“. . . I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity . . . “ (Simone de Beauvoir)

A few nights ago I went to a party. A party for a friend in honor of an important achievement. Nearly everyone (perhaps everyone) there was LBGT. I would guess I was the oldest person there—certainly one of. The only person at the party I know well (except the honoree and his partner) is five months younger than I. I saw another couple of guys with gray hair (which means nothing), perhaps close to my age.

I am not complaining about being the old codger in a group like that. Rather, I think it’s cool that most of my friends are younger than I. However, I am also aware that

Society cares about the individual only in so far as he is profitable. The young know this. Their anxiety as they enter in upon social life matches the anguish of the old as they are excluded from it (Simone de Beauvoir, The Coming of Age. 1970).

The fact virtually everyone at the party I attended was LGBT makes it—yes, one should understand paradox and/or conundrum here—the most difficult kind of gathering for me. On the one hand, I am, in some ways, more comfortable with a group of gay (to use the term to mean all LGBT people) people than with any other kind of group. On the other hand, I am profoundly uncomfortable because a gathering like that is where I am most aware of my age—my being a has-been, a relic, a tolerated reminder that youth should not be wasted on the young.

My intention is not to write some kind of diatribe against youth culture, especially gay youth culture—there are thousands, perhaps millions, such writings—but to make a simple statement (to remind myself) about what it means to be 70 years old.
I do, I must remind myself, belong to at least one LGBT organization in which age is not an issue, the most obvious one, the Pegasus Squares, the Dallas LGBT square dance club. It is an “intergenerational” group of like-minded folk.

This is, as I said, a simple statement (short, too, because I have an 8 AM doctor’s appointment and then a full day of tutoring at the SMU Academic Development of Athletes center). That, in itself, may disprove everything I want to say here. I will spend five hours today with young people (about 19 years old on average) who are the epitome of health and vigor. I doubt I could find another 70-year-old who will be spending 5 hours today in one-on-one conversations with guys 50 years his junior.
Many years ago (so long I hardly remember any of its content) I was challenged to read The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, challenged by the elegant, intelligent, charming woman who was the face of feminism for me. All I remember about was that it made perfect sense.

Then some time later I stumbled upon her The Coming of Age. I could not read it. Feminism made perfect sense to me. Old Age was a horror I had no intention to think about.

I have begun reading the de Beauvoir book again because I read an academic article a few days ago which quoted the book,

There is only one solution if old age is not to be an absurd parody of our former life, and that is to go on pursuing ends that give our existence a meaning (de Beauvoir, The Coming of Age).

I can say without equivocation that doing even the miniscule amount I can to help young men who have been bypassed, overlooked, abused by their formative schools simply because they have athletic ability is an “[end] that [gives my] existence meaning.”

Helping students in whatever way I can has given me, since I got sober in 1986, most pride in, the most joy from, everything I have done. It is, in effect, helping students learn to use their minds differently than they ever have. I’m going to write soon about, for example, the way athletes are taught to use their minds—to focus on the left tackle who is headed toward them to throw them to the ground—a kind of shutting out all verbal, auditory, and visual stimuli to focus on one thing, that is, the antithesis of the natural way to use one’s brain. To see a kid open his mind to other realities is the joy of my life.
Because I have to leave home in 16 minutes (I have more doctors than I have friends), I am simply going to quote the article I read that references Simon de Beauvoir. Here is its conclusion.

Old age is often studied in terms of various domains such as physiological effects, life expectancy, standards of living, social status and community or retirement matters. This study . . . investigates the age-related processes by examining the relation between age and cultural changes . . . to explore older adults’ personal experience and perception of cultural and social environment . . . we demonstrated that older people do experience cultural alienation following crystallization of attitudes, beliefs and values early in life development. . . as people age they become more susceptible to change, becoming increasingly conservative towards different cultural experiences such as technological innovations, films, theatre or developments in language styles. More specifically, we were able to identify to which extent older adults felt culturally alienated, outmoded and old-fashioned in reference to the contribution of these phenomena to an inability of understanding contemporary styles either in the physical world or in the field of personal and cultural systems of morality standards (Marinova, Daniela. “Cultural Alienation In The Ageing Person.” Psychological Thought 6.2 (2013): 264-282).

I have no doubt that their findings are true. However, I have no doubt either that being named by a 19-year-old basketball player probably headed for the NBA “OG Harold” is an irrefutable way to stay young. “OG” does not mean “Old Guy.” It means, in the street parlance of the young “Original Gangsta,” about the highest compliment I could receive, I’m told.

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