Sunday, March 04, 2012
Human Shelf Life: You Are a Banana
An open letter from a Baby Boomer to Generations X, Y, and Whatever…
It's a fact: the human body will ultimately, inevitably fail. Today you may be absolutely dripping with youthful health and boundless vigor. With reasonable maintenance you may live to a "ripe old age." But the key word in that crusty idiom is "ripe." As is the case with a piece of fruit, the human body reaches it's peak relatively quickly before the inexorable ripening process renders it squishy, wrinkly, discolored, and grossly unappetizing. So regardless of how well you take care of yourself, your human vessel is compost in the making.
That firm, brilliantly yellow banana in your fruit bowl, left uneaten, will begin to rot within a few days. For the human body, however, the process takes a bit longer. In general terms, the human body reaches physical maturity within two decades. (In contrast, the human mind will laugh at fart jokes pretty much right up to the moment of death.) After those first twenty years of human life, essential bodily processes begin slowly grinding to a halt. That shut-down process manifests itself in a variety of interesting ways, including hair loss, muscle loss, memory loss, loss of eyesight, loss of libido, and loss of the ability to get into or out of an automobile without loud groaning.
Your first twenty years are spent growing and physically maturing. After that, based on the current worldwide average for life expectancy (67.2 years), you will spend the next 47-plus years falling apart. If you are fortunate enough to live in a part of the world where healthcare does not involve incantations and leeches, it will take even longer to achieve complete deterioration.
Those of us who have already taken the first steps on that journey have, for the most part, accepted the inevitable because there's jack squat to be done about it. After all, if you're not aging, you're not breathing. So we settle in for the ride, taking what comfort we can in the knowledge that while we will arrive at life's final destination well ahead of our successors, we will have used up what is left of Social Security and Medicare.
So eat it, punks. Maybe you can do 500 sit-ups. But today's six-pack abs are tomorrow's beer belly. One day you're going to look into your mirror and find a geezer staring back at you. So you have choices. You can pretend you're not going to grow old -- which, while obviously bat-shit crazy, is what many people do -- or you can accept that your ticket is already as good as punched and arm yourself with a little knowledge about what's going to happen to you during the phase of life that begins a few years after puberty and ends a few hours before a mortician gives you your final makeover.
More on this topic in future posts…