On Aging Goats
I, an aging goat, took up acting at or around 46, old for a goat who usually only lives to 11 or 12 years if it isn’t consumed by some nouveau gourmet during its first 100 days. The reason for taking up acting is long and tedious, the reason for this story is simply reflective.
When I was about 55 (very old for a goat) I was in a store in southern California. Working the front desk were a handful of kid goats ranging in age from 17 to 21 in people years. One of the young males said to the others, “This old chick was checking me out today… a mom.”
“Eeewwwww,” said the 18 year old female (The equivalent of less than a hundred goat days old, I suspect.) sitting next to him. “I know. Some old guy was checking me out today.”
“Ewwwwwww,” they all said.
A moment later, a man walked past the storefront. “There he is,” the young female said.
Everyone responded in unison, “Ewwwwww.”
It was the old guy.
I thought, “Ewwwww! He’s gross,” then I realized, “Hey wait a minute, that guy’s younger than me!”
I’m an old guy!
Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was a kid, riding my bike around the neighborhood fishing around in my pocket for 15¢ to buy a Pepsi, then climbing that maple tree and snuggling into its motherly crook to savor the carbonated burn fizzling in my nose as leaves rustled around me? Wasn't that just yesterday? I guess not.
A budding actor at 46, I had made friends with so many young people – college students, recent college graduates – in the context of acting projects. They were producers, technicians, artists, camera operators, editors. We were peers. We were co-workers in projects that transcended our age disparity. We thought nothing about it. At least I didn’t. Perhaps I was deluded, or, maybe they actually did see me as a peer.
“Ewwwww” changed all that. It was a bucket of cold water in the face, an announcement that from now on, the man in the mirror was a reflection of what a herd of 100 day old kid goats sees when I walk by. It was what I, as a hundred-goat-days-old buckling, there with my doeling of similar age, thought while looking at our own old goat parents thinking, “Ewwwwww! They’re so wrinkled. They're so grey. They're so saggy.”
So it goes for those of us who pass adolescence and leave it on the horizon behind us.
A day or so ago, I bumped into a young one, now probably in his upper twenties, who I met when I was 48. (Ironically, he was wearing a goatee.) We’d worked together on a film as peers back then. We hadn’t seen each other for some time, maybe seven years.
It was a pleasant reunion, but I didn’t quite feel like the peer that I was back then, all because of “Ewwwww!” It was a transformative moment that said, “Your harbor has burned, your family home is no more. You must sail on.” It reminded me of driving around for a year after high school with my graduation tassel hanging from the rear view mirror, when I suddenly realized, “I’m not in high school anymore.”
And I’m not. All I hope is that they, the young, look at my mushy pink insides and brain full of ideas the same way I look at theirs: with enthusiasm.
Down came the tassel. Tassels aren’t for goats.