“Young people are the only ones who ever talk about growing old gracefully. For those actually in the thick of it, the romance of that notion burns off pretty quickly, and wrinkles and creaky joints are the least of it: Growing old, gracefully or otherwise, means becoming the person you were always meant to be, only more so. After days, months, and years of gradual transformation, you wake up one day to find that you’re 1,000 percent you. Your good qualities have entwined so fixedly with the bad that it’s hard to distinguish which are which. By the time you feel wholly comfortable in your own skin, everyone around you may find you unbearable.” — from Stephanie Zacharek‘s Village Voice review of Grandma, an above-average film about a cranky, prickly older woman (Lily Tomlin) trying to help her granddaughter (Julia Garner) pay for an abortion.
I love that “1000 percent you” line — that’ll be bouncing around in my head for years to come. Ditto the “good qualities entwined so fixedly with the bad.” But I don’t feel at one with the tone of resignation in this paragraph. (It almost feels defeatist.) I guess this is because while I might have felt “wholly comfortable in my skin” a few years or even a decade or two ago, a lot of old skin was shed when I went sober three and a half years ago, and as much as I recognize there are certain aspects of my nature that will never change and that a certain sector of humanity will always annoy me (and very possibly vice versa), I don’t see the climate out there as all that prickly or adversarial. Sobriety really does make your life seem like something that might work out. And aside from advertisers, I don’t give that much of a shit about what most people think of me so…you know, fuck’ em.
And I really don’t empathize with Zacharek’s line about how “everyone around you may find you unbearable” when you’re in your 1000 percent phase. If there are some who’ve found me unbearable or fairly hard to take, trust me when I say that the feeling is much, much stronger on my end about many of them. But 99% of the time I let it go. Who needs rancor? True, I can’t stand people who throw their heads back and laugh like jackals in cafes and bars, but I’ve been dealing with them for years and it’s not a big deal any more. I know how to do mellow and bearable and mellow yellow as well as the next guy, and I can always just say “okay, whatever,” pay the bill and excuse myself. And if anyone pisses me off on the site I just block them.
The only people I really, really can’t stand are fellow journalists who seem to actually delight in the wounding of their fellows. I’ve never, ever cheered when a fellow journalist has gone through rough times or taken a hit over some issue, but there are some out there, trust me, who go “wheeee!” whenever I get into one of my scrapes. If their karma winds up ushering some form of misery into their lives, I can’t say I’ll be hugely unhappy about that. But otherwise things are pretty much okay.