Ah, the beautiful carefree spirit of children. They play, they swing, they run amok in all sorts of nooks and crannies. They kiss each other on the mouth, they start their meals with an aperitif of boogers and have absolutely no qualms with grabbing moving insects off the ground to cleanse their budding and innocent palates. Of course this doesn’t last. As we age, we put less and less things in our mouth (some of us, anyways). And invariably, many of us grow into less and less tolerant maniacs. So why does this transformation occur? Are we doomed to climb an upward slope with our placidity until we rot?
I was a messy, messy child. I was a messy, messy young adult. I’m still messy today, albeit less, but I have developed a touch of OCD in weird things and I can’t reconcile this with my character. For instance, if you come over and eat a cookie in my house without a plate, I will literally silently stare and try to memorize where each baked boulder lands, while I plot on disemboweling your loved ones. Then I will spend the rest of the evening with a fake smile, trying to count the nanoseconds till you leave and I can find said bubonic-plague-spreading morsels.
If I visit a public bathroom, I cannot touch the doorknob to leave. I need a tissue shielding me from the cold metal protrusion, from which I am sure I can visibly see creepy crawlies jumping up and down, touching themselves and yelling “Come on sugar! Bring your unsuspecting paw! I just want a ride baby!” Not ten years ago, this was absolutely no issue for me (the doorknobs, not the molesting bacteria, if I had known about those fuckers then, things would have been a whole lot different). Now, if the bathroom is out of tissues, I will literally wait till someone comes in to make my escape. How has this happened?
How did I go from someone who would share a beer with any sort of mammal to a person who cringes when someone takes a sip of my drink? There are very, very few people who I can tolerate sharing any body fluids with, and they include me. Is this a sign of insanity on the horizon? Is this one of many mental disorders that is fated to cloud my future days?
According to research, the shift towards intolerance in older age is linked to the epoch you grew up in as well as atrophy of certain parts of the brain. Additionally, some research shows that “intellectual curiosity tends to decline in old age”, which could support us becoming more and more closed off to certain behaviors. I take offense at that. Partly because I don’t want my intellectual curiosity to go down, and because I don’t agree. If I leave cookie crumbles to rue my house, it is not a sign of the degradation of my intellectual curiosity. Just because I’m not curious as to how many bugs will fester in my furniture doesn’t mean I am any less curious then I was in my 20s. I never once saw a child stuff a bug into its mouth, and while they sat there drooling with one twitching insect limb poking out did I think to myself “Oh what a wonderfully curious creature! Bless it!”
No, kids are stupid; they eat shit off the floor because they don’t know how to live without adult supervision. Many people are bums, and I don’t like cookie shit on my floors because I don’t want to host a free buffet for grimy guests. I like to think of my developing OCD as a glorious sign of my budding character, not a hindering consequence of my greying hair.
Ultimately, change is inevitable and it is a beautiful part of the life cycle. Even if it means you will invite less people over to your house. If you too are showing premature signs of Jack Nicholson levels of OCD, fear not, the road ahead is not all bad. You may end up with less friends but you can relish in the fact that you have less insects and disease in your life.
Also, there are just as many sources that say we become more mellow with age as there are that claim the opposite. The uptake from this is that: 1) we know research doesn’t count for shit and 2) your older days could really go either way. I say embrace the tide, let the slobs cry over the corpses of their loved ones, let the bacteria keep longing for your skin, and do not go gentle into that good night!