“Hey, could you write down everything you’ve ever done in life, with dates, so I can remember?”
I don’t plan for the future. Never have. It’s a weakness that goes hand in hand with my complete inability to make and manage money. That right there is my Achilles’ heel. I might plan little, elaborate things like vacations I never take; I can tell you what shoes I’d wear to dinner after spending the day poolside on the fourth night of a whirlwind trip to South Beach during a quiet week right after March Madness, but I can’t tell you where I’ll be in 10 years, or even where I want to be in 10 years. In all honesty, I’ll probably be right here, doing this, but I really can’t say for sure because my mind doesn’t work in future tense.
I don’t think about getting old the way they do in tv commercials. I understand that this is bad. I’m not a cartoon person playing golf, tennis, or some other rich old-person sport or a guy following a green arrow to the pot of gold I’ve saved and invested since I landed that great job at a prominent restructuring firm right out of college. I’ve always chosen lifestyle over income, which I imagine will be tragic one day when I hope to retire and become an official old person who does old-person things.
I’ll never be able to do glamorous old-person things, like travel around the country to wineries or provide grants for people just like me to go to college. My humble hope is that I’ll be able to live a modestly comfortable life in relatively safe surroundings.
As an exercise, to try to improve my future-thinking skills, I’ve tried to think about what I’d do if I ended up old and alone. Even if you don’t plan to end up old and alone, it’s probably wise to consider the possibility. You never know what might happen. You can’t say, oh, I won’t end up old and alone! I have a kid! That’s way, way too presumptuous for me. It’s like saying, “When I have kids. . . .” That’s always bothered me — the when-I-have-kids-ing. It’s just not something you can assume. You never know you’ll have kids until you have kids. You never know, well, anything. Maybe that’s why I don’t plan for the future. What’s the point when you never know?
Even if you have kids, you don’t know. You could end up like George Wallace. His daughter went missing. Then his wife committed suicide. Then his daughter’s braids were found on a logging road near Kebler Pass, Colorado, in 1979. In 2006, he was beaten to death in his home. (Sorry about my tendency to tie in shit I saw on real-life crime shows, although I didn’t know George Wallace was murdered until I googled him after seeing him on the show about his daughter. Sometimes I want to know what happens to people after they appear on real-life crime shows.)
You don’t want to think about anything like that ever happening to you or anyone you know and in all honesty it probably won’t. But, well, you just don’t know. (And PMS really messes me up these days. I’m not usually sitting around thinking about dead girls and their braids, I promise.)
Anyway. What I can tell you is that if I end up old and alone, I’d like to drive around in a turquoise or aqua El Camino. (I’m always confused about whether my favorite color is turquoise or aqua; it’s probably not teal. I think turquoise is a bright green-blue color, aqua is lighter and possibly slightly bluer than turquoise, and teal is like turquoise but more green.)
I would have seven dogs, one Rottweiler and an assortment of miniature pinschers and chihuahuas. I’d go out for at least one meal a day (some of these might be picnics, depending on finances), either on foot or in my El Camino, and would bring a dog with me (if you’re doing the math, I have one dog for each day of the week) (obviously, on Rottweiler day, I’d have to get lunch somewhere bad ass). In an effort to stay in shape, I’d still be working out at least five days a week for as long as I could. A good workout is nature’s mood stabilizer, effective against most forms of psychological malaise. Maybe I’d be well-off enough to join the Denver Athletic Club by then (unlikely). If we’re being honest, I’d also be smoking a lot of (medical) weed.
I’d have at least one person I could trust, who would take care of the dogs and find them good homes if anything happened to me so they don’t become the “owner died” recluse at the animal shelter who fails the terrible fake-arm aggression test and gets euthanized. I’d have my usual spots, where the employees and other customers would get to know me. The people at the diner would be forgiving when, eventually, I have to pull out the compact I use to fix my lipstick so I can read the little handwritten note I’ve stuck in there:
Monday: Spanish omelet, well done, extra veg. green chili, wheat toast. 🙂
They smile kindly even when it gets to the point where I forget why I’m there sometimes, or I’m ousted as mayor because I start forgetting to check in on FourSquare or whatever the elderly are using to account for their whereabouts all over the internet by the time I’m elderly. It’s going to be funny one day when all the old people are sitting around diners with their iPhones pretending to be cool.
I’d have a closet full of dresses I’ve accumulated over the years but haven’t really worn, because my shopping life never accurately reflects my actual life. (See also I’m bad at finances.) Eventually, I give up on trying to be somewhat “normal” and take to wearing these dresses whenever I feel like it. Sometimes I bring my laptop to the lobby of a fancy hotel to blog about stupid shit I blogged about when I was younger and drink tequila, because I’m convinced it’s time for me to develop an exquisite appreciation for tequila, which has always been my favorite hard liquor and the only one that doesn’t turn me into Satan, wearing a little, red, one-shouldered number I bought that one time even though I have absolutely no occasion in life to wear a little, red, one-shouldered number. Eventually, the fact that I’ve made it this far becomes the only occasion I need.
My hope is that, by the time my mind is starting to go, maybe it’s enough for me to know, somewhere in there, that I have a lunch date with a dog and a dress to wear. Maybe the rest of the lines become blurry enough so that when you’re in it, it’s not so scary. I think that’s how it happens. It’s not scary for you, when you’re there, just the bystanders.