I lied. A lot.
Okay, that’s a lie.
I lied all the time.
I lied to survive. And I lied because it seemed as if nobody wanted to hear the truth. I just told people what they wanted to hear. I also lied by withholding information, which is another kind of lie. Here’s one of those.
Once, during the dark days of my marriage, I decided to surprise my wife with a bottle of champagne. Things had been sort of unraveling, and I thought a romantic evening might help us turn the ship around. I didn’t know that by then the ship had already crashed and was taking on water like the Titanic, but . . .
Anyway, to enhance the romance, I popped a little blue pill. Yes. I took a Viagra. This was a really big deal for me, because philosophically I’m opposed to unnatural male enhancement. But I really wanted this evening to be perfect.
Then, before I even uncorked the champagne, we got into a huge screaming fight and I stormed upstairs with a boner the size of a baseball bat.
Great. I’m upstairs with a huge hard-on and nobody to offer
Have you read the label on the Viagra bottle? I stared at it in horror. I was about to have a boner for four hours. Really? Four hours? What was I supposed to do for four hours in this condition? I couldn’t leave the house. I couldn’t phone out-call massage. My wife was downstairs, and I was betting she was not gonna understand. Or be sympathetic. All I could think of was, “How great is this? I take a pill, we get into a fight, I get a massive hard-on, and all I got up here is basic cable and DVDs of my sitcom.”
It also says on the bottle that if your erection lasts for more than four hours you should seek medical assistance. Really? I’m not calling my doctor. He wears thick wraparound glasses that make him look like a welder and has hair the size of an Afro coming out of both ears. If I need to call somebody to finish this off, I’m gonna text my wife downstairs and ask, “Hey, is your sister home?”
I should’ve been honest. I should’ve said, “Look, I know we had a terrible fight, but I took a Viagra and I need some relief. Guzzle some champagne, close your eyes, and pretend I’m Benjamin Bratt. I need help!”
When I turned fifty, I asked myself a question: “Do you want to be a liar your whole life? Do you want your life to be one big lie?”
Since my birthday party, I’ve been truthful. Instead of accommodating people all the time, I tell people what I like and what I don’t. I’ve undergone a transformation. I’ve become more comfortable with myself. I like my life.
And here’s the biggest surprise: I like telling the truth. It’s a total relief. Lying was like swimming in a muddy river. I want to swim in clear water. If I’m going to swim in muddy water, I’m going to dirty it myself. I’m losing track of my point. I just know that all this talk about rivers and water is making me want to find a bathroom.
So, okay, now I’m being real.
You know what I said about being fine with turning fifty?
I hate it.
I haaate it.
I suddenly realize that I’m old. What’s worse is that I feel old. I know that from now on I’m gonna be in more pain than usual. Why? I’m fifty.
It happened already.
First thing this morning.
I got out of bed and something popped. Pop. Just like that. Pop. I could not figure out where it came from. I stopped in my tracks and looked around. Where the hell did that pop come from? I heard the pop, all right, but from where? It came from somewhere out there. There was a shot—I heard it—but nobody knows where it came from. It was like the grassy knoll.
It was so strange. Nothing hurt. I patted myself all over, searched for a bone or a knuckle or something out of place or sticking out or not where it should be, and I couldn’t find anything. I took another step and it happened again—
What the hell? I’m standing in the middle of the room, frozen in place, my eyes passing over the room like searchlights, like I’m looking for somebody who broke into the house, and I know the pop came from me, because there’s nobody else in here, and I say, “So that’s how this goes? I turn fifty and my body goes pop just because?”
Life after fifty. It’s miserable. And it’s only beginning.
And—hold on—did it take me longer to get upright than it did when I was forty-nine? I think so. I’m definitely moving slower. The difference of one day felt like twenty years.
And then I had my first over-fifty realization—well, besides you go pop for no reason.
When you turn fifty, everything changes—the way you think, the way you look, the way you approach your day. Little things become big things. Stuff that never used to matter—crap you never even noticed—suddenly becomes important. What’s up is down; what’s down is up—hell, everything is messed up. You have no choice except to deal with it. You have to adjust.
