No ifs, ands, or butts
The third time my sweat pants slipped down this morning I was forced to do the tiny-steps-shuffle across the kitchen floor while holding a hot cup of coffee and a plate of bagels lathered with cream cheese. If I had had a free hand, I could have caught the baggy pants in mid-slide as I usually do.
“I’m throwing these damned sweat pants away,” I grumbled to my long-suffering wife. “The elastic in the waist is shot.”
“They don’t fall down because of the elastic in the waist,” she said. “They fall down because you don’t have a butt to hold them up.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I snapped. “Of course I have a butt. I’ve always had a butt.”
“Not anymore,” she said. “It’s gone.”
I shuffled to the bedroom and looked over my shoulder in the mirror. She was right. My butt was gone. Disappeared.
I reached back with both hands and tentatively groped. Sometime in the course of the last decade my butt has been replaced by a patch of leathery hide that resembles one of those old-time catcher’s mitts you see in photographs of Bill Dickey when he was playing for the New York Yankees in the 1930s.
A Hall of Fame ball player, a great catcher, but I don’t want his lumpy mitt attached to my lower back, doing poor service in the role of a derriere. I want the butt I had when I played baseball myself, the muscular one that jutted out, was the source of my ability to hit with power, boosted my running speed, made sitting on the bench more comfortable – and held my sweat pants up.
“What the hell happened to my butt?” I hollered.
“It’s gone,” my wife yelled from the kitchen. “Old men don’t have butts.”
The Universe tilted precariously, I became lightheaded and dizzy, my heartbeat raced out of control, my stomach flipped, and I suddenly needed to pee. Old men don’t have butts? Old man? ME?
Of course I had noticed over the years that the old fuds working out at the college athletic center’s fitness gym did not have butts. Those wrinkled, puny bodies lifting laughable 10-pound dumbbells and setting the resistance bar on the exercise machines to the lowest levels.
But those elderly gents must have always been that way. Buttless.
They were never stud athletes with rippling muscles and huge gluteus. Those pitiful old men had always been weak little bookworms. I would never look like that. Right?
Now a harsh reality knocked me on my ass (or whatever it is that I have where an ass used to be) – I have deteriorated to the no-butt stage of stereotypical male decline.
I contemplated suicide, but unfortunately I had scheduled a donation time at Saturday’s Red Cross Blood Drive. And I have a rare blood type, so I always get my appointment time preference. This is the North Country; we keep our promises and appointments.
When I regained my balance and composure, I asked the rhetorical questions that have no doubt been asked by a million men a million times:
What happened to my butt? When did it disappear? Where did it go? I mean, how can a butt just fade away without me even noticing?
I know what happened to my pectorals. They slowly migrated downward over the years, becoming a powerful band of muscle around my middle that allows me to sit at a 45-degree angle in my easy chair for hours and hours without tiring. But the rest of my musculature: what’s going on here?
My thighs and calves that were once the envy of every NFL running back have become the envy of every flamingo yard ornament in an Arkansas trailer park. My fireplug neck has become the weak coil spring on a bobblehead doll. My biceps, triceps, delts, abs, hams, lats, traps, quads? All gone AWOL.
For the first time, I regretted having the corrective eye surgery last summer. It would have been better if I had never seen this body clearly. Much better.
Maybe this explains why, when I wrestle with my 11-year-old grandsons, they knock me on my butt. Or that flat lump I have back there instead of a butt these days.
Maybe I should ask Barry Bonds where I can get some really good steroids for a body rebuilding project. But I suppose if I restored some muscle mass it would tear my arthritic joints apart, based on what I learned during rehab for two rotator cuff tears.
If there were a cure for this, someone would have discovered it by now. So I guess I will have to adjust to these new circumstances and do the best I can with what I’ve got left.
Seems as though my old body has become like my old pickup truck. It has a lot of years and high mileage, the frame is bent in a couple places, the upholstery is threadbare, the metal is showing some rust spots, the cab smells like stale beer and cigars, and the engine is hard to start on cold mornings.
But it still takes me where I want to go, does all the work I need to do these days, and has a certain familiar comfortableness. We don’t go racing down the highway, but that’s okay; neither of us wants to race anymore. This old truck will travel a lot more miles and have more good days afield before it gets hauled off to the junkyard.
I wish the tailgate wasn’t missing, though.
I wonder where it went.