html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Dear Men,

Friday, September 14, 2007

Dear Men,

Do all of you secretly believe that you will die at the same age your father did? Are all of you secretly counting down the years, or just the few I've heard of recently?

Anyway, if you do this, please stop. It is ridiculous and it freaks us out.


The daughters who love and need you.


Blogger Megan said...

No, really. Fucking cut that out.

6:18 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Not in the least. I'm too busy enjoying the days to bother counting them.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Are the childless exempt?

It seems to me that we should be.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Glad to hear it, Mark.

Chris, I dunno, but it seems to me that you shouldn't.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Well, I have the good fortune of running parallel to my dad. But, in that event, no.

7:03 PM  
Blogger I don't pay said...

Last year, in his 90th year: I've got some space.

But do I watch like a hawk for signs of the deafness, diabetes, and dementia that clouded his end , and have a plan: I will persist with hearing aids despite discomfort, or risk losing contact with people; I will keep fit and hold my weight down; what was the other thing?

7:14 PM  
Blogger jens said...

Nope. Not me.

My father had stomach cancer over a year OK. He looks to be all right now (seventy years old and still winning his tennis games).

His father is 94, and not quite as energetic as he used to be. He can no longer keep his wife under control (last time he played his accordion late at night and kept her awake, she slashed it with a butcher knife and went back to bed).

Anyway, I'm in no rush for either of them to die and give me a target.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous teofilo said...

I would love it if my dad died at the same age as his dad (70). It's extremely unlikely that he'll live that long.

8:32 PM  
Anonymous D said...

I'm sorry you feel that Megan... I hope your men will heed your advice.

I have a different take, because as a man it looks different to me.

the years count down, and perhaps when you look at some guy who looks[ed] just like you, lost his hair at the same age... noticing that your ears are drooping just like his, finding that sometimes you say the same words to your own son, as he said to you. Shocking yourself with the identical tone of voice. Yeah, you might think your body will give up at the same time...

What I tell my friends with this problem [and I have a friend whose brothers and father look like an age line when together, because they are so similar] is that they will just have to beat the old coot, and honor his life by learning from his decisions both good and bad...

I don't have that problem, not having known my father at all... I get to run my own game, so what I teach my kids is not just to learn from their decisions, but to realize that death is the frame of life and gives it context. You don't seek it but you cannot stop it, and so you must learn to say goodbye.
Someday I too will approach that door, and it might be this very next moment, and my children will do what every other person in this world has done.
They will have to let me go.

9:42 PM  
Blogger billo said...

It's ridculous to count but ridiculous not to as's just something that is 'there' with most us (don't tell me women aren't counting as well).

And who is to say that our distractions/entertainment aren't *partly* about us not thinking about the clock running down.

In any case, I can't believe that we aren't aware-at one level or the other-of our finitude.

11:08 PM  
Blogger dgm said...

For Billo: ARE women counting? I hadn't thought of this before. I wonder if many women think about death in the way Megan describes. I wonder if women with children look at their lives the same way many men (with and without children) apparently do. Of course I realize it won't all last forever, but I never think of myself as "winding down." I still think I'm gearing up, and I'm in my early 40s. I still think things are getting better despite a few more creaks.

FWIW, My dad is a counter; my mom, not.

7:24 AM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

1. You're ignoring the emotional content of what they're saying.

2. It's not irrational. We know a lot of longevity is heredity, and that certain diseases tend to occur more in one sex or another.

Suppose there was a woman who lost her mother and grandmother to breast cancer in their 50s. Would you tell her to "cut it out" if she said she was dreading her 50s?

p.s. I do not because luckily my father is still with me. But I dread the day when he gets as old as my grandfather was when my grandfather died, so yes, I recognize the logic.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

All my 8 great grandparents lived into their 90s, and all my grandparents are alive 80+ now, and pops looks pretty good for his age. I'm motherfucking immortal. So, yes.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both my grandfathers died in their 90s (one with a lifelong smoking habit).

I've mentally planned to live to 100--thus single and childless at 40 doesn't bother me because I expect to be neither at 50.

And if that bit of presumptuousness doesn't pan out, well, that's the serendipity of life, right?

11:10 PM  
Blogger billo said...

DGM, I guess you're right. You or others may not be counting down in the exact way Megan describes and maybe it's more pronounced for men. I don't know.

But I can't help thinking that the emphasis on youth (no wrinkles, no sagging body) is indicative of a deep rooted fear of getting old (of course, it goes without saying that this is enhanced by the desires/expectations of men).

I don't know, for me it cuts deep but I still think Hans Jonas was right: mortality is a burden AND a blessing.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Now that gains in life expectancy have largely ceased, we may soon see more of this "counting."

Some researchers have claimed that today's children may be the first generation in recorded history to have a lower life expectancy than their parents.

7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My girlfirend (24 years old) always keeps in mind that her mother died of breast cancer at 40.

6:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Would love to see a link for that assertion. It doesn't surprise me -- quite the opposite -- but I hate to add things to my list of doom then find out they're not really true.


9:06 AM  
Anonymous ptm said...

Nah. My father barely lived through his mid-50's cardiovascular incident. All his brothers and antecedants died from theirs. So, I think I'll die younger.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Dex -

Here is a goverment document showing changes in U.S. life expectancies since 1900. A quick look confirms my impression that the big increases were in the 1900-1950 period, with changes since then happening at a more modest rate. Though of course it's good news that the trends continue to be upward.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Bill Harshaw said...

Yes, more so since I've retired. About 7 years to go to reach my father (73). I am also hyper-conscious of Alzheimers (mom, at about 85).

12:54 PM  
Anonymous doctorpat said...

I'm still waiting on being able to keep up with dad on a cross-country run.

And I think he's gaining on me.

On the other hand, I AM sort of, not really, but sometimes, very aware of the fact that by the time he was my age he had three children.

And as for Peter's argument "Some researchers have claimed that today's children may be the first generation in recorded history to have a lower life expectancy than their parents."

Well that would have to be the researchers who don't realize that recorded history goes back further than the 1900s.

Anyway, the "life expectancy" will depend on your own behaviour. So nothing to be concerned about if you aren't a fool.

8:00 PM  

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