Today, I snapped an impromptu photo of the person I saw in the mirror upon waking. He startled me. It is my 64th birthday. Even though I seem reasonably fit at first glance after a lifetime of avid running and weight lifting, there are telltale signs of six-plus decades of life. Upon closer inspection, my hair is slowly disappearing, wrinkles are gathering speed, a little thicker in the middle, and the skin on my neck is growing lax. Also, the muscle soreness from my six-plus mile run on Friday lingers much longer than it used to.
Yet, I have much to be grateful for. I feel much more comfortable in my skin now than ever before, my libido has never been more robust (and that is saying something), and fortunately, I take no medication. My gerontologist, yep, gerontologist, told me I was the picture of health last week at my annual physical exam. I still love running, biking, walking, and sex (yes, I realize I could have used a rhyming word on that last one).
And I am fully aware that our conservative and right-wing religious culture requires me to censor my photo whether I want to or not. It has taken over sixty years to be proud of my “manly endowments.” Finally. Tragically, the first six decades were filled with shame, guilt, and anxiety because of my physical makeup. No more.
Last week after our Caribbean cruise, we decided to go to Haulover Beach in Miami for the afternoon with friends. I have known one for over thirty years, so he is well aware of my former career. After we settled in, I asked him to stroll with me along the beach. He looked at me in wonder and said, “if someone had told me thirty years ago that we would be walking together in our birthday suits on a clothing-optional beach, I would have called them crazy. And yet, here we are.” I asked him how it felt. He looked at me, and without hesitation, he said, “FREEDOM. I feel free.”
On Haulover Beach, one can see every type of body shape and state imaginable. Ironically, it is rare to see the beautiful bodies porn so readily depicts. Sure, there are a few stunningly beautiful people, but most of us have our share of wrinkles, sags, and lack of muscle tone. And scars. One sees lots of scars.
I recently read about a speaker (perhaps it was Robert Bly?) asking everyone in attendance to count the scars on their body. Then, he had everyone stand up, then sit if they had less than ten, twenty, thirty, etc., until the last person was standing. If memory serves me, the man left standing had over seventy scars, and yet, somehow, he was still alive.
Of course, I had to count mine. I have nine. Nine scars. And each of them has a story. Some are mundane, some quite fascinating. Yet, my most significant and most noticeable scar, which causes the most comment when I am topless, is in the middle of my chest. And for the life of me, I cannot remember how it happened. A few weeks ago, my massage therapist softly asked me about it as she tentatively ran her finger over it, but I told her I didn’t know. I have either repressed, suppressed, or denied it. My wife Gina says it looks like a knife wound. But I have no idea.
I DO know that I cannot formulate the number of internal scars. I’m sure they would number in the thousands. Yet, like my body, I am slowly removing the man-made coverings and shadows. And as with every article of clothing I shed, the more I bring to the light of day, the freer I become. Last year I made a bronze casting of my body because I knew I was not getting any younger, and I thought I would never be in as good shape as then. But now, surprise, I’m in even better shape. Who knew?
The essential word I have chosen for my physical body is sensuality. But for the first six decades, the institutions of life (family, church, school, and culture) did everything possible to preach, spank, teach, and shame the sensuality right out of my soul. But they failed. I don’t know how, but they failed.
So today, on my 64th birthday, I began with a sensual time of making love. Followed by a sensory feast walking our dog Remy in the stunningly beautiful park in our neighborhood with my muse, lover, and best friend, Gina. Then I enjoyed a plethora of aromas while cooking crepes. Now touching the keys beneath my fingers, typing these words, feeling the emotional sadness of knowing that many people are too repressed to understand and enjoy this post. Then a few hours on our screened-in back porch enjoying nature, cocktails, conversation, and companionship. Followed by the sensual delights of slow-cooking Osso Bucco Milanese, risotto Milanese, and pairing it with an aromatic and delectable Hendry Primitivo, a flourless chocolate torte with raspberry sauce paired with an Amarone wine.
Then tomorrow, who knows? So let the sixty-fifth year of my existence begin…aging is not nearly as bad as culture makes it out to be. At least not for me…and I am grateful. I have never enjoyed life as much as today. Here’s to sensuality and freedom. They are priceless.