Age and aging. It’s a funny thing. Funny-odd, though, not funny ha-ha.

It strikes me as funny-odd, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that people are perfectly willing to decide all kinds of things about you based on how old they think you are and what conclusions they have drawn about that particular age. And they’re not always right.

For example, my wife is two weeks younger than I am, yet until her hair turned the beautiful gray color it is now, we were constantly being asked if she was my daughter. Seriously. It was annoying and did get old (pun accidental). It still happens, but nowhere near as often.

This thinking about age and aging began with an observation about aging I made while driving into town the other day. I was rolling along, when I looked at the instrument panel and realized I was alerting one and all to a right turn coming sometime in the foreseeable future — and had been for about two miles. I was immediately sure that all sorts of people were thinking, “Look at the old coot, driving with his turn signal on for miles.” But here’s the thing: I did the same thing was I was a young coot, or a whippersnapper, or whatever. I play the music (AM to FM to cassettes to CDs to iPod) too loud and don’t hear the audio alert on the signal.

Since I was already in the car, that made me think of another example where the ageists would get it wrong. I have always been a fan of classic British sports cars, Triumphs and Jaguars in particular. I have never been able to afford one. But, let us for a moment suppose I finally was able to purchase the Triumph TR7 I have wanted since the day it first came out, some 50-plus years ago. What do you think the reaction would be? Might it be: “Hey. Look at the old coot trying to regain his youth by driving a flashy British sports car.”? Right? When in truth it should be, “Look at the old coot. He finally managed to scrape enough money together to buy the car he’s always wanted.”

By the way, I use the term “old coot” as a descriptor. I feel neither old nor cooty. The term does paint a useful picture in this instance, so, “old coot” it is..

Then there’s my hair, he writes, apparently out of nowhere. I must confess, I truly believed, apparently naively, that at 65 my hair would cease to be an issue to those around me. I was wrong.

I have always had tightly curled hair, and usually plenty of it. As fashions came and went, my hair stayed the same. I was actually right in fashion for a short period of time in the 1960s when Afros on white kids became fashionable. “Peace, man. Chill out. Love… The moon is in the Seventh House” and all that. I was in! But then the fad passed, the moon moved into the house next door, and I was out again.

I think we all know the trauma cancer sufferers experience when the chemotherapy causes them to lose their hair. If you took a survey, you’d probably find hair loss among the worst parts of having the disease for most people. I’m not one of them. I was OK with it. After about two weeks, though Sheri started working on ways to improve how the stubble looked.

So, the monkeying with my hair continues. Since it looks like Walter White’s on a good day, I just let Sheri have her way. The other day, though, she was shaving away and suddenly stopped.

“Would it upset you if I said ‘Ooooops’ right now?”

“Not particularly.”

“Well, then. Oooooops.”

It seems she had used the wrong size attachment on the shaver and cut too deep. Of course, the only way to make it right was to cut the rest of it just as short, which she did. If anything, it looked shorter than it did when it all fell out. We both actually liked it.

I think, though, this opened the door to perhaps the comment that sums up my whole hair experience. A guy I know looked my head over carefully, while visible evidence of heavy thinking appeared on his face. Always a cautious speaker, he was no less so now: “Let me get this straight,” he said. “You can have as much hair on your head as you want, but you choose to have it look like that?”

Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog,

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