So goes the old, old, old Greek aphorism--roughly translated it means "know thyself". As I have gotten older I am not so sure I have gotten to know myself better, but I do know I sure have asked a heck of a lot more questions--especially when it comes to the changes in my body as I have gotten older. I am sure that they are not specific questions that only pertain to me and my body, but that they are universal questions that have spewed from the lips of countless others over the generations. Questions like why have I accumulated hair on parts of my body where I do not want hair? I've often wondered why my rose dripped when it was cold outside and everything else in sight that drips is frozen. You know the sorts of questions I am talking about. I am sure other inquiring minds, like mine, want to know!
Lets begin with hair. In my late teens I started to lose my hair and have endure a ton of abuse from family and friends over the years about my baldness. For the most part it does not bother me--after all, God only made so many perfect heads and on the rest God placed hair. From my late teens onward I have always worn caps--usually baseball caps--as it beats to have sunburn on top of the ol' noggin. Because of this it is a rare picture that one sees me in without a cap. Say what you will . . . but it has raised a few questions about where the hair all went. My theory is that it moved from the head to other parts of my body--parts like my back, ears, nose, and rear end! The following picture illustrates my point--but I swear none of the pictures are of me. None are wearing a cap!
As solid as I thought my theory was, it was wrong. According to an article by Catherine Price in the March 4th issue of Parade Magazine she answers the question: Why do men get more hair in some places and less in others as they get older? She writes that this is the "George Costanza effect" and that it is a common sign of aging. Basically it is caused by dihydrotestosterone (or DHT), a sex hormone to which some men are genetically predisposed to become sensitive. When that sensitivity develops, the hormone often causes the hair to shrink and follicles elsewhere, like on the back or in the ears or nasal passages, to be come stimulated. Who would thought that the hair in my ears, nose, and back had anything to do with sex! All I know is it has changed my life--I no longer go shirtless, and yes, I have received countless words of appreciation for that from others. I pluck my ears for now, but watch out if I ever learn to braid hair! And trim the errant hairs that stray from the nose--I figure it beats growing a moustache. I think I liked my theory better . . . it is not as gross.
Ms. Price also answered the question as to why my nose drips when it is a minus 20 degrees below zero outside and every other liquid within a hundred miles is frozen solid. She explains that the nose helps perform a kind of climate control by heating and humidifying the air that is inhaled so that it better matches the moist, warm conditions inside of the lungs. Glands in the nose produce secretions that add moisture, and blood vessels in your nose dilate to warm the incoming air, acting like miniature radiators. When breathing in super-frigid air, the phenomena is amplified. Apparently the colder it gets the more it drips. I just figured that my my skull cracked and I was losing a little brain juice, as if I have plenty to spare in my old age! But now I know and it isn't pretty. Luckily I don't have errant nose hairs that slow the process down!
Let talk nails--finger and toe nails. I wish my nails looked as good as the ones in the picture above, but they don't. Nothing close. Mine could probably be used for one of those before and after posters for a good/bad pedicure. Despite how ugly my nails might look I do take care of them by trimming them as needed. Like a lot of people I always wondered why I was always trimming my finger nails so often while the toe nails crept along at a snail's pace and were only trimmed occasionally. Again, Ms. Price answers the question--and, by the way, it is not the obvious answer of one grows faster than the other. According to her sources it is because the hands are more active than the feet and it is the body's attempt to repair whichever parts are undergoing the most "trauma"--from activities like banging on the keyboard of the computer. I guess I could learn to keyboard with my toes, but that sounds yucky.
Thank goodness for Q-Tips! If it were not for Q-Tips a lot of us older folks wouldn't be able to hear. But have you ever wondered about ear wax--what it is and why we need it? Price writes that it is made up of moisturizing oils, infection-fighting enzymes, and dead skin. Not quite the stuff of candles! Basically it is useless, but a normal function of the body. Experts say that we should just leave it alone and let it run its course. Using Q-Tips is a no-no--like packing a canon. Instead, to clean the ears one should just gently tug on the lobes while showering allowing the water to wash the was away. It dawned on me if I let my ear hair grow I could use the ear wax to comb it back--a duck tail for the ears! Fashionable somewhere I bet.
I always knew that the human body was a fascinating mystery. After reading the article in Parade Magazine and learning more about the answers to these mysteries, I think it is best to leave those questions unanswered and as mysteries. I am sure most of you agree. In the meantime I guess I will accept the fact that hair will grow where I don't want it, my nose will drip, my nails will continue to grow, and ear wax will be produced. It is all a natural part of getting older. So in the meantime I will keep clothes on my body, wear caps, wear gloves and shoes, and use nose and ear plugs so that I do not expose the rest of the world to these wondrous sights. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and I don't think I want to know myself that well.