myself. Physiologically it is also different not having the hormonal cycles and the potential of bearing children. Women seem to have more of a sense of "surviving" and living through things that they can't control than men do.

Getting older isn't easy! I am enjoying my life more now than I did when I was younger.



thinking girl said...

great post.

I think there is a sense in our culture of being identified with one's body, and embodiment, as the most important thing about a person. Which is why at various stages of life, we can feel as though our body is betraying us. I experienced this sort of betrayal when I Was in a car accident several years ago and couldn't do all the things I was used to doing. It is very frustrating! Especially when you feel - on the inside - much different! IT would be nice if embodiment wasn't such a focus, if we could place more importance on ideas, character, etc. What do you think?

geo said...

I think that you bring up an excellent point! I think that identifying with our bodies may affect most men and women in different ways. For women control of their bodies often relates in significant part to how thin they are and often how large or small their breasts are. Body self-image obviously can be very self-destructive and simply hurting here. Particularly as women get older looking young becomes a focus often in terms of appealing to men and how men may judge them.

For men often I think that we learn falsely that we have control of our worlds and our bodies often reflect to us the degree of control we feel that we have.

This narrow vision (as you point out) leaves out so many other parts of our lives. As men our judging of bodies (our own, other men's and women's) often reflects a vision of the world which limits how we can view beauty and values in so many ways.

Underneath this (particularly for men) and for me personally is my fears of death and immobility. Learning to make peace with my mortality is important. Appreciating what I have is important.

Thanks for an insightful reply!