Earlier this week there was lively speculation about my age. One woman thought I might be 36, which took me by great surprise. When she conferred with one of the more sober members of the team, he gave me the once over and suggested mid to late thirties. I’ve always looked more youthful than my age, and have excellent skin, but I was flabbergasted nonetheless. What about my beard? I asked. I grew a beard about eight weeks ago, and most of it is grey and, I think, makes me look a good 4-5 years older. Nup, I was told, they factored that in.
The discussion went on with every Tom, Dick and Harry having a crack at it as if I was somehow the human equivalent of the guess how many jellybeans in the jar competition. The highest number nominated was 45, which was an outlier. Otherwise, the average range was in the late thirties.
At first, I was chuffed. Then I was worried. In my ever-active imagination, I suddenly understood what a false impression I might be giving people. I’m always flirting and in good faith, ignorant that the receptive woman facing me might be under the impression I was good fifteen years younger than my true age. You might think that’s a good thing being so well preserved, etc., except come the moment when I have to ‘fess up to the truth. That could be a deal-breaker – but then, I probably am overthinking it.
It’s a cliché, but age is just a number and a state of mind. Many a time I’ve sat on the train and looked at my fellow commuters. You wonder sometimes where they’ve come from, what their story is. Sometimes you see someone worn down by life and showing it. Their eyes are flat; they move sluggishly. You know they’re younger than they look, but the truth is they’re older than their years.
When I was younger, I had an entirely different perspective on age. Fifty seemed an eternity away, and someone that age obviously quite old. I sometimes wondered what it was like, and occasionally felt a little sad. Then one day, I hit fifty myself, and nothing much was different, just as it hadn’t been different much in the preceding thirty years. My body might have aged – though clearly not as much as it might have – but for all intents and purposes, my mentality was little different to when I was heading out into the wide world.
Maybe I’m more mature now, certainly, I’m more worldly, and maybe even a little wise in places, but who I am is pretty much the same, as are my attitudes and appetites. If I’ve changed at all, it is only in degree, the fundamental me remains.
As it happens, this was brought home to pretty keenly this morning on the way to work. Being Friday, I had a bit more of a skip to my step. It’s Melbourne Cup day Tuesday, plus I’ve taken Monday off, and so I walk out the door tonight with a four-day break. I was well disposed.
I caught my usual train and took the usual route from Flinders street through the arcades and laneways to work. On the way, I stopped off a little café in the middle of one such arcade. I indulge myself Fridays – you need an occasional indulgence – and so I ordered the special: a coffee and pastry for $6.50. I watched as they prepared my order, a young Italian Australian and a young Asian Australian. They were bright and energetic. About us, people buzzed around on their way to work, while others stopped as I had to order something. Ciao, we exchanged, as I took my order and departed.
It was one of those mornings when I had had a greater sensual awareness of the whole world about me. Your senses seem keener, and everything fresh again. There’s a feeling of youthfulness because everything appears new. I’ve experienced this hundreds, maybe thousands of days in my life, all the way through. It seems a connecting thread, from who I was before to who I am now. Everything felt new, but it was so familiar also.
When you feel things so rawly your sensations feel a slow sizzle, and for someone like me, a world of possibility yawns open. I confess I feel that most particularly when it comes to women. I walked through those arcades and laneways and felt something like I first did when I was just a teenager. There’s been a lifetime of experience in between, but the simple sense of it is no different – which I’m grateful for. My eyes went to every woman that came my way. For every one of them, I felt infinite possibilities. I was receptive, open, a sponge soaking up every sensual variable, alert to every prospect. There is raw desire as part of that, but it is more sophisticated too.
What a world this is, I think. How lucky am I? I am appreciative that I can experience this, glad that I have the fortunate capacity to feel the full depth of it. I feel that strong sensual tug, like a tide that has awoken in me, but it is tempered by knowledge. As much as I want to feel and experience, I want to understand. I want to conquer their bodies, but I want to look in their eyes too and see the endless worlds they inhabit; want to lean in with my eyes closed and breathe deep of their scent. There’s a feeling like art, an appreciation of simple things that generally you disregard – the line of things, the sense of a cohesive whole, the very mystery of being and creation. You want to share that, and in sharing it, celebrate it.
It’s something beyond the number of years you’ve been on earth. It’s something outside your physical self. It’s the spark of something individual and unique, a spirit that has always been and rouses so often.
I guess I’ll feel that way till the day comes when the spirit remains willing, but the body can no longer follow.