Lord of my jungle no more

by Symptom Advice on March 8, 2012

T he ageing endure all sorts of rites of passage. the hitherto lusty and hydraulically independent man pops his first Viagra (surely there should be some small, funereal ritual for this occasion, with a celebrant reading something profound and the singing of an appropriately sad hymn). the golfer, her hips and knees not what they were, takes delivery of her first golf buggy and knows she will never walk 18 holes again. the cricket legend is tapped on the shoulder and told his reflexes no longer qualify him to play at the highest level. the enfeebled suburban gardener who for 50 years has thought of himself as the Tarzan in the jungle of his garden, is at last faced with a job that needs muscles bigger and younger than his own, and brings in, for $35 an hour, the young man who has put up a notice at the local shops advertising that for garden jobs he has ”no expertise but just lots of brute strength”.

Until now I have been the one true brute in my garden. it has been my territory and I have guarded it as jealously as a male rhinoceros guards his territory, keeping other males at bay. but, as one of the rites of this passage of enfeeblement, I hired this young brute and he came around and did in three brutish hours what would now have taken me three days and then would have required a fortnight’s convalescence as my outraged little biceps recovered. In this I am the tragic Ricky Ponting and my Young Brute is a $35-an-hour Dan Christian, usurping me.

Where do they go, a man’s biceps? it seems like only yesterday mine were the size and shape of Australian Rules footballs but today as I shrivel they are back to what they were when I was a pre-pubescent and when my mother, chortling, used to compare them to a sparrow’s kneecaps.

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Mention, above, of Viagra, coincides with news about older people and sexually transmitted diseases. [Warning: do not read further if mental pictures of old people having sexual intercourse cause distress.] I read that: ”Baby boomers in the leading three English-speaking economies, the USA, UK and Canada, are being diagnosed at progressively higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), according to a report written by researchers from King’s College London, and Thomas’ Hospital London, in the Student British Medical Journal.

The authors explain that a significant number of older adults appear not to be practising safe sex. the authors explain that when a 56-year-old male has ‘waterworks’ problems, or a 61-year-old female experiences lower abdominal pain, they do not usually expect these to be symptoms of an STD; but more often today they are. In their study, the researchers found that over four-fifths of 50- to 90-year-olds are sexually active in the UK, the USA and Canada. the number of reported cases of STDs in this age group has more than doubled since the beginning of the millennium.”

These boffins say that it’s too early to be sure what the reasons for these sudden increases in STD infections among baby boomers might be but they strongly suspect it has something to do with more older people being sexually active now that there are magic medications that, like a magician producing a rabbit from a hitherto empty hat, can produce erections out of thin air, as it were.

The highly amusing William Ian Miller has been saying scathing things about Viagra lately while promoting his new book Losing it: the lament of an aging professor. Professor Miller is (like this columnist) 66 now and what’s refreshing about his book and his interviews and his occasional online essay (you can Google one of the latter at ”Losing it: the Lament of an Aging Professor”) is that he really does write about ageing as a thing to lament. Most popular writing and gibbering about growing old is full of false pep about these being the best, leotard-wearing, gymnasium-going, tango-dancing, new language learning, sexually adventurous years of our lives, but Professor Miller takes the refreshing view that growing old is a tragedy, albeit an inevitable one which we may as well accept with as many laughs as we can squeeze out of our plight.

He’s very funny on the subject of Viagra, saying among other things that its only virtue is to enable ”old fools” to go on being old fools for much longer than they otherwise would if they’d only embrace what the pharmaceutical companies call ”sexual dysfunction” as not a dysfunction at all but a kind of gift from God, liberating men from the tyranny of lust.

It won’t have occurred to big Pharma but what would be more useful, I think, would be a kind of gardener’s Viagra that pepped an ageing gardener up for long enough to be able to perform as a brute in his garden when there are manly feats of heavy work to be done. the drug would somehow circumvent the nether regions (because its hopeless trying to garden with an erection, and one’s witty wife and witty female neighbours say smart-arse things like ”Is that a pair of secateurs in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?”) but flow to the biceps, pumping them up to be like Aussie Rules footballs.

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