Sometimes it's all too much. You try to live your life as well you can, conduct yourself with some modicum of decorum and civility, be earnest about doing the things you enjoy and try your very best to be good to others. You know, all the good stuff our mothers taught us in Life 101 Class. And as we grow and get on with it, we remember these lessons and try to conduct ourselves accordingly. But every one of us forgets from time to time the warnings Mom gave us about DAYS LIKE THIS.
Oh yeah, we were warned, make no mistake about it. We were told life would be difficult and there would be many trying times in store for each and every one of us, including times of extreme embarrassment. Circumstances great or small would rob us of our dignity from time to time, facts of life most of us choose to ignore until it's too late and we're all of a sudden playing the fool. But don't blame Mom, she tried to warn you. You just chose to ignore that particular caveat, figuring life would make an exception in your case. I know I sure did more times than I care to admit.
Like the time I decided that a Tom Jones shirt and huge bellbottom trousers would be just the look for a photo of my band when we we about 15. Now, in the mid-1960's we wore some pretty ridiculous clothes, but Tom Jones shirts had to be the worst fashion idea ever, looking patently ridiculous within 3 months of their first becoming popular. Add an outbreak of acne on my forehead and you've got a real beaut of a photo. The rest of the guys in the band were similarly dressed and I wasn't the only one sporting some world-class zits for the camera. In spite of this we posed quite seriously for the photographer, emphasis on pose.
One look a the proofs convinced us these were not the stuff of classic rock & roll legend, and we were out about 60 bucks plus whatever the dumb clothes cost us and that was a lot of dough in 1967. We sort of forgot about making posters real quick and decided to wear stage clothes a little less reminiscent of the court of Louis XVI, and also to lose the worldly, smug sneers that looked really stupid on kids who still had to be driven to their band gigs by our parents. How can one not be humble in the face of photographic evidence of your foolishness? I for one decided right then and there that the most important thing about being in a band was the music you made, something you would think would be pretty obvious. It's those simple and transparent truths that trip us up every time, always looking for something deeper and more complex than the situation demands.
Or how about the time I decided to impress a girl with my prowess at climbing a tree? How was I to know that girls don't care all that much about tree-climbing? Luckily, this particular girl cared a lot about first aid when I fell out of the tree onto the sidewalk at her feet. I didn't break any bones or require stitches but had my pants ripped pretty much off of me and had some pretty impressive raspberries on my thighs where the skin was peeled off in my slide down the tree. Like they say, nothing hurt but the old dignity. I don't know, but at that particular moment I think I'd have preferred stitches to a crushed ego. Walking around was pretty painful for a couple of weeks while my thighs healed and I never did make any headway with that girl. Oh well, live and don't learn…
Who hasn't committed a incredible faux-pax or had an embarrassing wake up call? Did you ever break out laughing uncontrollably at a funeral? You have? You insensitive bastard! I would never do anything like that! Well, maybe I would. Ever stepped in a dog's business in your best suede shoes unawares and entered somebody's home? Well, you got aware pretty swiftly then, no? Or how about getting that knowing look and a come-on wave from an incredibly attractive member of the opposite sex only be asked to introduce them to your "hot friend?" Talk about your ego balloon deflating real quick…
And then there's the universal dignity stripper, trips to the doctor or the hospital. Nothing like being injured and half-naked in one of those skimpy gowns and left in a hallway for hours because you're not not injured badly enough to be given immediate attention. So as punishment for not being grievously maimed you're put on display for everyone wandering around the hospital. Can I get a blanket here? A least a sedative so I can sleep through this mortifying experience? Oh, sorry, I'll just lay here in pain, naked and shivering for everyone's amusement and resolve to be really mangled next time I show up at the emergency room. And what the hell do you care what was my mother's maiden name?
Of course one can't forget that whole growing older deal. Your body creaks, your hair and teeth want to jump ship, your arms get too short to read the newspaper so you have to get glasses, your hearing isn't all that sharp (especially for aging rock and rollers like myself after having spent a lifetime in front of giant speakers) and your muscle tone leaves a whole lot to be desired. Old injuries hurt you more now than they did at the time they occurred. Pretty girls look at you as safe company, and that's a real drag. Younger guys lift up stuff they figure is too heavy for the old guy (not really a bad thing when you think about it).
And there's a whole lot more doctor visiting to do when you get older. They shove cameras up your butt and down your throat, x-ray and scan and probe and puncture every square inch of your body and tell you to stop doing the things you enjoy and start doing the things you don't. They test your reflexes and tell you they aren't what they used to. I could have told them that myself. There's a reason why older people don't drive their cars like younger people and it usually takes an accident or two to figure this out. I know I sure found that out the hard way, and also that you don't heal all that quick from the banging around you get crashing your car.
So dignity is an elusive state. That's why Rodney Dangerfield's signature line was speaking for all of us when he said "I don't get any respect." There are times when nobody gets any respect and life is a fool's game. Nothing to be done about it either. Sometimes it's just your turn. You can be the coolest cat or kitty walking but sometimes you're strutting your stuff trailing toilet paper from your shoe. Life goes on…