The Peculiarities of Men Aging: A Collection of Anecdotes

Article excerpt

Men are reticent to share with others the slow realization that with age they begin to confront a world that they had not expected. They had not expected to grow old. Now that this is happening, men have few relationships that permit them to share their thoughts and moments of recognition. The anecdotes that men share are revealing in that they demonstrate basic human uncertainties about the later part of life's cycle.

Key words: men, anecdotes, aging

   Old Age is Life's Parody
        Simone de Beauvoir

   I grow old ... I grow old ...
   I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
        T.S. Eliot

Introduction

The material available describing men and their personal experiences of aging is limited and lacking the intimacy that women have produced for each other and for purposes of understanding. Discourse on aging has provided very little on the experiences of older men (Fleming, 1998; Kosberg & Mangum 2002). Therefore, we have initiated this effort to look at the particular take some men have on their own aging process. This is a qualitative search for men's reflections on their lives at a certain age. The one guiding focus has been to engage men to share their personal reflections on what it means to be aging. It is thiS experiential process mar has been the focus of our listening to men as they have shared anecdotes both funny and thoughtful. The age "sixty" was chosen as the point of departure because it appears to be the new marker for men and aging. With greater longevity, age "sixty" has taken the place of "turning 50" (Sheehy, 1995, 1999).

The inspiration, in part, for this research was an incident experienced by the male author. As a friend and I engaged in a conversation typical of most male relationships little was revealed about our internal life. Yet, one day, my friend startled me by a comment he made. As our talk drifted from work and other matters related to work, my friend revealed that his 60th birthday was close at hand. In that moment, he turned toward me with a look on his face I had never before seen. He said, "There is something different about this birthday. My 50th didn't phase me, but there is something different about turning 60." He sounded both puzzled and revealing in this moment of openness, crammed with a sense of uncertainty that was unlike him. In an instant the moment was gone. The conversation quickly moved back to the outer world of being removed from the inner life. Strangely, shortly after our conversation, I recalled a conversation between Bilbo Baggons, the Hobbit, as he talked with the wizard Gandalf in the Fellowship of The Rings (Tolkien, 1954). Bilbo says to his old friend, "I am old Gandalf. Even though I don't look it, I am beginning to feel it in my heart. I feel thin and stretched, like butter spread over too much bread" (Tolkien, 1954, p. 32). The two scenes seemed one for a moment. I too had been wondering about my own aging over the past months since turning 60. There was something about my friend's and Bilbo's statements that had touched a place in my own vague uneasiness as three score had passed in what seemed like a flash.

Unique Peculiarities of Men Aging

   Life should be more about holding questions than finding answers.
   The act of seeking an answer comes from a wish to make life, which
   is basically fluid, into something more certain and fixed. This
   often leads to rigidity, closedmindedness, and intolerance. On the
   other hand, holding a question--exploring its many facets over
   time--puts us in touch with the mystery of life. Holding questions
   accustoms us to the ungraspable nature of life and enables us to
   understand things from a range of experiences.
        Thubten Chodron--On Buddhism (Sharry, 2004).

Richard Quinney (1998) writes in the preface of his personal ethnography, "all that we can know of anything that might be imagined as universal is known in the particular, in the everyday, mundane life" (p. …