Walk into my apartment and hanging near the door, is a framed piece of junk mail I received shortly after my 50th birthday.
“Free Pre-Paid Cremation! Details Inside” bid the elegant printing on a little envelope that reminded me of the letters I used to receive from grandma when I was in college.
While I love bargains I had no interest in buying a niche from The Neptune Society no matter how much money I’d save on the ashes to ashes part of my final demise. Yet I was thrilled I’d made it far enough in life to get the offer. Despite the wrath and randomness of life’s viral wheel of fortune I’m a survivor, at peace with my infection, grateful for getting older, while knocking on wood along the way.
What’s more other benefits of aging are evident, suggesting that most noxious of grown-up expressions – youth is wasted on the young – has far more merit than I ever expected. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that middle-aged me is looking to meet, date and fall (in love, in the sack or somewhere in between) with someone a lot like me. Though, if he was better with money and baking pies, that would be nice too.
In case you’re thinking Dorian Gray, wrong-o! Substitute Whitney Houston for Oscar Wilde and you’re closer. While both the song and the expression make the hair on my back stand up, the truth is that learning to love your self has a lot to do with my newfound ease.
More specifically my litany of fearful anxieties –internal monologues or mumbled out loud – have vacated the cranial premises. Whether negotiating with a client or navigating the path from the sofa to the bedroom, its gotten quiet upstairs. My anxieties – too hairy, too chatty, too cuddly, too infected, too old, too interested, too breathy – have been replaced with a new confidence, near cockiness that never existed in my first 50 years.
Was this shift just evidence of the grace of getting older? Somehow that seemed too easy. Instead I wondered if being infected, if never having the luxury or arrogance to take getting older for granted made me more peaceful, assertive and even more appealing?
Of course living with HIV doesn’t make you better looking. Neither does, getting older. But maybe living with life’s uncertainties, it’s grace and gravitas, has made me more soulful, more adept in the bedroom or skillful in sautéing a roast?
I’m not a big believer in causality. Life is usually more grey than black or white. I’ll probably never know why those salmon burgers from Trader Joe’s I’d always loved started tasting more like rancid cat food or why my hatred for Angelina Jolie disappeared or why I think anyone who gets to date me is lucky.
Maybe I’m just benefitting from the new vogue for hairy guys or my good friend Scott who taught me about moisturizing after spending hours in the sun. Whatever the cause I’m just thankful I’ve gotten this far and enjoying the ride.