Biff America: The shrinkage of age |

Biff America: The shrinkage of age

Jeffrey Bergeron
Biff America

A man should not be measured by a career, wealth or property. That’s why I use a ruler. You can imagine my horror when on New Year’s Eve I discovered I had experienced some serious shrinkage.

2021 came in like a fever blister and went out like a pulled tooth. The holidays are difficult around the petri dish we call home. Between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1, there are three holidays and three birthdays, as Ellie, me and Jesus are all Capricorns. So you have the holiday stress, birthday melancholy and short days together with a packed resort, pandemic and traffic moving at the speed of Joe Manchin heading toward a Senate Democrat’s New Year’s party.

It was the last night of the year, just a few days after my birthday, when we invited two vaxed, tested and anti-social couples over for an early evening drink. Up until that point, I was fairly comfortable about adding another digit to my years until someone ruined it by bringing out a tape measure.

I was delighted the gift-giving season was over. I get grossed out yearly by American’s consumption and commercialism during the season. Remember those old ads asking, “What do you give to the man who has everything?” Well, obviously the answer is, “nothing!”

Since most of my friends and relatives have had all the advantages of being born at least middle class in America, it is often difficult to give holiday gifts that actually make a difference in someone’s life. Last year, I made the mistake of giving a nephew, who wanted an Xbox for Christmas, a $100 donation in his name to the Doctors to the World fund. He opened the envelope and gave me the same stink eye look I got that time I handed out dental floss on Halloween.

Ellie and I agreed to give each other one gift, provided it was a small and uplifting gift. I gave her a book of Amanda Gorman poems, and she gave me a belt.

Compounding the usual stress brought on by resort crowds, unreal expectations and the realization that my 2021 New Year’s resolution — less sarcasm and more planks — was fractured by early February, is the fact every birthday is a year closer to the great unknown.

I can honestly say I am more content now than I have ever been at any point in my life. Or perhaps that is simply a result of a bad short term memory. I’d like to believe wrinkles, stiffness, aches and being forced to play soccer with my pectorals is a fair price to pay for the more enlightened perspective that a half-dozen decades brings.

If we are lucky, we all will see and feel the result of the years. But with diet and exercise, you can certainly fight back. I weigh myself most mornings, and my wife won’t let me eat anything that tastes good. So with daily workouts and a diet of kale, beets and mouthwash, I look OK for a guy of my years — in dim lighting and with my clothes on —especially to those with glaucoma.

I was bragging about just that on New Year’s Eve. We were all commenting on another trip around the sun, the struggle to fight off aging and the grim reaper. I was bragging that I wear the same size pants as I did in high school when Louie said, “Your pants might be the same, but I bet the rest of you is shrinking.”

To illustrate, he asked if we had a tape measure. Though I often weigh myself, I haven’t measured myself in years. To my horror, I have shrunk almost an inch. I cried foul and demanded a recount. When did that begin and how long will it continue?

Then it dawned on me, if my pants are the same yet the rest of me is dwindling, how long will it be until I get to the point where my waistline will be approaching my nipples. But with a look-on-the-bright-side perspective, that new belt Ellie gave me for Christmas will someday serve double duty as a necklace.

“You don’t stop laughing when you get old; you get old when you stop laughing” — George Bernard Shaw

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