Sunday, August 24, 2014

I Want to Be Old?

The question mark on the title of this blog post is likely confusing to many of you. See, I've made it abundantly clear that one of my major goals in life is to be an old man. There's just so much about it that is appealing to me. For example, I've decided that when I'm old enough to pull it off, I want to go to a fairly public place with my adult children and have them leave me alone as they go about their business. During that time I'll stand and grin charmingly, though also a bit creepily, at passersby. (Not like gross creepy, more like "that old man seems to be wholly unaware of the world and its established social norms and that's somewhat unsettling" creepy.) Then my kids will come back, wrap their arms around my shoulders and say, "Come on, Dad." We'll walk away and I'll be happy having successfully made people uncomfortable. And the best part is no one would think to say anything about it or ask me to stop, because I'm an old man and old people have carte blanche on causing those around them mild discomfort.

Another example: just a couple months ago I was sitting in the Union doing work of some sort when I saw this guy walk in and proceed to try out every available chair, finally settling on the one right next to me:

Immediately I knew I had to snap a picture, because this man represented everything that I want to be when I grow up: old with weirdly specific tastes in sitting apparatuses and a sweet hat.

Really, to understand just how awesome being old can (and will) be, all you have to do is watch Waking Ned Devine.

I look forward to being an old man so much that I even once threw a ward party in which a bunch of young 18-25-or-so single folks dressed up like old people and we ate pudding and applesauce and fig newtons and Werthers Originals and played bingo while listening to Lawrence Welk and Glenn Miller LPs.

Photos by Anthony Dunster
It was one of the best parties I've ever been to. Just to be clear, no we were not trying to make fun of old people and being old. We were celebrating them and it. We were actively looking forward to that day with joy and anticipation. At least, that was my take, because this has been my general outlook on the whole aging process for years now. 

Now I want to assure you that I'm not naive relative to the travails of getting and being old. I recognize and acknowledge that there's a lot to not celebrate about it. This summer, in fact, I witnessed firsthand with my grandmother just how hard being old can be. But I through it all my attitude remains unchanged: I just really can't wait to be old.

Or so I thought.

Today, for the first time that I can remember, I felt a moment's doubt about the prospect of aging. I was lathering up my face in preparation to shave, when I noticed what looked like an eyelash on my ear. With the back of my hand, the one that was holding my badgerhair shaving brush, I wiped away the hair so that I could get on with the shave. But the hair just stayed right there on my ear. It didn't even move. I leaned closer to the mirror for a better look, and I realized that it wasn't an eyelash at all. It was a coarse black hair, about the length and girth of an eyelash, growing straight out from the edge of my ear. 

Now old age coveting Sam, the one I've tried to describe for you here, should have been elated, right? Here it is, the harbinger of good things to come! Sing praises, for that blessed day of old age draws ever nearer!

Quick aside: I say that the ear hair is the first sign of old age despite my many gray hairs, because I've been getting gray hairs since I was 19 and they've never really seemed to me a marker of my appearance shifting with age. I'll admit, there was a time while I was working as a security guard at the MOA when Marlee, one of my best friends from my undergrad years at BYU, would stand behind me while I was watching the cameras and pluck out said gray hairs. But that wasn't because I was self-conscious. It was more related to the fact that we were bored and this was yet another valiant attempt to stave off that boredom.

Like I said, this ear hair should have been cause for celebration. But no. Rather than exultant joy, I felt mild annoyance and an impulse to finish lathering up my face and shave off that hair with the rest of those unwelcome and unwanted folicular invaders. But as I became aware of these emotions and in conjunction with them remembered my claims to wait longingly for old age, I was horrified. Was I an unwitting hypocrite all along? Are my claims of wanting to be an old man just a show, when in fact I'm just like everyone else and hope to be forever young

With this unsettling and apparent hypocrisy weighing on my soul, I left the ear hair, finished shaving, and continued getting ready for church. But all throughout church, and throughout everything else that I've been doing today, I keep reaching up and tugging gently on that hair on my ear. Not with enough force to pluck it out, but enough that I know it's still there. I tug, and I ponder. What am I to do?

See, that's the worst of it. I'm still not sure what to do with it tomorrow morning. Should I be rid of the hair or leave it be? Will getting rid of it brand me forever as a hypocrite and a liar? At this point even if I leave it, does my initial revulsion and continued fence-sitting prove that I'm not the old man-loving Samuel James Dunn, Esq. that I've so long claimed and hoped and perhaps longed to be? Does the fact that it's the first day of school play into this at all?

I don't know how to answers these questions. Maybe there aren't even any good answers. Maybe for now I'll just have to rewatch Waking Ned Devine and with every chuckle reassure myself that yes, I can't wait to be an old man...I think.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


April 26

by Sharon Creech

when you are trying
not to think about something
it keeps popping back
into your head
you can't help it
you think about it
think about it
think about it
until your brain
feels like
a squashed pea.

from Love That Dog