acting my age…
In a moment of ribald humor last night I turned someone’s sexual innuendo comment into an overt sexual joke – which – had a young woman in the group comment that while hilarious, coming from a man of my age, the joke was somewhat “gross”. If it had been said by someone younger, she said – it not only would have been funny, it would have been hilarious.
Not for the first time I have heard this insinuation. That sexual humor is only the preserve of the young.
My aunts and uncles – who are now in their late sixties and early seventies – throw sexual innuendo jokes around like they are all still teens playing catch in the backyard. Country folk, farmers, tradesmen, now comfortably wealthy beyond whatever they might once have imagined their poor rural lives to be; they still know a sense of vitality that belies their ages and know how to laugh at all of life’s urges.
But when asked, they do acknowledge that they keep this vitality to themselves when in the company of more urbane sophisticates who come to their town to cottage away the summer.
Nietzsche often wrote about the anti-life proclivities that he saw in the educated Christian classes of his day. And he railed against the hierarchical self-importance of “university education” that subsumed our sexual vitality and sense of adventure.
He said that university turned men into cardboard cutouts of living beings – gogs in the wheels of commerce and good sense. Dead to the deeper meanings of life.
But I do admit that it is a lot different being a hedonist today than it was back in my twenties, back in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s. I am the first to admit that I am not twenty-five anymore, and it is quite a different thing to be a hedonist in one’s middle age than it was when I was in my mid-twenties and living in a youth hostel off Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. Or tramping through the outback of Australia.
It was much more socially acceptable back then to be open to all the experiences of the world – for people of any age. Madonna, the last gasps of rock and roll, the discovery of the female orgasm, the fact that the majority of the population was then under 25 – all of which added a sense of wonder to the physical form.
Milan Kundera writes of 1981, and reading the Haitian writer Rene Depestre’s Hallelujah for a Woman-Garden (which catches the attitudes of that time perfectly):
“Depestre’s eroticism: all women overflow with so much sexuality that even the traffic lights are aroused and twist around to watch them pass. And the men are so randy that they’re ready to make love during a scientific conference, during a surgical operation, inside a spaceship, on a trapeze. All for pure pleasure; there are no problems psychological, moral, or existential; we’re in a universe where vice and innocence are one and the same…Depestre has managed to put into mankind’s existential map something that was not there before: the nearly inaccessible borderlands of happy, naive eroticism, of unbridled and paradisal sexuality.”
We didn’t realize it then, but we had been born into one of those rare historic windows – we were the kids of the parents of the ‘60’s – we were told we could change the world, break down gender barriers, redefine everything that it meant to be a sexual person – just before AIDS, Ronald Regan, and Margaret Thatcher came along and snuffed it all out.
The cold environmental realities of the new millennium closed the door to that chapter of time and 9/11 was the deadbolt in the door.
If I acted like that now, I’d be laughed at and pitied.
Even talking about those days – in many respects – leaves one open to a certain amount of ridicule.
No, as the young woman reminded me yesterday, it’s an interior game now – I must act my age, eat my veggies, behave myself, and leave the ribald humor to the younger generation – should I wish to continue to mingle in proper society…