My two-year-old nephew absolutely loves my husband. Every time we’re at his house, the boy takes him by the finger and leads him onto the living room floor, and they play with Legos and blocks and Matchbox cars until my husband can’t feel his legs.
He’s 6 feet 2 inches tall and has a wonky back, so sitting on the floor does him no favors. When he finally gets up to stretch his long legs, he uses a careful, multi-step process to go from Indian-style to standing without hurting himself.
In contrast, my little nephew seems to be made of rubber. He sits on his feet, jumps from coffee table to couch like a gymnast, landing on his bottom or head or shoulder without getting hurt, and pops up without a single tear after falling face first on the floor.
My husband and I both work at the family business, a pizza and wings joint, a job that is cruel to the aging body. At the end of the night, we both collapse on the couch and my husband immediately takes out an industrial size massager to dig into his sore feet. I lay back my head and allow my muscles to relax, stroking my dog’s velvet ear to escape from the pain. And when I finally get up, I walk like a cowboy who spent all day riding his horse.
It seems like as you get older, the careless stress you put on your body when you were younger -- jumping from coffee table to couch, perhaps -- comes back to haunt you. For me, it’s my ankles and hips. When I get home from a long shift on my feet making pizzas, that’s what hurts -- my sore ankles, the ankles that in younger days I tweaked and sprained and that have now started to disintegrate. My hips, on the other hand, are starting to protest against years in an office chair. My husband is also visited by past injuries: When he was twelve, he developed a bone spur after being hit in the lower back with a go-cart, and his back now bothers him after just a little exertion. Our chiropractor loves us.
I remember a 30ish comedian once joking that when he hit 30, he started to groan from the effort of sitting down and then groan again because it felt so good to sit down. I was in my early 20s at the time so I couldn’t understand, but now I do it, too. When we finally get into bed, my husband and I both groan for a full 10 minutes, our bodies so grateful for rest.
I try not to think that my aches and pains signal a slow descent into decrepitude -- that’s just far too depressing. But there are more signs -- the lengthening list of foods I can’t eat, the 10:30 p.m. bed time, no tolerance for alcohol, multiplying gray hairs. I don’t feel old and I certainly don’t pretend that I am. I don’t even think 40 or 50 is old, so at 31, I’m still a baby.
But 30 is when you start to feel adulthood in your bones and joints and digestive tract. These days, I whine when the weather gives me a head ache, buy wrinkle cream and say things like: "If I stay up past 11 p.m. I get the shakes."
What happened to me? I was never made of rubber, but when did my body become so brittle?
JH MAE is a Banner columnist.