Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fourth Saturday’s Loneliest Liberal

On getting on

By James Knudsen

I’m sure we’ve all heard the expression, “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” It just happened to me. I was sitting around wishing for a topic to write about and then I looked in the mirror.
    It’s probably safe to say that there are as many theories and perspectives on getting older as there are those of us fortunate enough to still be doing so. One of the first I remember remembering is the one I heard in my twenties, which warned, “Everything’s free until you’re thirty.” Thrifty individual that I am, I got a few more years out of that one. And just as I was nearing forty, they proclaimed, “Forty is new thirty.” The result being that I was able to coast along for a good fifteen years with a 30-year-old mind-set. True, there was that weight gain in the mid-oughts, too much dining out and dining in, but that prepared me to change the way I ate a few years later. Health-wise, I have led a charmed existence.

But the past few years have been a series of rainy weeks. The tell-tale signs of time’s steady creep toward...wherever time goes began appearing with increasing frequency a few years ago. Making my way through forty-eight, forty-nine, forty-ten, little things have been happening that the casual observer might not even notice. I am not a casual observer, I’m an actor.
    Training for the stage has its perks. We actors are skilled at problem solving, we take initiative when someone forgets a line, and we know where to place the blame when we forget our blocking. Temp agencies love having actors on their roster. We also look at ourselves...a lot.
    If you aren’t obsessed about how you look when you enter acting school, don’t worry, you will be by the time you leave. I don’t think actors are entirely to blame. The whole system is rigged to get you to look at yourself. Walk into an acting studio and you’ll usually find it’s also a dance studio and the walls are lined with full-length mirrors. Walk into the dressing room and there are more mirrors, and these are really well lit. Preparing for your entrance onstage? Check yourself in the mirror, it’s right there in the wings, not as well lit. Starting your professional career? You’ll need to get headshots. This means hiring a photographer to take pictures of you, just you, just your face.
    When I started back in the 1980’s it was still the era of black-and-white 8 x 10’s shot on film. You’d get a proofsheet of 36 pictures and you’d look at yourself with a magnifying glass. Nowadays, with the advent of digital photography, you get a CD with hundreds of pictures of you – just you – and you look at them on your computer in living color – or Adobe Photoshop color, if that’s what your photographer prefers. Personally, I think it makes me look a touch sallow...being an actor means looking at yourself a lot, and you start to notice things.
    You might think it was a gray hair that first made me wince. No, hair wasn’t the first, and the first hair issue was actually a hair that wasn’t gray. It was gray in spirit, in texture, in all respects except color. It was still dark, but it just stood there on end in the middle of my scalp like a senile meerkat wondering, Is that a crow or an eagle? Too late, it’s a pair of tweezers!
    No, the first thing that really made me wince, sigh – weep like a two-year-old who had just found the sock puppet without a hand in it – was lines. Not lines around the eyes – I’ve had those since I was four and found my brother’s hand in a sock, no lines on the ears. Yeah, those lines, they happen and they are irrefutable proof that life is no longer free. It was a few years ago and I was looking in the mirror as I’d been trained to do, and there they were, two lines just forward of that part of the ear that sticks out like a shield in front of the ear hole. Analysis of the data coming out of the Hadron collider will soon reveal that time is connected to gravity which is connected to every part hanging off the human body. And that pull towards my shoulders had caused my ears to nudge forward and squish whatever was in front of them, sort of the way old people parallel park.

That was a couple of years ago. Since then, more gray has appeared, the free reading glasses the Veteran’s Administration provided me with have been joined by a few more pairs, and earlier this month I went in for my first dental crown. A molar had been begging for attention, but it never begged in a painful way, and my dentist said it could wait. The tooth decided to force the issue by, breaking. WTF (Wherefore The Flouride?) and where did the chunk of tooth go?
    But we weren’t done, oh no. This morning I looked in the mirror, for no particular reason, and there it was, a dent. I’d call it a depression, but I’m saving that word for when I want stronger medication. No, it’s a sort of softly-edged trough, the kind you’d make if you dragged your finger through the butter, just under my chin. Well, at least I know where to put the shadow when I apply aging make-up.
    I’m still processing this latest betrayal by what has been for the most part a faithful and obedient mortal coil. In the immediate future, I’ll seek counseling. I have a sock puppet that tells me exactly what I need to hear, provided my hand is in it. And in the not so immediate future I’ll give more consideration to roles like:
Detective – 50’s to early 60’s, nearing retirement, has seen enough tragedy to fill three lifetimes, and his face shows it.
    On the plus side, I’m glad I waited to have new headshots taken.

Copyright © 2015 by James Knudsen

1 comment:

  1. James, your title reminds me of the American version of the British dark sitcom, Getting On. My wife and I relish it. It is so droll.
        In fact, it is so good I thought it was the original British series we were watching, and I almost sent you the link for that, but I caught my error. We have not seen the original British series, but if it is better than the American version, I can't imagine how good it is.