When Did Old Get So Weird?

Posted: November 6, 2005 by Emma Bull in art

Literature, I am sorry to say, has failed me.

One of the jobs of art, and particularly fiction, is to illuminate the world for us, to give us a taste of someone else’s experience, or a foretaste of what ours might be further down the road of life. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

Based on my reading, I figured, “Okay. Getting older means getting stiff, having aches and pains, losing some hearing. Wrinkles, gray hair. Got it. I’m ready.” Or rather, I was not ready, but it’s not as if I had a say in the matter.

But we need some serious updating in our fiction, people, on the matter of aging. ‘Cause nobody mentioned that it might involve a prescription for a medication that must be taken on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning, with so much water that you slosh when you walk, after which you must not eat, drink or bend over for half an hour.

No, nothing in fiction prepared me for this.

(Oh, it’s Actonel, which heads off osteoporosis. And at least I only take it once a week.)

  1. Grey says:

    Of course, now I’m wondering what would happen if you did bend over…

    You’re right. We need a story, or perhaps even a novel, about a woman who takes Actonel, and bends over.

  2. Emma Bull says:

    They say you’ll get awful painful throat ulcerations. But then, they said there were hidden missile stockpiles in Iraq, too.

    What actually happens is, you pop the pill, lean forward to touch your toes, and immediately and painlessly turn inside out. You are now in the inside-out universe, where all motives and processes, whether human, animal, geological, or otherwise, are immediately obvious and comprehensible to any onlooker. Politicians and drug companies cannot lie in the inside-out universe.

    You can see why the throat-ulcer story was necessary.

  3. Chris McLaren says:

    I suspect that the fault isn’t with literature, but rather that it’s a “same person, same river” problem.

    I know that I often find as things change in my life, and in my perceptions of the world, that works of literature can often offer me things that I couldn’t see there before.

    The paradigm case for me at the moment is parenthood–since I’ve become a father, I keep finding places where literature is speaking to me in a voice I couldn’t hear before. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say “in a voice I didn’t understand before”. Or maybe not. I vacillate.

    I also see the same effect, although thankfully less pronounced at the moment, w.r.t. aging and what is on offer for me.

    That being said, I suggest you don’t bend over, because painful throat ulcerations would be bad, and Emma popping out of our universe would also be bad.

  4. Emma Bull says:

    What usually happens is that I crawl out into the kitchen and pop the stupid Actonel immediately, because I want the clock to start ticking on that thirty minutes so I can HAVE MY COFFEE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

    Then I look down at my ankles and realize that the cats are gnawing on them. Feed the cats. Oh, right. But don’t bend over to pick up the bowls or set them back down after they’re full. Because I already took the stupid Actonel.

    I know what you mean about the river, though. Stuff comes to you when you’re ready to receive it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Or how about the pills that have to be taken on an empty stomach followed by the pills that have to be taken on a full stomach to avoid the side effects that require you to take another pill on an empty stomach. And the pill that cannot be taken with walnuts (synthroid).

    And, yes, the cats!


  6. MKeaton says:

    At a convention, I once had a rather elderly (and matronly) author set me down and give me a long talk about how important the planning and scheduling of bathroom time was to a full time writer if I wanted to keep my kidneys and other parts working properly as I aged. So, there is, in a way, a trickle of information passing on via the oral tradition.

    On the plus side, she was right and I have benifited in my later years from her advice. On the negative side, I can definitely understand in graphic detail why she would never include this information in a fantasy novel.


    (Lest anyone draw the wrong conclusion, this fine and venerable lady was not the B’loved Em. She was a generation older. Although I doubt that she would give a tinkers dam if I told her name, it seems most ungentlemanly of me to do so.)

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