For example, now when I go to work, I have to plan which car I’m gonna take. That was never an issue before. Now I think, “I can’t take that car because it sits too low. I’ll never get out of that damn car.”
I can’t pull up to my office looking all cool in my Porsche. I can’t do that anymore. It’s too risky. I don’t want to have to call security to send over the Jaws of Life to lift me out of my car.
I’m also much more conscious of time. I’ve started to slow down, to take everything easy. Time itself seems to rocket by. When I was younger, I never thought about how fast the day went. I wanted time to fly. I wanted to be old enough to be on my own, to start my own life, to escape. Now I don’t mind waiting. When people get annoyed and say to me, “Hey, I’ve been waiting for twenty minutes,” I want to tell them to chill out. Appreciate the time you have. Enjoy each minute. Time is precious.
I also stopped saying, “I’ll see you later.” At my age there may not be a later.
There’s also more pressure on me to look younger, because my show is still on TV all the time in syndication. In the show, I’m in my forties. People think of me as that age, as if I’m frozen in time. I also look younger because I have all my hair.
And, okay, keep this between us. . . .
I dye it.
I have to.
Couple reasons. First, my hair started going gray in my mid-thirties. I first noticed specks of gray when I was doing stand-up. One night, the spotlight hit me and it looked like I had tinsel in my hair. I couldn’t believe it. I aged twenty years during that one set.
A short time after that, I was signing autographs for this kid who was about eight years old. The kid stared at me, made a face like something near him smelled, and said, “Hey, your hair is gray.” I laughed, rubbed the top of his head affectionately, and thought, “You little shit.”
But he was right. I was looking and feeling a lot older than I was. I didn’t want people staring at me, going, “Is that George Lopez? No. That’s not George Lopez. It sort of looks like him, but that guy is much older. Let’s ask him. Hey, old guy, you’re not George Lopez, are you?”
I admit that going prematurely gray and having little kids tell me that I looked old bummed me out. The only thing that made me feel better was that they got a wax figure of me at Madame Tussauds. At least that wax George Lopez will be forty-five forever. From now on I plan to go in there every year, take a picture, see how far I’m getting from looking like that, and adjust.
When I look around me—especially in Hollywood, where everybody is desperately trying to look young and usually failing—I rarely see guys my age who can pull it off. One exception.
I saw him on Broadway and he looked terrific. I’m sure he was funny, but I don’t know for sure, because I was too distracted by how he looked. He looked exactly the same. It was inspiring. He’d gained a few pounds, but not many. He knows he has an image to protect, so he’s devoted himself to looking the way he always did—same suits, same shoes, same high voice. He’s my new idol. I
want to stay as young as Pee-wee.
So, the first thing I did was dye my hair.
Next, I became very conscious of the clothes I wear.
You have to be careful when you turn fifty.
President Obama and I are the same age, but he wears mom jeans. He really should think about a different look. I’ve noticed some gray in his hair, too. I’m not saying he should go for a total dye job like me, but he might want to consider some highlights. He should be careful. He doesn’t want to look like the guys at my party, especially the Mexican aunt.
I realize I’ll have to change my look eventually. Because I know that at some point that same little kid is going to look at me and say, “What’s that old man doing wearing those PRPS?”
For now, though, I can carry it off. But you have to be aware of a delicate balance. Like the other day, I saw an old black man wearing Velcro shoes, high ankle socks, and this black plastic thing that looked like he cut two holes in a trash bag. No. You cannot do that. You must keep a constant watchful eye on yourself. You can’t go from looking good in jeans one day to suddenly wearing black socks and sandals.
Yes, how you look matters. And as you get older, you have to be on alert twenty-four/seven. You cannot let it slide. I was walking in New York and I saw this lady around my age crossing the street. It was a brutally hot day and she was wearing a ski parka. She looked like a Hershey’s Kiss: skinny at the top and then she widened out like a lemon drop. Smoking a cigarette. Struggling to walk. Limping. I wanted to run up to her and say, “Lady, no, you can’t walk around like this. Lose the cigarette and the parka, and walk better.”
