I’m a modern (old) man

November 16, 2010
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Turns out, I’m old. Specifically, I turned 30.

Yes, you could say I should have seen it coming.  Firstly, the birthdays were always counting upwards. Secondly, I’ve been strangely drawn to Matlock reruns lately.

Then, one day this month, I hobbled out of bed and that was it – I was old. The signs were all there: the shoulders a little more slumped, gut a little more pronounced. Pains were springing from muscles I can’t even pronounce and I’m pretty sure I haven’t used since Grade 5. Girls were suddenly calling me ‘sir’ and Boy Scouts were helping me cross the street.

Yep, I’m a shadow of my former self. But I can’t help it. I’m a man, and we fall apart – it’s kind of what we do.

Peter McAllister, an Australian archeologist behind the new book, Manthropology: The Science of Why the Modern Male Is Not the Man He Used to Be, says men had better get used to physical decline.

We’ve been doing it for a long time. His book documents the changes to men’s bodies over the centuries, and McAllister shows it’s not just the clichéd moan of commentators (mine included). We truly are turning into old, scrawny weenies.

It’s time we faced the facts – modern life has made men sissies. And when you’re as old as I am, that’s bad news. Somewhere out there, brawny guys are opening jars for little old ladies and chopping wood. But the rest of us are bent over computers typing out complaints to denture companies and trying to remember where we put the dang walkers.

When it comes to strength, ancient man had us beat by a mile. His muscles were a matter of survival. Ours, when we have them, are a matter of vanity.

Ice Age hunters were able to run at roughly the same speed as today’s Olympic sprinters, McAllister writes. Sure, Usain Bolt is a fast man in a modern world – but he’s a rare species, selected from the gene pool of millions of men.

An average Aboriginal man chasing down a meal in Australia 20,000 years ago could sprint 37 miles an hour. McAllister thinks any number of those Aboriginals, if trained like a modern athlete, could easily whup Bolt. Even the Classic Greeks could row faster then today’s highly-trained, technically perfect rowers.

Our muscle mass and bone density has steadily declined over the centuries, while our fatty behinds have steadily increased. McAllister says an average Neanderthal women could beat a strong man by today’s standards in an arm wrestle.

In 2010, we’ve got ornamental muscles, but they serve little purpose. We’re into masculinity for show and for appearance, not for substance. Let me think about that for a minute while I adjust my guyliner…

McAllister isn’t surprised one bit that steroid use among young men has spiked. Modern life doesn’t give us many chances to use our muscles, except our thumbs. So no surprise we try to cheat nature.

But still we get weaker. And I keep getting older.

I’m pretty sure Tylenol now considers me a preferred customer. I’m on Pfizer’s mailing list for new products. And have you noticed how movies are too loud, and people talk too quietly now? I’d complain about it all, if I didn’t have to get up and walk all the way up… to… the… oh, forget it.

And while they’re at it, can’t they make the font on this thing larger? How is anybody supposed to read something this small? What do they think we are, kids?

Greg Mercer is a Guelph-based writer. His column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at greg_mercer@hotmail.com, and past columns can be read at gregmercer.ca

Guelph Mercury, 10/17/10

One Response to I’m a modern (old) man

  1. Carol Lawrence on November 24, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Love this article Greg. I read your website often. This is a favorite. Keep up the good work.

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