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Which Is Worse: Platitudes or Aging?

Which Is Worse: Platitudes or Aging?

Platitudes and Torture

It's fun to terrorize the young with (mostly made-up) tales of how bad it is getting older.

Platitudes are annoying -- until they make sense.

"How is a penny saved a penny earned? And who cares? It's a penny! And that 'youth wasted on the young' thing? That's just bitchy. It's just hating, that's truth!"

My buddy Sharon is whisper-quoting her 17-year-old son. He's in the other room, and Sharon doesn't want to gossip to his face. We'd save that for later. Josh is a genuinely nice kid. He's figuring it out. My guess is he'll probably end up on the high end of the Kinsey scale, but he's of a generation that doesn't need or care about sexual quantification. Very cool kids.

I don't see Sharon nearly enough. She's one of those brilliant, foolish women who never, ever should have married. The poor thing has three children from three ex-husbands. I suggested that she try women to avoid pregnancy, and to her credit, she did. Later she described the experiences as, "not hideous."

Now there's a ringing endorsement. So much for her high IQ and low Kinsey scores.

"Look at it this way," I said. "Those awful men brought you lovely children. I know it's been tough, but at the end of the day I'm envious. I wish I had kids."

"No my dear, you don't," she replied without missing a beat. "You really don't. I love my children and feel very lucky, but you have the liberty of enjoying my kids and then, going home. You're like some kind of weird, hybrid Grandmapa."

"Uh, thanks?"

A few days earlier, we'd made plans to spend time coming up with stories to torture Josh. I'd bring the wine. Sharon and I established that Josh deserved payback for being so damned young. We knew how much he loved stories from the crypt, so we'd scare the hell out of him, painting vivid images of aging, like a bad horror movie. He'd love it. We'd love it. It was a win-win situation.

Josh finally left, so Sharon and I could write our screenplay without interruption. But first, I harangued her, again, about naming her only son one of the three infamous "J" names: Joshua, Justin or Jeremy, the names bestowed upon at least 50 percent of American boys and men aged 15 to 40.

"Shut up. It's a good name. At least it doesn't sound like a sneeze."

"True," I agreed, "and that's not the first time you've pointed that out. We're too predictable. We have to step up the game."

Point of fact though: I'd learned to pronounce my name very slowly, so as not to be graced by a "Bless you" or "Gesundheit" when introducing myself.

"Let's start," I said. "This is a good one. I vividly remember the first time my ass jiggled when I was naked and brushing my teeth. Then, I remember when it kept jiggling after I stopped, from all the momentum, right?"

Sharon snorted wine. I've learned to time these things. It's what we do. After composing herself, she leaned in confidentially and revealed:

"I remember getting up one morning, looking in the mirror, and there was a crease between my eyes that wouldn't go away. No matter how much I pulled at it and lubricated it, with industrial strength moisturizer, it stayed. It just wouldn't go away. It was my first wrinkle," she sighed, pointing to the offending line between her brows. "I named it Jeremy."

"Ah," I observed. I didn't want to know if she was serious. I suspected she was.

Sharon sipped her wine and ruminated. Jeremy knotted and dug deeper, into the turf he'd claimed between her brows. After a moment she barked, "Liver spots! They scare the hell out of everyone! I mean even the word, liver spot. Ewww! I remember the first one on my hand."

She pointed to the hand that had, earlier, indicated Jeremy.

"Look! Isn't it gross?" she gushed. "When I first saw it, I thought it was a bruise, but then it didn't go away so I pretended it was a little suntan. But then a hair grew out of it, like a tiny palm tree on a desert island. I couldn't pretend anymore."

It was my turn to snort wine.

"I think we're doing a lousy job. This is too much fun," I wheezed. "This isn't going to scare him at all."

"You're right. He's not going to get any of it. He's immortal, and he has that flawless, pore-less Barbie skin. Every morning he rolls out of bed looking like a million bucks. And his clothes don't leave marks on his skin that last for hours. Age means nothing to Elastic Boy. We're going to have to torture him with platitudes instead."

"Yeah," I agreed. "You're right. Hit the Internets and Google machine. Quick! He'll be home soon. We have to find as many variations as possible of, youth is wasted on the young."

"He still won't get it," Sharon sighed.

"No, he won't, of course. We didn't either. Could you pass the wine, please?"

KURT NIECE is an artist, jeweler, and author of The Breath of Rapture and Mercury Fields. He and his partner, Gary, live with their beloved feline in the crystal valleys of Hot Springs Village, Ark.

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