I joke about it a lot.
I enjoy indulging this aspect of my personality, truly.
But to be honest, there was a time in my life where I thought that I was actually becoming a grumpy old man…and that there wasn’t much I could do about it. I’m not sure I even cared to do something about it for several years.
I let it become an excuse for my behaviors and then began actually making excuses to support my ongoing behavior. Not that it was overt or anything, right? I fell back on excuses like it was hereditary and that I got a pass because my grandfather was basically the same way. No matter that my dad and uncle are about as affable a pair of guys as you’ll ever meet, this type of thing could skip a generation for all I know.
I worked in retail for 30+ years. That shit will certainly beat a spirit down. Maybe I did just hate everything. While I had found a way to pretty much not take people as seriously as they took themselves, basically being the bitch for anyone with a dollar in their pocket for a few decades will eventually wear on you. No matter how nice an external spin I care to put on it, my private thoughts were generally rather disdainful.
Then, quite by accident, I learned that this could simply be a matter of biology. I might have actually been aging into a grumpy old man.
I’d been going to the same doctor for several years. He knew me pretty well and, somewhat surprisingly, put the threads together for me during an office visit for something else…something I thought was unrelated: my seemingly persistent tibia fractures that were occurring as a result of my running. What was suggested was that I could be going through what people commonly call male menopause. He wasn’t implying that my potential diminishing bone density was a side effect or anything, more that my other behaviors were indicating that I could be experiencing something like that.
You know…me being a jerk because I wouldn’t do what he said and stop running, but trying to pin my resistance to my increased difficulty maintaining a diet of pub food and beer while also maintaining the same low body fat percentage I had gotten used to in my 20s and 30s.
What’s that resistance called? Denial?
We had a discussion about it. Me, sitting there shaking my head and smirking like it was an actual legitimate adult argument against – y’know – serious medical advice.
Turns out, what the old medical professional was proposing was that my difficulty in sustaining the body fat percentage that I wanted could be related to a decrease in my body’s natural production of testosterone.
Which led to the question, “How is your sex drive?”
I looked him up and down before maturely responding, “Well, I don’t want to have sex right now…”
Hey, he set it up.
Plus, having a gay doctor I figured that was an appropriately catty response. Fair enough, too, since I had pre-paid for that privilege by listening to stories about him flying off to Rome to see Madonna with his boyfriend and other assorted fantastic doctor’s-pay-adventures during our history working together.
“Are you getting laid enough?”
“How do you feel about that?”
“Actually, I don’t think I care…which is weird.”
“Right, how’s work going?”
<eye roll> “Ugh, those people…don’t get me started!”
“Yeah. Idiots, mostly. A lot of days I remind myself of the old Confucius saying, ‘Man who put face in punch, get punch in face’, but sometimes I still want to give someone the punch they seem to be begging for.”
“Well, aside from having enough energy to run when I tell you to stop running” <zing!> “how are your energy levels otherwise?”
“Seriously, if I stopped running, I think I actually would punch someone! It’s kind of therapeutic to get out there and just pound the pavement for a half hour or so and clear my head!”
My doctor makes the “answer my question” gesture with his hand and I tell him “Yeah, I’m more tired than I used to be, even though I am trying to get to bed earlier…mornings are still tough. At the gym, I’m getting worn out faster and making excuses to not go as frequently.”
So, he explains how all of those things can tie back to my testosterone levels. I try objecting again, sharing how Sasha had routinely challenged my “manliness” – vis a vis testosterone levels – because I didn’t share the same appetite for sex that he did. I had resisted it then, since intense frequency just wasn’t a fulfilling sex life for me. Rationalizing that his appetite would be different mentally, having just come out and began to experience that part of his sexuality.
Which earned me a big “yeah, but” from my doctor. While that argument was true, a decrease in testosterone now would manifest all of the niggly little physical complaints I had presented while also creating a shift in my mental well-being as a nice side effect.
Ergo: me being a grumpy old man.
It wasn’t just about the physical changes in my body, but also about the psychological impact that the reduction in testosterone would have on me. How mentally, I would be less able to handle frustrations in my life as easily I had before. The thought of obsolescence would become more difficult to contain. Some men even became suicidal when undiagnosed. I would be less tolerant of random things at work that happened. Traffic jams would create rage. Bad service in a restaurant would make me retaliate with complaints or bad tips. I would compare “kids these days” to my own perceived effectiveness and performance when I was in my prime and find them lacking.
And it can really happen at any age, it was unique to every man.
The younger the person is when it hit them, the harder it was for them to accept and deal with. Older guys just tended to accept it, because they were nearing the end of their natural lives, they assumed it was – and it is – a natural part of aging. But just like graying hair, it could hit some people earlier than others and some may never experience it.
“See? But I don’t even drive.” I tried, unsuccessfully, to joke.
“Did you ever get your testosterone checked when you were with your ex?”
“They were low, right?”
“Just a guess. If they had been normal, you probably would have volunteered the information.”
“Well, if you don’t make it as a doctor, you’ve got a good future in sleuthing, Sherlock. But they weren’t low. Just on the low end of the normal range.”
I felt bad for my doctor. Personally, I think he considered me an internet hypochondriac. I know I could be counted on to come in with a not always worst case scenario self-diagnosis when I had a problem. But…when he suggested something as a potential solution or diagnosis, well, just watch me dig in.
I wonder if not wanting to be told what to do is a sign of being a grumpy old man.
Of course it is.
But he dealt with me well, I have to say. Once, a few years after this conversation occurred, I walked in and sat down to give him a piece of my mind about how ineffective his flu shot had been. How he had chastised me for getting my shot too early at Rite Aid back in September and made me get another one in his office in November. Now, here we were in March and I was sick.
