Several of the well-meaning coaches with whom I interacted across several years of playing hockey and baseball as boy and man were fond of telling me and my teammates not to fear our opponents because “they put on their pants one leg at a time, same as we do.”
I’m remembering that now because, alas, it seems I am no longer able to do that simple task while standing up unsupported. And I’m pretty sure aging has something to do with that.
My dressing ritual each morning now begins by sliding one leg after the other into my undershorts while leaning against the bed. If I try to do that without supporting myself, one of two things happens—either I lose my balance before finding the target, or my leg misses the target completely. The first few times I missed, I forgot to let go of the briefs and fell over onto the carpet.
I now sit down to put on my socks—on those few occasions I wear them—and remain sitting to slide my legs, one at a time, into my pants. I’m still able to stand, thank goodness, to hitch them up to my waist and cinch my belt.
It’s also necessary, I’ve discovered, to sit down to put on shoes, and to tie the laces. As a result, I’ve defaulted to wearing sandals whenever I can. But I have to lean one arm on something as I lift each foot to slide into the sandals.
Donning anything I have to pull over my head—such as a T-shirt, a golf shirt, a sweater—used to be relatively simple. I’d slide my head through the neck opening first, then push one arm after the other through the sleeve openings. Whether worn outside the waistband of my pants or tucked in, I was quite adept at completing the sequence.
No longer. Those sleeve openings have for whatever reason become almost impossible to find once my head is through the neck opening. And when I’ve repaired to the mirror to get a better look, I find myself confused between right and left. I’ve resorted now to inserting one arm into a sleeve opening first, followed by the other arm into its opening, which makes it easier for some reason to then pull the article of clothing over my head. Perhaps it’s because, at that critical juncture, I have only one head and one opening left.
On a few cursed occasions, I’ve even discovered I’ve put on the shirt or sweater inside-out or back-to-front, which means…well, you know.
On cool spring or autumn days when warmer clothing is needed, I have a mid-length squall jacket I like to wear, but lately I’ve been encountering a problem. It’s fitted with a two-way zipper, so that when I’m driving (or sitting down anywhere) while wearing it, I can open the zipper from the bottom to accommodate man-spread. That simple feature has been a blessing, but when I’m donning the jacket, it requires that I fit the zipper’s nub into, not one, but two pull-tab receptors at the bottom of the zipper—one that will slide up to zip the jacket, the other that will remain at the bottom to allow opening from that end.
Sounds easy, and it is when those two receptors are perfectly lined up. My problem lately is that I never seem able to get them aligned, which leaves me struggling like a kindergartner to zip up. Why, just the other day, a young hostess at a restaurant asked me if I needed help as I was getting ready to leave. She even referred to me as “Dear”! My bemused wife tells me I should be glad it isn’t another zipper I frequently use that’s causing the problem.
Anyway, I hope you can appreciate the tussles I’ve begun to have when dressing myself. I won’t even try to list the issues at the other end of the day, when I’m struggling sleepily to undress and get into my pyjamas.
It seems apparent to me, however, that these vexing problems have nothing to do with the onset of my senior years—after all, my age is way beyond the onset-stage. The troubles I’m experiencing have everything to so with the persistence of aging, the relentlessness of aging, the unforgiving advance of aging. For as long as I have left, my age is only going to increase, even as the utility of everything else about my mortal self is decreasing.
It’s as if I’m running into myself on a mathematician’s graph—my age-axis on a parabolic rise, my abilities-axis crossing it on a precipitous decline.
It ain’t pretty, and never more so than when I’m trying to get dressed in the morning. All I can do, I suppose, is keep trying to get those pants on, one leg at a time.
One. Leg. At. A. Time.