I will tell you this right now: No matter what happens to me, I will not accept a limp.
I won’t do it. I will not accept it. I’ll do something to fix it. I will figure out a way to walk better. I’ll put some cardboard in my shoe. I will do whatever I have to. You cannot drag your leg across the street. It’s mind over matter. You have to say to yourself, “I’m not limping today. I’m just not gonna limp. Not happening.”
And you cannot use a cane. Forget that. Nobody can make a cane look good. Except maybe Mr. Peanut. He pulls it off. Actually, he pulls off the very rare fashion triple play—monocle, cane, and top hat. Mr. Peanut is a bad dude. Yes, I’m in awe of Mr. Peanut.
The only other person who could pull off walking with a cane was Evel Knievel. That’s the only way I’d use a cane—if I had one that belonged to Evel Knievel. A real one. One of the ones from his collection. Maybe I could talk to his family. I bet they’d gift me a cane. If someone from the Evel Knievel family is reading this, I’m serious. I would accept one of Evel’s canes and I would walk with it proudly. I respect the man. He broke every bone in his body—doing some pretty outrageous and stupid stuff— but he walked away, limping only a little bit, supporting himself on those cool canes. Which he used to fill with Wild Turkey. Allegedly. You have to love that.
After all he went through, I have to admit that Evel had a limp I appreciate. And when it comes to medical procedures, I’ve had more things done to me than anyone. I’ve replaced all my teeth, had stents, surgeries, transplants. I’m the Evel Knievel of comedy. You bet I’d take one of his canes.
I try like crazy to take care of myself, but, to be honest, that’s not going so well.
You’ve heard the expression “My body is a temple”?
Mine is more like a storage unit.
I keep a ton of medicine in there, because I have to. I put in some things that I should’ve gotten rid of a while ago, and I have a whole bunch of junk that I shoved in there that I forgot about. I know this. I have to get over to my storage unit soon and clean all that out. After you turn fifty, you have to be very careful about what you put into your storage-unit body.
I monitor everything I drink and eat. I don’t eat a lot, and I do my best to eat right. For one thing, I’m not a vegetarian. I tried that once and I passed out in the street. Keeled over. Bang. I took a nosedive right into traffic. Caused a Sigalert. By the way, I love to watch that hot blond traffic reporter, who’s somehow on every channel, announce in her ditzy, sexy voice that there’s been a Sigalert. I have no idea what a Sigalert is, but I know it’s bad. I picture a long-haired maniac named Sig running naked down Ventura Boulevard screaming and waving a machete.
I lasted being a vegetarian for only a few weeks. I ate nothing but bean-and-cheese burritos, salads, toast, rice, and noodles. That was my entire diet. I wasn’t vegan. You can’t do that. It’s too much. Your breath smells like an ass.
There I was in the middle of the day and my world started to spin. I had a salad for lunch, dressing on the side, no bread, a cup of tea—very healthy—and I was leaving this restaurant, a famous vegetarian place in Hollywood—I forget the name, Bubba’s Fat Flabby Bouncing Belly, or Real Food Tastes Like Cardboard Daily, or the Golden Temple of Conscious Colon Cleansing, something like that. I stepped off the curb, took two steps, felt light-headed, my knees buckled, and I went down. If only I’d had an Evel Knievel cane, I could’ve braced myself.
So, yes, I cannot be a vegetarian. I get woozy. I could barely make it out of the restaurant.
Now, it could’ve been the weed.
I suppose that’s a possibility.
Sure, I get high. I have to. Doctor’s orders. That’s right. My doctor told me to. It’s medicinal. I have my medical marijuana card. I carry it with me at all times, right between my license and my condoms. When somebody asks for two forms of ID, I pull all this shit out and watch their faces turn red and their eyes bug out. It’s great.
