We have no more old people in this country! No more old people. We shipped them all away, and we brought in these “senior citizens.” Isn't that a typically American 20th century phrase? Bloodless. Lifeless. No pulse in one of them. A “senior citizen.”
But I've accepted that one, I've come to terms with it, I know it's here to stay, we'll never get rid of it, that's what they're going to be called, so I'll relax on that. But the one I do resist—the one I keep resisting—is when they look at an old guy and they say, “Look at him, Dan, he's ninety years young.” Imagine the fear of aging that reveals! To not even be able to use the word “old” to describe someone. To have to use an antonym. And fear of aging is natural, it's universal, isn't it? We all have that. No one wants to get old. No one wants to die. But we do. So we bullshit ourselves.
I started bullshitting myself when I got to my 40s. Soon as I was in my 40s I'd look in the mirror and I'd say, “Well, I ... I guess I'm getting ... older.” “Older” sounds a little better than “old,” doesn't it? Sounds like it might even last a little longer.
Bullshit. I'm getting old. And it's okay. Because thanks to our fear of death in this country, I won't have to die. I'll pass away. Or I'll “expire” like a magazine subscription. If it happens in the hospital, they'll call it a “terminal episode.” The insurance company will refer to it as “negative patient care outcome.” And if it's the result of malpractice they'll say it was a “therapeutic misadventure.”
When they arrested Lenny Bruce for obscenity, they took Carlin with him because he refused to show the cops ID. He was the first host on Saturday Night Live. The Kennedy Center was going to give him the Mark Twain award later this year.
He once invented “Frisbeetarianism,” saying that when a person dies, their soul lands on a roof somewhere, never to be retrieved.
Getting older — getting old — suited him so well I sort of assumed he'd be around forever. But he, ah, passed away yesterday.
There are some words for how I feel. But you can't say 'em on TV.