Monday, January 28, 2013

Another Contemplation on Getting Older

"People don't change. They just get older."

This morning I quoted General Hospital's iconic Luke Spencer in an email to a friend in which I was trying to explain why sex with an ex is best when it ends there. If you broke up with him, or her, for a reason, chances are that reason hasn't stopped being an issue just because the sex was great. It was probably great because it was so familiar and comforting, so if things haven't really changed in bed, why make the leap to thinking they'll change outside of it?

But I'd rather not dwell on negatives. One of the biggest positives of my own recent encounter with an ex whom I hadn't seen in 11 months had to do with the way he thought I had changed. In the nearly one year since we'd last been face to face, he insisted, I hadn't gotten older. If anything, I looked younger than the last time he'd seen me. "I'm going to start calling you Benjamin Button," he said, to which I replied, "Go right ahead, mate!"

It was just what I needed to hear a month after being labeled "old" by Bart, the 30-year-old Melburnian acquaintance whom I ran into in Bali in December. "We've got to stop meeting like this," I said him when he pulled me into a bear hug on Saturday night at the Peel Hotel. It was great to see him, but by the end of our brief conversation, I had become Benjamin Button in reverse, feeling even older than I had after Bart and I had hung out in Bali.

"What are you doing on this side of town?" I asked. He lives in St. Kilda, and I never took him for being much of a Peel person. After all, considering how I'd run into him in two different Southeast Asian countries but not once before at the Peel, it felt safe to assume that he wasn't a regular. "I'm here for a 30th birthday party," he slurred, wobbling to the side and flashing a sweet grin that made me want to pinch his cheeks.

Hoping that none of my wrinkles were visible under the Peel's lighting, I stared at Bart, who didn't look a day over 23 (ah, the miracles of shaving), and glanced at his friends off to the side. I could remember when 30 seemed like such a big number. I must have been 27 at the time. But he and his friends looked like such babies, not unlike how I imagined the invitees at those 21st-birthday parties that my 24-year-old ex used to always go to must have looked.

When did 30 get so young? Probably around the same time that 40 stopped being scary. I'm now far enough away from the four-decade milestone to read the Facebook status update of a friend who recently was bemoaning turning 39 and find myself saying out loud, "Give it a rest! Give it a big fucking rest!" That's exactly what Cher told me in 1995 when I interviewed her and complained about how scary it was to be about to turn 26 and a half. I shudder in embarrassment every time I think about it. Only someone who is 26 and a half going on 19 would even consider the "half."

As I creep closer to Cher's age at the time (she was 49), the younger just keep getting younger. I recently read a message-board comment on Silver Linings Playbook in which someone alluded to the age difference between the movie's romantic leads, Jennifer Lawrence, 22, and Bradley Cooper, 38, not referring to the years that separate them but rather to how Cooper comes across like a "creepy older dude" beside Lawrence.

Older dude?! Last year's Sexiest Man Alive (according to People magazine)? I wasn't even going to touch the idea that he might be too old for Lawrence. When I turned 38, I was dating Leandro, an Argentine university student who was 22 at the time, and I've since continued to plunder the cradle regularly. Bradley Cooper has always read much younger to me. Maybe those frat-boy antics in The Hangover Part 2 had rendered him forever young ever since. I'd figured he wasn't a day over 35, though probably closer to 30.

Armed with the knowledge that he's actually pushing 40 (after consulting his IMDB and Wikipedia pages), only five years younger than me, my impression of him didn't change. He certainly was no creepy older dude. He still seemed like a kid to me, as much of one as Bart and his 30-year-old friends. Will I still feel the same way about Bradley Cooper when I'm 64, and he's 59? Does what one considers to be "old" get older as one gets older? That's a question for the aged, if not the ages, and frankly, I'm in no great hurry to find out for myself.

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