A gentleman realizes that as he ages the following will occur:
– He will gain weight, and inches in his waistline.
– He will lose hair, muscle tone, and sexual drive. (Not so sure about the latter.)
– Myth aside, he will become less attractive to pretty young things. (Man ages, but his objects of desire do not.)
– Perhaps most sadly, his dreams will confront reality, but not in the honest but violent way that a linebacker confronts a running back. Instead, his dreams will die a quiet, sad, mostly unrecognized death. To dwell on this sort of death would force a man to recognize that his life has been, in many ways, a failure of great ambitions.
A gentlemen stoically accepts the fact that, to a large degree, life in general, and aging in particular, is unfair and cruel. In order to compensate for the ravages of nature, a gentleman cultivates the finer points: wit, empathy, humor, and a sense of wonder. Only very rarely will a gentleman allow himself to fall into bitterness, regrets or anger, and only then while sipping a Scotch after a particularly galling day.
But a true gentleman is, above all things, resilient, and, while being thankful for the fruits of youth, knows that middle age is no time to surrender. In fact, like Dylan, he chooses to rage into that good night, so to speak. Not to rage with words the way an aging blowhard does, but to continue to fight the good fight in a gentleman’s quiet, steady way, with no loss of resolve, despite a world that shows no sign of change. A gentleman is a man of principle, and those principles, while being refined with experience, don’t fundamentally change as a man ages.
Perfecting the art of being a gentleman, like aging fine wine, takes time and experience. This is the point at which class, elegance, and good taste start to make their long awaited ascent. And since these qualities are so rare in today’s world, they will be that much more noticeable. In short, middle age is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.
“There is a time in a man’s life, as the Old Testament points out, for the full and unapologetic enjoyment of physical strength and beauty, just as there is for pride, acquisitiveness, carelessness, irreverence; and then there is a time, if one is to grow towards completeness, to give those things and others up and go on down the road without even looking once in the rearview mirror.” (Best Life, Charles Gaines, page 52, Winter, 2004)
Charles Gaines believes that each stage of life brings with it a temptation, and a better goal.
- In the 20s, pride/empathy
- In the 30s, greed/sympathy
- In the 40s, carelessness/responsibility
- In the 50s, cynicism/forgiveness
- In the 60s, laziness/reverence