Never underestimate the limitless capacity of the human male for stupidity in his timeless efforts to impress the fairer sex. Many a trek across the River Styx began with a simple, “Hey, baby, watch this…” No matter our means, age or station, none of us are immune.
When the weather is nice, my wife and I walk for about an hour several times a week. Sometimes that’s on a road. Other times it’s through the woods on our rural farm. I call it RMT, short for relationship maintenance time.
RMT is the time when I’m not working, writing, or, ideally, even distracted. It’s an opportunity my wife and I use to solve problems. We plan, scheme and dream. Countless vacations, home improvement chores, and major purchases have been ironed out during our RMT. Then one day, I gradually noticed that it was more of a struggle to keep up than had previously been the case.
I’m 57, fit and healthy. However, my dad had a cardiac event at 58. After finally resigning myself to the fact that I might not technically be bulletproof and immortal, I referred myself for a stress test.
It’s weird undergoing a medical test as a physician. I live and work behind that curtain and kind of know what to expect. That can be either good or bad. However, the awkward bit is that everybody is extra special and nice, which can leave me inexplicably feeling a bit discomfited.
I showed up in shorts and a t-shirt to find that the test was administered by one of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. You think I’m kidding. She was one of those preternaturally gorgeous young Southern women of whom we are so rightfully proud. I’m happily married, and she was literally half my age. Regardless, I still naturally wanted to leave a favorable impression. As guys, that is our nature. That is also our curse.
She hooked me up to this intimidating mass of wires and arranged me on the treadmill. The temperature was comfortable, and I was well-rested. She asked if I had any questions before we began.
I pondered for a moment and innocently queried when I should quit. I couldn’t offhand recall when this test was supposed to terminate. She perkily responded that I should quit whenever I couldn’t go anymore.
Now that was a problem. I’m not really a quitting sort of guy. That attitude has successfully taken me through five careers thus far. Airborne school, countless PT tests, and ruck marches beyond number stand in glorious testament to my insensate aversion to moderation. I asked what was the longest she had ever seen anyone go on her machine. I don’t recall what she told me — 10 minutes, maybe. With a self-confident smile, I informed her that was, therefore, my goal.
The test began pleasantly enough. The pace was reasonable, and the young lady was good company. Then, something insidious began to happen.
The treadmill gradually increased its incline. What had been a pleasant stroll was now resembling a mountaineering exercise. Throughout it all, the cheerleader just smiled adorably. Eventually, I just couldn’t care about making a positive impression anymore. Simple, unvarnished survival became my objective.
Anyway, a bit short of her record with that stupid machine nearly vertical, I had had enough. I collapsed into a decidedly unmanly heap, gasping like a beached carp. I was truly spent. Any thought of looking cool now irretrievably lost.
She congratulated me for doing such a good job. However, I rather suspect she tells everybody that, even the fat old guy who dies horribly on her diabolical device. I have this mental picture of her helping wrestle his massive cooling corpse out of the lab on a gurney with a sweet, “You did a great job, sir!”
I obviously didn’t technically die. Once I recovered sufficiently, I was joined by my wife to await the results. The cardiologist studied the sundry graphs and charts and informed me that I was 57 years old and needed to better act my age. On her drive home, I’m sure the cheerleader rightfully thought of me as yet another pathetic old man who refused to age gracefully. I cannot imagine that she was impressed at all.
The take-home point is this — it really is physically impossible for a 50-something-year-old guy to look cool exercising to exhaustion in front of a young hot girl. Aging gracefully is a noble goal, to be sure. However, that’s not something anyone will ever see inscribed on my tombstone.
I have seen folks die of old age and natural causes who were legitimately surprised. In this case, it seems I’ll keep on puttering along for a bit longer, at least. Apparently, I just need to act my age.