Friday, November 30, 2018

Ask a Middle-Aged Guy


Dear Middle-Aged Guy,

Why can’t I take a pee without having to endlessly shake?

Tom G, Brooklyn, NY

Dear Timmy G,

Assuming you haven’t always had this problem, it’s likely related to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). You know: prostate enlargement. Essentially the prostate puts pressure on the urethra, which is like stepping on a garden hose. According to this article, BPH can also cause that dribbling at the end, possibly because your bladder just isn’t quite empty even though you think you’re done.

You didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway, how you might deal with this (without resorting to medical intervention). For one, you can just slow down and not try to “pee-‘n’-flee” like a teenager. Another technique is called “urethral milking” which I refuse to try to describe in these pages. Click here for details.

It may be worth noting that the need to shake your unit might only seem like a middle age thing. Maybe as a youngster you just weren’t paying attention to the fact that you were scattering drops of urine all over the bathroom like a priest with his aspergillum. I know for a fact that at the tender age of 17 I was already having trouble with dribbling. I wrote a poem at that time that included these lines: 
Relax, because you’ve earned your potty break;
Unburden your poor bladder of its pee.                        
And when you’re done you’ll shake and shake and shake;
An effort all in vain, it seems to me.
    For urine flow can never really stop,
    Until your undies drink the final drop.
By the way, I’m aware of one other cause of BPH that doesn’t require medical intervention: it can be a side effect of certain cold or allergy medicines. Try going off them, and then decide if sneezing all the time is preferable to dribbling.

Dear Middle-Aged Guy,

I’m only in my forties, but I’d swear my vision is going. I keep thinking the lights are turned down low, but I try the dimmer switch and it’s already all the way up. Everything just seems so damned dim these days! Am I crazy, or could I be getting cataracts already?

Scott W, Phoenix, AZ

Dear Scott,

According to the National Eye Institute, “people can have an age-related cataract in their 40s and 50s. But during middle age, most cataracts are small and do not affect vision.” It’s also possible you have some other issue, like optic neuritis—but don’t take my word for it. I’m not a freakin’ doctor, I’m just a middle-aged guy! Go get an eye exam. (Even if you’re one of those genetic freaks who have 20/20 vision, you should get an exam every year, to screen for glaucoma and other ocular problems.)

Dear Middle-Aged Guy,

I felt grumpy about all my physical infirmities, but then I read about how until relatively recently, the human lifespan was only like forty years. Now I’m just grateful I’m still going strong at forty-six, like I’m defying evolution or something! I guess this isn’t exactly a question, but I thought you and your readers might like to know.

Howard M, Topeka, KS

Hi Howard,

Not to be a dick or anything, but that whole forty-year lifespan notion is kind of bogus. According to this article, the 40-something  life expectancy figure is distorted by the decrease over time in the infant mortality rate, which used to skew the life expectancy significantly downward. With this factored out, the human lifespan has remained largely constant for the last 2,000 years. The ancient Greeks, for example, routinely made it into their seventies (at least, those who achieved adulthood).

This isn’t to say we haven’t made strides in quality of life as we age. I trust your infirmities are well under control and you’re still getting around just fine. Hang in there, Howie!

Dear Middle-Aged Guy,

Why are Brundlefly-like hairs growing like crazy out of my ears and nose these days? It’s unbelievable! I swear I’m wearing out the motor on my electric trimmer!

Daniel W, Bend, OR

Dear Daniel,

What you have observed is the Law of Conservation of Male Hair. Men’s hair can neither be created nor destroyed—only transferred or transformed. This means all the hair that’s disappearing from your forehead has to go somewhere, so it migrates down your back and into your nostrils and ears. It’s completely normal, though also completely annoying.

By the way, you may have noticed your electric trimmer often conks out. It may seem as though it has a short circuit, but actually, it’s just that the blades are getting jammed. Take apart the little blade thingy, rinse it, and then lube the blades up with a little olive oil. It’s like magic!

Dear Middle-Aged Guy,

What exactly does “middle-aged” mean, anyway?

Janet G, Boise, ID

Dear Janet,

I assume you’re looking for something more helpful than the dictionary definition (“the period between early adulthood and old age, usually considered as the years from about 45 to 65”). Middle age is generally considered the time when life stops improving and we start to complain a lot. According to Wikipedia, “Experiencing a sense of mortality, sadness, or loss is common at this age.” On the flip side, according to most middle-aged men Wikipedia is full of shit.

That said, in middle age we men do become more prone to being maudlin, morose, misanthropic, and/or drunk. The Strokes song “On the Other Side” captures all four traits: “I hate them all, I hate them all/ I hate myself for hating them/ So I drink some more, I love them all/ I drink even more/ I hate them even more than I did before.”

So, Janet, if you have a man in your life, make sure he gets plenty of love and not too much booze. One of the researchers in a famous decades-long Harvard study on happiness concluded that six factors predicted healthy ageing: “physical activity, absence of alcohol abuse and smoking, having mature mechanisms to cope with life’s ups and downs, and enjoying both a healthy weight and a stable marriage.”

A few years ago my young daughter asked me, “Daddy, can a person die of middle age?” All I could offer in response was, “I hope not.”

Dear Middle-Aged Guy,

Everybody keeps telling me I need to exercise as I get older, but half the dudes I know end up maiming themselves—torn rotator cuffs, tendonitis, bone fractures, ACL tears, concussions … is it even worth it?

Spencer T, Los Angeles, CA

Dear Spencer,

There’s no simple answer for this, but I have a few opinions. First of all, if you’ve never been particularly fit, this might not be a great time to take up a new sport … the inevitable newbie mishaps can really injure you now whereas a kid or young adult might walk them off. On the flip side, even if you were a crackerjack soccer or basketball player in your youth, that doesn’t mean your body can still handle all those crazy moves. Stick with non-contact sports. Swimming, yoga, biking (if you already know what you’re doing), and hiking would probably be better than, say, hockey or rugby.

