I’D honestly thought I was getting away with it.
I’d imagined that the rapid passing of my youth had evaded everybody’s notice. I’d believed that the Dramatically Different Moisturizer and hair highlights had worked, and that buying the occasional Fluevog shoe had masked all evidence of physical decrepitude, making it impossible to detect that I was no longer 17.
I’d done my part to stay current. I’d regularly watched Girls, New Girl and Saturday Night Live, and made sure everybody knew it. I’d let everyone around me know whenever I recognized any song by The Sheepdogs.
I’d aced the art of unprovoked swearing – I wasn’t as prolific as a Judd Apatow film character, admittedly; I was more like Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm. That was probably what first blew my cover: Larry David is in his mid-60s. His swearing, like mine, is judicious and succinct, not all over the place, like Leslie Mann’s or Paul Rudd’s in the movie This Is 40. What a giveaway.
Then I got the phone call, supposedly out of the blue. Was I, by chance, over the age of 45? “I guess so,” I said reluctantly. In that case, would I like to participate in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging? Unbelievably, I said yes. And so I found myself looking at the study’s frumpy website, its anemic colours designed to compliment the pallor of my rapidly aging skin, wondering what I’d gotten myself into.
It turned out that the first thing I’d gotten myself into was agreeing to have someone come over to my house -- on a Sunday, no less -- and ask me an hour’s worth of questions. Then it was revealed that I would be expected to go to the SFU campus in Surrey for three hours to be quizzed again, and to have an ECG, among other tests. In a year and a half, I’d have another interview, and every three years for the next two decades the whole process would be repeated.
The CLSA study, a strategic initiative of Canadian Institutes of Health Research, will follow 50,000 Canucks between the ages of 45 and 85 for at least 20 years in order to better understand the aging process. In other words, dear readers, like Christ himself -- or at least Bryan Adams -- everything I do, I do it for you. Unlike Christ himself, or Bryan Adams, however, I don’t appreciate the recruitment, the assignment, or the requirement to go all the way to Surrey, which I will have to do by public transit for fear of getting lost.
According to the website, the integrative study will examine the “changing biological, medical, psychological, social, lifestyle and economic aspects” of my life. Put more simply, it’ll log the evidence of my inevitable, soul-crushing slide into old age. I will serve as your basic ongoing bad example, and not in the exciting, Charlie Sheen way. I have to ask: Where’s the Canadian Institute of Ego Preservation in all this?
The information I provide is supposed to help identify ways to prevent disease, show how non-medical factors like economic prosperity affect people as they age, inform health policy decisions, reveal how various factors are inter-related when it comes to aging, and train researchers. “What is learned from the CLSA over the next 20 years will help to improve the lives of people in Canada and around the world,” the dreary-looking website informs us. “It will touch all generations, changing the way we live and approach growing older.”
Goody for all generations, I say -- is it too late for me to apply to be the understudy for Lady Gaga? Surely that would be less embarrassing than turning out to be the opposite of a role model – would that be a troll model? -- for millions of Canadians, ad infinitum.
I managed to make a fool of myself on day one. When the pleasant young researcher arrived to interview me, she asked me a bunch of questions and then administered a few tests to assess my memory and my facility for quick thinking. She read out a list of items and I had to repeat the names of all those I remembered. I ranked about average -- among my 45- to 85-year-old homies.
Then she asked me to list, in 60 seconds, every animal I could think of. Shrewd as ever, I decided the best idea was to go in alphabetical order, so I started with “aardvark.” Despite living in bear, beaver and bison country, I stupidly couldn’t think of anything that began with a “b.” So I proceeded to the (I felt) inspired choices of “cat” and “dog.” Three creatures in, I began to flounder. Luckily, a few African animals sprang to mind. “Giraffe. Lion. Tiger.”
A pregnant pause. Then, “Werewolf?”
Clearly my participation in this study will be Canada’s best proof that it’s all downhill from here.