Is there a doctor in the house? Someone holding a suspiciously invasive-looking device? He’s here to help Marsha and me celebrate. Presumably to satisfy her inner flagellant, my wife has given herself one to grow on by scheduling colonoscopies for herself and me on her birthday.
“Jeez oh man, was this their only ‘opening’?” I raved when I found out. “Are they waiving the copay as a present?”
It’s better to be born lucky than good, Mark Twain said. In terms of serendipity, Marsha came up a lucky thirteen. Princess parking, smooth airport security, meeting fun people--- no problem. With more planned enterprises, however, she’s apt to roll snake eyes. Whether from anesthesia or repression, this is one December thirteenth we’ll have trouble remembering. Just as well: We’ll be the balloons, and any candles in the vicinity won’t be blown out by mouth, that’s for sure.
I’m told such procedures are less painful now. That’s nice. I had a sigmoidoscopy done thirty years ago. The specialist from Texas told me to “stick your butt up in the air like you’re shootin’ at flies.” Then he did what felt like a spinal tap from the inside with a pool cue. For years afterward I couldn’t look at a billiard table without tensing my tush.
My first wife once reamed me because I worked late on her birthday. “Worst I ever had,” she said. Now the situation is reversed: “Hey, hon, for my birthday this year, whaddaya say we give ourselves a laxative, go lie on a bed somewhere, and have plumbing snakes shoved up our rears?”
It does take the heat off me in the future. Next year I could probably take Marsha to a public restroom on her special day and it would pass muster.
Maybe it’s just her way of expressing revulsion at birthdays generally. As she puts it, “men get distinguished as they get older and women get extinguished.” In Asian cultures, old age is venerated; life, it’s felt, doesn’t begin till fifty. By contrast, Marsha looked forward to her fiftieth with the relish of a fly awaiting a spider, and was depressed for weeks afterward. It doesn’t help that she’s nine months older than me, though she plans on outliving me anyway, of course.
When you think about it, scheduling an extreme close-up on your birthday epitomizes how priorities reverse with age. When you’re young you never go near doctors unless it’s to get patched up after you fell off a cliff while stoned. As you get older they assume greater importance in your life, eventually taking up more space in your appointment book than attorneys do the Yellow Pages. The magnitude of the procedures also gets ratcheted up, as though you were a car. Whereas earlier you required only an occasional oil change, now you need a head gasket. And the lifetime warranty has dwindled considerably.
The emphasis on birthdays themselves changes. As a kid you can’t wait for the next one, not just for the loot but so you can be a year older. Scarcely has the garbage truck pulled away with the torn gift wrap, shredded balloons, and slimy paper plates than you’re thinking about what you want a year from now.
Forty years on, you’re treating birthdays as if they were incontinence. Especially the ones that end in zero, which threaten a front lawn studded with plastic T. rexes and a sign mapping the growth rings around your midriff. You don’t even care that much about presents any more, unless it’s the GTO you always longed for.
Of course, you could receive a worse gift on your birthday than (hopefully) a clean bill of health. But if we’re being symbolic, babe, let’s do it on April fifteenth next time.