First stop, the hospital. Silly follow-up appointment after dislocating my pinky playing volleyball. Another X-ray and then a hand therapy session. Then an unrelated medical appointment later in the day.
Yep, this is 51.
Used to be I could go years without seeing a doctor. Way back in the realm of thirtysomething. Really, I haven’t slowed down a bit. I’m as fit as I’ve ever been. This was just bad timing. The payoff, I suppose, was that I didn’t have to work on my birthday. Woo-hoo. Except I am not one to celebrate. Haven’t for decades. (There’s another sign of aging—I speak in terms of decades, not years. Somebody better slap me when I begin my sentences with, “I remember last century…”)
Ever since I hit my 20s, I’ve cringed at the notion that someone would buy me dinner or a card just because the calendar makes it obligatory. I don’t even earn a free coffee with my Starbucks Rewards card on my birthday. (I chose my dog’s birthday instead.) I don’t know why this is such a thing for me. I suppose it came from a disappointing birthday long, long ago. Something I have successfully repressed. I might be able to dig it up if I cared. My second medical appointment was with my psychiatrist. I’d say he’s got some work to do!
If I’d wanted to, I could have had my boyfriend take me to dinner. But I broke up with him two days ago. It’s okay. It was a short run. Not quite a click. No reason to drag things out. I can pay for my own pizza. 51 and single. Again. (The birthday and the breakup were in no way connected. Well, maybe I accelerated to the ending so he wouldn’t splurge on a dinner only to get dumped. Wasn’t that into him, weren’t meant to be…and all that.)
One might say it is foolish to choose to be single, especially since I have craved connection. I’m too choosy. I should compromise. I am, after all, 51.
As a gay man, 51 is beyond ancient. 40 is ancient. 50 is dead. 51 then is beyond dead. I am a zombie or some other living-dead thingy. I don’t follow that genre. Being gay and irrelevant should be freeing. No more watching my weight. No more manscaping. Stop checking for ear hair. I should learn to play pinochle. Go lawn bowling. Make a scrapbook for someone else’s grandchildren.
But I’m not ready to be ancient or some living-dead creature. I’m not ready to throw in the gym towel. I still want to matter. To someone. Maybe even to myself.
The “big day” wasn’t so big. Came and went. Skipped the gym but went for a long bike ride. Admired the trees as they marked a new season. No cake when I got home. I’m not much of a baker and I’m one of those weird ones who successfully brainwashed himself to believe kale is better than cake.
I strolled the seawall after dinner. Earnest salted caramel ice cream called. A risky indulgence. But better than cake, better than kale. (The mind will only succumb to so much trickery.)
51. Made it. Now it’s up to me to make something of it.