Some men approach 50 and fall prey to the stereotypical lure of fast cars or younger women, so my husband told me I’m lucky that he only hired an overpriced longevity coach. The first time I discovered that men were trying to extract the crisis out of midlife by moving the finish line (i.e., death) further away, Harry was an eccentric outlier. Now I know he was just an early adopter, and his obsession merely a harbinger of a full-blown trend.
Before Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg hacked the Harvard mainframe. Now he’s trying to do the same with death. He and his wife, Priscilla, have invested tons of funds into cutting-edge biohacking research. Jeff Bezos has done the same. In other words, immortality is the new outer space: all the dick-swinging of penis-shaped rocket ships doesn’t matter if you’re dead, right?
Until recently, life expectancy in the U.S. had been on the rise. It was 47 years in 1900, 68 years in 1950, and by 2019 it had risen to nearly 79 years. But it fell to 77 in 2020 and dropped further, to 76, in 2021. That’s the largest decrease over a two-year span since the 1920s. Enter D.I.Y. biology, known as biohacking.
The entry-level (read: free) version that’s been popularized is intermittent fasting. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, one of the world’s best-known and influential biohackers, reportedly eats only one meal a day, and other abstemious believers choose to go one day a week without eating anything at all. This low-tech biohacking is intended to regulate blood sugar and maintain a healthy weight.
There is also an extremely pricey tech race going on to help you optimize your bod for the remainder of your lifespan.
Then there’s nutrigenomics. My husband does this. He sent saliva, blood, and pee to a lab in Europe. The fancy doctors there studied his biomarkers and told him which foods would support his extended telomere length. Now, every day, Harry has to choke down vitamins that look like gnarly hamster pellets. At least they come in a monogrammed box.
This all looks rather quaint compared to the insanity of David Asprey, founder of the Bulletproof brand. The innovator behind those highly diuretic coffee drinks you can’t open without being in striking distance of a toilet is living the phrase “no pain, no gain.” In a quest to live to 180, Asprey had doctors surgically harvest stem cells from his bone marrow (ouch!) and inject them into every part of his body. Including his penis. Allegedly, this will keep things in the region rock solid.
All the dick-swinging of penile rocket ships doesn’t matter if you’re dead, right?
Asprey also literally chills out in a vertical coffin housed inside a hyperbaric chamber. This is cryotherapy; some research shows that immersing one’s body in a minus-230-degrees chamber for a few minutes will improve brain function and reduce inflammation caused by the natural aging process. Harry does this, too, and feels amazing afterward. When I tried it, I was miserable the entire time. I’d rather push daisies than do that every week.
Then, after the “Ozempicorexia” hit the Upper East Side, the damn burst open for everyone to dish about who’s dripping what via IV. Hedge-funders are routinely spending $50,000 a year for infusions of human growth hormone. I’ve had cancer, so I’m convinced that a large dose of H.G.H. would re-ignite it through a biological mechanism pretty similar to pumping gas, but these risks don’t seem to deter the rest of them.
I recently ran into a fellow middle-aged friend who was positively glowing, and when I asked what she did, she said no scalpels were used—just NAD+ and vitamin drips.
Now, my friend looked amazing, but not all the wellness-obsessed are as fortunate. I knew the trend was really catching on when we went to a sold-out Young Presidents’ Organization longevity forum. The evening’s speaker was David Sinclair, a genetics professor at Harvard (and one of Time magazine’s Health Care 50, anointing the most influential people in medicine). Sinclair was discussing his latest book, Lifespan: Why We Age—and Why We Don’t Have To. After furiously taking notes, some audience members lined up to speak to him, as if he were Father Time himself. But like … not to be a bitch, but he’s 54 and … looks it? O.K., maybe I’d guess 52. It’s not like the telomeres, NAD+ infusions, and fasting he lauds shave off a decade visually.
According to Bloomberg, the clear front-runner in the race against the hourglass is biotech C.E.O. Bryan Johnson, who, at 45, spends $2 million a year on attempts to stay young. He has allegedly erased years off of his body’s biological age. His five a.m. wake-up time, calorie-restricted diet, and myriad supplements are overseen by 30 doctors. Bloomberg reported that his rate of nighttime erections is that of a 17-year-old. (Insert nausea-then-vomit emojis.)
It all seems insane, particularly when you peruse his cheesy Rejuvenation Olympics Web site, ranking himself at the top spot on a worldwide epigenetic leaderboard. Then again, he might be laughing as he stands over our graves and goes on to live another century. But I’d rather have a shorter life filled with sleeping late, Lambrusco, and pizza. L’chaim!
Jill Kargman is the author of Sprinkle Glitter on My Grave and Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut. She also created and starred in the Peacock series Odd Mom Out