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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

An epidemic of denial

 

A friend has just gone to Thailand. He assures me he's never heard of Patpong. His reason for going is far more prosaic - a visit to a dental surgeon.

We are about the same age which means that due to normal, age-appropriate atrophy of his jawbone, his teeth need to be removed and replaced with implants. The only alternative would be a denture plate without any stable teeth to anchor it. With the denture he would be sentenced to a diet devoid of steaks and pork chops, to frequent embarrassing incidents when his false teeth would pop loose and come out of his mouth attached to, say, a piece of toffee, and, worse yet, he would have the unmistakable clunky smile of an old man.

He immediately signed up for the implants. And several visits to a dental surgeon. And a few days of pain after each visit, not to mention an aggregate of several weeks during which he will basically subsist on baby food. And, of course, it will cost him, even in Thailand, several thousand dollars.

For what? Pork chops? No embarrassing denture pop-outs? A more youthful smile?

Do potential denture pop-outs and that old-mannish smile really reflect our genuine values at this point in our lives? Approaching seventy, do we really care if we present to the world an old man's goofy smile? And even more to the point, with our years of clear thinking and reasonable mobility dwindling as quickly as our jawbones, do we honestly want to dedicate a good part of a year to regular visits to a dental surgeon?

I certainly do not. I do not want to be swept up in the current trend of trying to extend the prime of life well into the years that used to be called "old age". I do not want to be caught up in this epidemic of denial. No "youth implants" for me.

I believe an authentic old man should be honest with himself about how much fully conscious and rational life he has left. And he should use that time in the best and appropriate way. One way is to feel authentically and contentedly old.