Dear Middle-Aged Guy,

People used to say “forty is the new thirty” and now it’s “fifty is the new forty,” etc. How long will this age deflation continue, and when is it time to cry bullshit?

Buck H, Aurora, CO

Dear Buck,

It doesn’t actually matter how you feel, and it doesn’t even matter how you look. All that matters is how you’re perceived. It’s all well and good that my doctor told me, “You’re not old yet—you’re still young.” Who was he to judge? He’s so old he just retired! What really matters is what the young think of us. And they couldn’t care less whether we’re forty vs. fifty vs. sixty. We’re all just old.

You want proof? I was chatting about the different James Bonds with my teenaged kids. My older daughter likes Daniel Craig pretty well, but complained that he’s too old. Ouch! He’s only a year older than I am! And what’s worse, my daughter declared this after seeing “Casino Royale,” which was made when Craig was only 38! I asked her how old Bond ought to be. She said, “I dunno … like, 22?” Unbelievable.

Dear Middle-Aged Guy,

When I was young, my dad couldn’t stand my music—and I’m talking about good, solid bands like the Clash, Depeche Mode, U2, the Police, the Smiths, Talking Heads, etc. He said it was “just noise,” and blah, blah, blah. I swore I would be more open-minded, and, you know, cooler, when I reached my forties. But now I’m just as disdainful of modern music as my dad was. Is this just an inevitable part of ageing?

Tucker L, Minneapolis, MN

Dear Tucker,

It’s not you—it’s them. The bands. Most of them just totally suck! Look, my dad couldn’t stand any of the rock music I liked as a teen, either … he stopped trying out new music when he hit his 20s, which meant he was stuck with The Mommas & The Papas, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul & Mary. He couldn’t really handle any rippin’ guitars, killer drum solos, or (gasp) profanity. But my problem with modern music is that it’s too weak.

For decades I’ve been listening, on and off, to our local Bay Area alternative station, Live 105. I never loved it but it was okay. But now? They’ve renamed themselves “The New Alt 105” and half the music they play is by these emo weenies who really need to be slapped around. AJR, Twenty One Pilots, Imagine Dragons … even some outfit called Modest Mouse. What kind of name is “Modest Mouse” for a rock band? They’re all shamelessly weak and soft. And when I tour through the radio dial, smacking up against the likes of Maroon 5, I can’t believe how feeble, anodyne, and repetitive most of the music is.

In case you’re wondering if this is just my ossified middle-aged brain talking, my teenagers hate the modern music, too. Their brains are still supple so I trust their judgment … even if they shake their heads at my growing bald spot.

Dear Middle-Aged Guy,

I’m not one of you. I’m a teenager writing in to complain about my dad. He seems to think he’s actually cool, which makes it SO much lamer that he’s totally not. Can you just tell your readers to give it up already? This self-denial is really embarrassing to have to witness!

AA, Albany, CA

Dear AA,

Look, I get it: middle-aged men need to be realistic. But there’s a difference between trying too hard and just throwing in the towel. There is a breed of middle-aged man who is just totally clueless. For example, he may think that anything available from L.L. Bean is automatically a good sartorial choice, even raspberry-sherbet-colored pants. Or he whistles the theme to “Sesame Street” in a public place. He might wear a really nerdy hat—like, it’s the shape of a pith helmet, but is all fabric and miraculously folds up into a little pouch, which actually delights this fellow to the point that he sincerely expects to be admired for it. Or, he’ll decline to update his glasses frames, regardless of any consideration of fashion, to the point that he’s still wearing what Bill Gates gave up on as a relatively young adult.

Look at these two middle-aged men, flirting with the camera, trying to do duck lips (or is it sparrow face?) like a couple of Snapchatting teenagers, little realizing how stupid their glasses (okay, full disclosure: their late father’s glasses) look.


My advice? Cut your dad some slack. Things could be so, so much worse. Let him pretend to have dignity, and when absolutely necessary just coach him a little (for example, stop him if he thinks he’s allowed to use words like “extra” the way teens do).

Dear Middle-Aged Guy,

As the actual end of my life grows ever nearer on the horizon, I find myself frequently lost in reflection. And the thing I ponder the most is: at what point did I realize that it is just much easier to roll over and take it rather than put up a good fight?

“AAA-cell,” Bend, OR

Dear AAA-cell,

First off, I hear you. A sense of futility is, I think, a natural reaction to everything being more difficult than it has ever been before. Certain basic actions—such as trying to fold a fitted sheet, searching in vain for your phone charger, attempting to form a complete sentence without losing track of a key word, or even just sleeping soundly through the night—suddenly seem insurmountable.  Needless to say, the difficult things we’re asked to do—fixing a leaking faucet, writing up career goals for the new year, or mastering  a new enterprise software application—are utterly soul-crushing. (A middle-aged manager of mine fought valiantly against an SAP CRM application, grew increasingly frustrated, and ultimately declared, “Maybe I’ll just resign.” Which he then did.)

All this being said, I challenge your suggestion that there was a specific point at which you gave up. I don’t believe middle age is like a tsunami that suddenly overwhelms us. It’s more like a relentless lapping of waves, all these constant and predictable forces that slap against us again and again. So you probably haven’t actually rolled over, at least not for good. Maybe you’re just temporarily curled up in the fetal position while some big waves crash over you, and then the tide will go out, you’ll cough up a bunch of water, and things will get incrementally easier. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

A Middle-Aged Guy is a syndicated journalist whose advice column, “Ask a Middle-Aged Guy,” appears in over 400 blogs worldwide.

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