The truth is, in my condition, I don’t know where I’d be without weed. Weed saved my ass. Pot soothes my aches and pains, relieves my stress, calms my stomach, takes away my nausea, and improves my enjoyment of Van Halen.
I liked Van Halen before my kidney disease, but now, with a little boost from medicinal marijuana, I love them. They can play anything—any riff at all—and they blow my mind. I give them a standing ovation while they tune up.
Yes, medical marijuana is a wonder drug.
I’m not gonna lie.
I don’t like to smoke it. That’s unhealthy. Like I told you, I’m careful what I put into my body. Smoking dope is bad for you.
So I eat it. Much better. And you can sneak your weed into a lot of delicious foods.
I love grass in gummy bears. Knocks me on my ass. If you don’t like gummy bears, no problem. In fact, you don’t have to eat grass at all. There are other possibilities. Like lotion. I love the lotion. Or the spray. You just rub it in and hang on for the ride. Consider a mutual marijuana massage with a loved one. Way better than smoking weed. One caution: Don’t have her massage you first, because you will be too stoned to massage her without laughing hysterically.
So, okay, you got your lotion, spray, and gummy bears, and you also have Tootsie Rolls, barbecue sauce, popcorn, wheat chips, and, of course, brownies.
Those are amazing.
Very simple to make, too. Just get some Duncan Hines brownie mix and cook the weed right in there. Drop it right in with the butter. I don’t know who came up with this idea first, but it’s sheer genius. Maybe Bob Marley or Willie Nelson back in the day. I know it wasn’t Duncan Hines. I don’t think Duncan Hines ever said, “You know what would be great? Let’s put some weed into my fudge brownies. It’ll be fantastic.” I doubt old Duncan was a pothead, though you never know. I know you don’t see weed as one of the ingredients in the recipes on the side of the package.
Obviously, getting high at fifty serves a different purpose than it did when I was eighteen. I used to get high just to get high. It was way more fun going to a concert or a party stoned. Now I get high not just to get high, but to get through. I use weed for pain relief. I have weak joints and a lot of other residual stuff from the kidney disease. Sometimes after I’ve been working a long day, my body feels like one big throbbing ache. I will get high then for relief. Sad. I used to get high for fun; now I get high to function.
I actually prefer getting high to getting drunk. I started drinking when I was thirteen. I was in junior high school and a couple of friends and I crashed an older kid’s party. My memory is fuzzy, but I vaguely remember this really hot girl wearing, like, nothing but a piece of string, filling and refilling my plastic cup with beer, and then handing me another cup filled with some spiked Hawaiian Punch. I started to come on to her, reached over to untie that string, shouted something really cool and funny, took two wobbly steps, and passed out. It was like being a vegetarian.
To this day, when it comes to booze, I’m a lightweight. Two beers and I’m looking for a place to lie down. With weed, I’m cool. I get quiet, reflective, and trippy. I hold my high well. I bet you’d never know I was stoned.
A few years ago in Houston, this young bellhop must’ve thought I was stoned, but I wasn’t.
I’d played the Toyota Center and sold it out. They asked me to come back two weeks later to do a couple more shows. I was checking in at the Four Seasons downtown, my second time in two weeks, and this bell kid, who was maybe twenty-two, started gathering all my bags to take them up to my room. I called him over. “What’s the biggest tip you ever got?” I said.
“Four hundred dollars,” the kid said.
“Get out,” I said. “Four hundred dollars? For bringing bags up to a room?”
“Yes, sir,” the kid said. “That’s what I got. Four hundred dollars.”
I shook my head, reached into my pocket, pulled out my billfold, and peeled off five bills. “Here’s five hundred,” I said.
The kid’s eyes got wide as plates. “Thank you, Mr. Lopez,” he said. “I will take really good care of these bags.”
I laughed, and he started to head up to my room.
“Hey,” I said. “I want to know. Who gave you that four hundred?”
“You did,” he said. “Two weeks ago.”
Come to think of it, maybe I was high.
Excerpted from I'm Not Gonna Lie : and Other Lies You Tell When You Turn 50 by George Lopez
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