After traveling to New York City on Amtrak, I headed for the F subway train, carrying my suitcase and backpack up and down the stairs. I got off the F train at the Lexington avenue stop and followed the signs to the uptown 6 train. The signs took everyone to a narrow broken escalator that looked to connect us to the floor above.
Once I started climbing the escalator stairs I realized the climb was much more than I had thought, at least three or four flights of stairs. The escalator was too narrow for me to stop, with a long stream of people behind me, so I kept going and trudged up the stairs with my backpack and suitcase. My left knee tweaked with a bit of pain and I began to breathe heavily. Maybe, I thought, I should remember my age, 59 years, before I start climbing stairs like a twenty-year-old. I swatted away the thought and kept climbing.
When I think of myself, I think about myself as a young man. I remember my grandmother in her 80’s and 90’s saying that she could not believe how old she was and that she felt like a young woman inside. “Age is just a number,” she would always say. There are little accommodations we make for our age on a daily basis. We give up jogging, skiing, and jarring exercise for something more gentle. We do not take the same physical risks we did when we were younger.
About six years ago I took my son, his best friend, and my wife up to Stowe, Vermont for a four-day ski trip. I was an expert skier in my twenties. Because my wife did not ski, and always wanted to go someplace warm in the winter, my son never learned to ski. So on this trip, I left my son and his friend on the bunny slopes and headed for the expert trails.
On the last run of the day, on what was a relatively flat area, I saw what looked like a small stream bed traversing the trail. I planned to jump over it but did not jump high enough. The tip of my ski caught of the far side of the stream bank and I went face first, over my skis at high speed, onto the hard-pack snow. The wind was knocked out of me and my chest hurt. I lay there for a few minutes, shaken. I slowly got myself up, and carefully made my way to the base lodge.
I did not ski the next day and my chest hurt for the next few weeks. It was a rude awakening that I was not the same skier I had been as a young man. My body had aged and was less forgiving. I think that was the last time I went skiing.
The body is a funny thing. When it comes to sexuality we have such driving passions as young men. We feel driven for sexual release and can not stop ourselves, no matter what the consequences. We must find another human being to share touch and orgasm.
In college, I was driven every few months to head to the baths in New York City. I had this urgent drive for release that would only be quelled by a trip to the baths. This was pre-AIDS, in an era that seems so far away from the AIDS epidemic that erupted a few short years later. Today my hormones have quieted. I long for the soft tender touch of my partner but am no longer driven for that urgent immediate release of my college days. I like the less driven, more sensual sexuality that I have come to.
Age is more than a number, grandma. It changes us in ways we don’t even understand. I like the man I am today. I like the sexual being I am today. So maybe my days of expert ski slopes and dragging suitcases up endless stairs are coming to a close. So what. I still feel like a young man inside. When I am lying in bed spooning with my partner I feel ageless. So bring it on, whatever is next, bring it on.