Monday, July 13, 2015



Brian Sewell, Outsider II: Almost Always: Never Quite (London: Quartet Books, 2012), pp. 171-173:
As Methuselah, I inhabit an increasingly discomforting world of irrecoverable words, names forgotten, faces unrecognised in the blur of prosopagnosia, and the unconscious confusion of banana for umbrella and night storage heater for the microwave. My spine crumbles, my hips creak, and like most men of my age I have had the dreaded slippery finger of the urologist probing my prostate gland, with the accompanying threats of impotence and incontinence, the twin calamities that most men fear more than any other — though the onset of dementia terrifies me more. I have lost count of my days in hospital in recent years dealing with ischaemic heart disease, vasovagal syncope, uncontrollable drops in blood pressure already very low, the insertion of stents and pace-makers, the surgery of two mastectomies and efforts to remedy a corkscrewing spine, my trunk an old bag of scars and stitches, yet not one of these and their consequences, not even the possibility of sudden death, has seemed as wretched a malfunction as a leaking bladder and the abrupt reduction of one's penis to, as Eric Gill put it, a mere 'organ of drainage'. Drugs keep both in abeyance.

Who, young, girl or boy, would willingly conjugate with so patched and tattered an old man? Yet old men lust after the young, not once a week or once a day or hourly, but in response, if one is out and about, to almost constant stimulus. It is the young skin that does it; the conventions of beauty are a bonus, and all the old triggers of hair and eyes and lips are there, but when the skin of the young is flawless, it is what most makes the fingers reach, as though aching to caress. All the cosmetics of Paris and New York, all the nips and tucks, seams and gussets of plastic surgery, all the perfumes of the Arabian civet cat, all these together are no match for a skin poised in late adolescence or early adulthood. Inside his own skin, rough and wrinkled, pallid with approaching death, the old man feels the same sensual sensations as the young, but he may not touch. It is a terrible predicament. We laugh with sympathy at an old dog's sudden jauntiness when he sniffs a bitch in heat, but old men we mock, and despise as trull or catamite any submissive object of desire.

And that is age, old age — an age of indecision, disability, an age of shrunken shanks and shuffling pace, of grasp too feeble on the lid of marmalade, of eyes that sooner or later will not see and ears that will not hear, of padded underpants (not yet) and of a heart that from time to time palpitates like the single-cylinder diesel engine of a Turkish fishing boat.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

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