“Tell me what’s wrong. By the way, you know that flu shots are preventative but not a guarantee, right?”
“Yeah, I fucking know, but usually if I get sick it’s just a little cold…not this praying for death bullshit. I’m blowing out pounds of snot every day. I’m so achey I can barely get across the street from my condo to your office. I can’t work. I have a headache, my eyes are constantly watering and the pressure behind them. Let me tell you…”
“You’ve got allergies. Spring came really early this year.”
Pointing to the back of his computer, “What are you playing there, solitaire? I thought you were looking at my medical records this whole time! I’ve never had allergies in my life! How do you not know that?!?”
He let me wear myself out until I finally asked, “So, what if these are allergies? What do I have to do to prove to you that I don’t have them?”
“I’ve already sent over two prescriptions for treatment to your pharmacy. Take them as directed and come back and see me in two weeks if you aren’t feeling better.”
Cocky little bastard.
Smug, too. I really hated that.
The worst part? He was right. Somehow at 45-ish, my body had decided that I just needed a little less control in my life and I developed pollen allergies.
Anyway…this is what my doctor had to deal with.
My doctor suggested testing my present levels and then trying some testosterone replacement therapy – based on my results – to see what happened. He cautioned me to think about it while we waited for results, since once I went on it, I would likely have to stay on it the rest of my life because my body would virtually stop producing its own supply.
I’m sure he was looking forward to getting my testosterone levels in check so I would become more like my naturally charming self again.
I go in several days later and he says, “Have a seat, ma’am”.
“The results were that good, eh?”
My testosterone levels were now on the low side of low. So he prescribed some testosterone patches. They worked just like nicotine patches and were pretty harmless.
I, of course, had to have a reaction to the adhesive that resulted in burn-like blisters where the adhesive stuck to my skin.
I wasn’t irate about it.
Well, well. Score one for the doctor. Of course, this meant that I could probably no longer tease him about finishing at the bottom of his class in doctor school.
He suggested I move on to straight up injecting the testosterone and I made that face again…the one were I smile placidly and shake my head. I’d made it this far without sticking a needle into myself, I saw no reason to begin now.
“Aren’t there people for that?”
He tells me to go get the prescription and bring it with me to my next appointment. He would inject me for my first dose and then I could come back and he would talk me through injecting myself on the next appointment. By the third time, I would probably be comfortable enough on my own to do it at home from there.
“I’m pretty worried that I can fuck this up and give myself an embolism…and there’s no one there to notice until the smell of my decomposing body drifts into the hallway a week later.”
He patiently explained the difference between intravenous and intramuscular injections to me. My trypanophobia diffused, I marched off to the pharmacy like a good little hypochondriac, reporting for duty a couple of days later to learn how to stick myself at home.
For the rest of my life.
But you know what? I did it. I hated it, but I did it. I had to learn how to position myself to limit my body’s natural tendency to move away from the needle as my hand moved it closer to the injection site, but I did it. My nuts began to shrink to the size of…well, nuts…but I did it.
I developed this detached sense of self, curiously watching the needle make contact with my skin, creating a dimple before it penetrated the skin. Learning that a bigger dimple – when the surface of my skin was harder to break through – was a sign of dehydration.
Until, one day nothing happened.
I stuck the needle in, pressed the plunger and the testosterone just stayed in the tube. I tried pressing harder, nothing.
I pulled the needle out, changed the needle and tried again.
Alright, kids. Back in the car. We’re going on a road trip.
I trudged across the street to my doctor’s office and waited to see him, managing to keep my hysteria fueled rage in check thanks to the emotional re-balancing the testosterone therapy had provided.
“Oh, sure…that can happen sometimes. It’s just a weird seal between the needle and the syringe.” He explains, dismissing my fear and concerns that I had maybe hit a bone and that’s why nothing came out of the needle. The only obvious (oblivious) explanation I arrived at…
We agreed that I would just come in to his office for a nursing appointment for my injections going forward. Since I was nice again, wouldn’t it be nice to see me more consistently?
Until one day when I just decided to stop taking my injections.
You can imagine how my doctor responded to that, once he realized that I hadn’t made up the appointments I had been missing.
But…something just told me that it was time. I had skipped a few nursing appointments and not noticed any negative effects. I had started spacing the appointments further and further apart without noticing deleterious effects.
He hated the idea.
But failed to bluster me out of it.
And, just like that, I went off testosterone.
For all the gains I experienced taking it, I have to say that I haven’t seen a lot of loss in the benefits the therapy provided me. My body had miraculously started behaving more in line with its normal fat burning, lean mass producing self. Mentally, my equanimity was restored.
The one thing that I didn’t manage to maintain were my sunflower seed sized balls.
Kidding, they didn’t get that small, but grant me some hyperbole.
As I had been warned that my body would cease production of its own supply of testosterone, I was surprised to see that my nuts returned to their normal size. Even more surprised – as surprised as my doctor was irritated – that my testosterone levels had leveled off and sustained themselves at an acceptable level.
Not that I’ve maintained those physical results that I appreciated seeing. Particularly the body fat and lean mass results. However, I can accept that any erosion there is perhaps partially naturally occurring and also – and more likely – situational, like the whole Portland beer frenzy situation type of situational.
Meanwhile, I’ve learned to manage my developing grumpy old man syndrome. Embracing it and diffusing the potential negative aspects of that part of my aging with naturally occurring humor, which never seems to run out. Instead of getting frustrated and letting it out, I recognize the feelings and then appreciate them in all of their ridiculousness.
Sharing with my close friends, like everyone on the internet.
The important thing being that I try to control them versus letting them control me.