We thought the world was our oyster, us baby boomers.
We were the product of postwar optimism. Everyone was building a new world and all over the country couples were at it like knives almost before the troops had cleared the gangplanks.
Nobody told us back then that age would happen.
You imagine you’ll be ready for it, but it creeps up and grabs your tender bits when you least expect it.
Like while you’re sitting in a barber’s chair.
I’ve had my hair cut. I’ve had hairs cut that I don’t really want to talk about, but you have to deal with these things. Life goes on, even if it is in a lower gear.
Everything was fine while the young woman trimmed my sideburns, moustache, beardâ€¦
I nearly drifted off to the hum of the clippers.
I woke up when they passed over my eyebrowsâ€¦ yelled when she trimmed the hairs in my earsâ€¦ and grabbed her by the throat when she tried to clip my nasal hairs.
My nasal hairs!
That’s something I do in the privacy of my own home. With the bathroom door locked.
We’re dealing with intimate personal details here. Not the sort of thing that can be done by any Tom, Dick or Harriet.
At first I thought this must be what rape is like. Then I realised the problem wasn’t that I’d been invaded Ñ but that I’d vanished!
Something subtle had happened to my place in the life of the universe and everything, and it wasn’t funny.
I’d stopped being human and become a hedge.
There was a time when I could sense, like a trickle charge of electric current, that young womenâ€¦ noticed me; that I represented aâ€¦ possibility, of some kind. One that might be passed over with barely a flicker, perhaps, but they knew I was there. With the possibility for danger, if they chose to live dangerously.
Now they want to pat me on the head, or rape my nostrils.
Maybe that’s what the real pain of rape is about Ñ not so much the invasion as the indifference.
I don’t want public servants in government departments to beam at me with their cretinous â€˜isn’t-he-a-sweet-old-thing’ smile. I want them to maintain body language that recognises Ñ if ever so subtly Ñ that there’s a chance I might drag them over the counter andâ€¦ well Ñ do something!
But a mere slip of a girl trimmed my nasal hairs. She didn’t even ask.
It’s only a short step from here to where someone asks the person pushing the wheelchair if I take sugar in my tea. They tried it with my father when he was in hospital, dying of cancer.
“Does he want a cup of tea? Does he take sugar?”
“I’m sick, you silly cow, not stupid!” he roared. Weakly. And then he died.