The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

18 June 2004

Before we all fade away

Years ago, I subscribed to Townshend's Theory of Generational Purity, which goes like this: I hope I die before I get old.

One of the more rational responses to this came from critic and Who historian Dave Marsh, who said, "Well, when you find out what that means, you'll hope something else."

Over the years, I've guesstimated the upper limit of my lifespan at twenty-two, twenty-five, forty, forty-six, and somewhere between fifty-nine and eighty-seven. I need hardly point out that the first four of those predictions proved to be false.

But how long do I really have, and perhaps more to the point, how long should I have? This is the kind of unanswerable question which Joe Gandelman tries to answer in this much-linked piece about human longevity and reasons to prolong it.

Part of the problem, says Gandelman, is that society has already defined "old" and is unwilling to bump up the numbers to match the stretching of the human lifespan:

[T]he people who insist that at age 80 or 90 "it's time to make room for others" forget that aging folks can mentor younger people, offer bits of life-changing wisdom, keep a family together, work longer years before retiring (age 65 retirement these days is an absolute JOKE), and as we have seen help fill some gaps in the labor pool.

My replacements are already in place, and so are their replacements. I don't see any evidence that hastening my departure will expedite things for the grandchildren; Dear Old Dad certainly doesn't see himself, at seventy-seven, as an obstacle to his progeny, and there's no reason he should.

On the other hand, assuming I make it to sixty-nine (which I think will be the "official" retirement age by the time I get there), I would very much like to quit work, but I doubt I'll have the resources to do so, even with the remains of Social Security and the proceeds from my 401(k). I might feel differently were I doing something that actually helps to advance the human condition, but in my position as Cog in Dubious Wheel, I am way short of the motivation it takes to keep on doing it.

And rolling over the big 5 on the chronometer has had one distinct advantage: it has enabled me to think, and occasionally to say, "I'm fifty, and I shouldn't have to put up with this crap." This is the kind of elderly cantankerousness I can embrace wholeheartedly; why, sixty might actually be fun.

Pete Townshend, I note, is fifty-nine.

Posted at 10:27 AM to General Disinterest

I consider middle age as 60 (half of 120), based on the reference in the bible (Genesis) that "the span of human life is 120" (as said to Noah), and the age of Moses when he died. Of course, now that I am approaching it ...

Posted by: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz at 2:35 PM on 18 June 2004

Charles, I'm 52, and I'm here to tell you: the crap only gets deeper and more acrid as you go on.

This might be because of the youth orientation of our culture. The young no longer regard respect for their elders as an obligation. This frequently puts me in situations where I have to demand it -- and back up the demand with force.

Just now, the force is in more than adequate supply. But at 60? 70? I doubt I'll be able to thrash 'em the way I do today.

I, too, have begun thinking along Townshend's lines.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at 2:55 PM on 18 June 2004

Nobody leaves without meeeeeeee! *whine*

See, at 42, I can't say "I'm fifty, and I shouldn't have to put up with this crap." - but, I've never been one to put up with anyone's crap unless I felt obligated to do so. (family, ex-husband before he was the ex) I've lost that feeling of obligation, I don't put up with their crap anymore either. (You could ask my brother who I haven't talked to in two years, if I knew where to reach him.)

I never thought I would make it out of my thirties alive. Life is good.

Posted by: Deb at 11:57 PM on 18 June 2004

Awwwww she just says life is good cause I rub her back once in awhile *grin*. And she has someone to argu....err discuss things with who will admit he is wrr...wrooooo....wrrrrrooo....mistaken on occasion.

Posted by: Guy S. at 12:58 AM on 19 June 2004

Hmmm. I've been living "I don't have to put up with this crap" since kindergarten. Does that mean I was born at age 45?

Posted by: McGehee at 9:08 AM on 19 June 2004

Each individual reaches "I don't have to put up with this crap" at a different rate; it took me rather a long time to figure it out. Some people never get the hang of it.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:24 AM on 19 June 2004


I seem to remember you being a bit cantankerous in 1978.


Posted by: Tim at 10:19 AM on 19 June 2004

I had just gotten married. What did you expect? :)

Posted by: CGHill at 10:29 AM on 19 June 2004

Yes marriage is a double edged sword.

Posted by: Guy S. at 11:36 AM on 19 June 2004