Farewell, Sweet Dignity, We Hardly Knew Ye


Much of life is spent trying to hold on to things: the gift you got for graduation, a good credit rating or even your dignity. I’m giving up on the last one.

The other day a client asked me to be a cheerleader.

I’m in advertising and don’t mind cheer-leading in a figurative sense. But no, I was being asked to perform, at a meeting, as an actual cheerleader.

Let me tell you from experience that a middle-aged man who stands in front of a crowd and vigorously waves pompoms in the air gets a real sense that his dignity is leaving on the midnight train.

Holding on to youth is also difficult. They tell me that my body is creating brandnew cells every day, which sounds like a good thing. Unfortunately, my body has a sense of humour and is creating all these cells under my chin, so in about six more months I will have a wattle like an engorged turkey.

Women can fight back with creams that, according to one brochure, “counteract slackening of the delicate throat area.” In the war on ageing, that sounds like a half-hearted attempt at victory—like when you reach for the bill after dining with a rich relative.

If you put some properly motivated guys in charge of this, I’m sure they could find some combination of chemicals that would snap that skin as tight as a snare drum. It could be the first beauty cream that would also work as a paint remover.

Speaking of paint, we recently moved into a new home. The chrome fixtures glistened. The wood floors gleamed.

We enjoyed the slightly toxic, newhouse smell.

I suspect my wife would have liked to sit me down for a little talk before we started unpacking boxes. She might have said something like: “Honey, I want you to feel like this is your home too. You’re welcome to come inside any time you want—as long as you’re in your socks. Also, you’re not allowed to carry any food or sharp objects in the house. And please don’t touch my new countertops—unless you’re wearing these cotton gloves.”

New things arouse a powerful protective instinct in my wife. She wants to preserve the newness. Part of me wants to say, “It’s no use. We have a five-yearold in the house.” I mean, in a matter of weeks, we had footprints on the wall.

It must have been an attempt to keep things new that led to the invention of the plastic slipcover.

You may not remember slipcovers but they had the same preservative effect as placing your furniture in a large canning jar. Unfortunately for the industry, many people found that sitting on plastic-covered furniture provided the same sensation as sitting on a giant teething ring.

We are a “national preservation” society but it’s hard to preserve anything at all. Time wears down our possessions— and even us.

But there are some things that last.

The Bible writer, Paul, said, “These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

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