In the story of the The Three Little Pigs, the big bad wolf gave the three little porkers a threat. He said that if they didn't cooperate and open up their doors, he would huff and puff and blow their houses in.
It's obvious from the verbs "huff" and "puff" that we're talking about a middle-aged wolf here. Middle-aged wolves and middle-aged people do a lot of huffing and puffing. For some of us, it has become a second language. I myself am trilingual- being equally fluent in wheezing.
In our youth, we "huffers" could run, jump, climb, race up stairs, even skip a step or two in the process. We didn't have to make six rest stops in the 100-yard dash or send out for oxygen at the halfway point of a flight of stairs. We could have walked up the steps of the Taj Mahal with very little effort.
As soon as we hit forty, though, it's a different story. A fifteen-step staircase suddenly looks like Mount Everest. Before even attempting to scale something of that magnitude, we search the entire area for an elevator, a ramp, a rope, a search and rescue team, a St. Bernard, anything to make our task easier.
Running, jumping, and stair climbing aren't the only activities that can start us huffing and puffing. We huff and puff getting out of our cars, too, especially if those cars are so low to the ground only an ejection seat could get us out without effort. Frankly, I don't understand why car manufacturers make car seats so low anyway. Maybe it's so that after a test drive the client can't get out and has to buy the car.
Answering the telephone can leave us huffing and puffing, especially if the call comes in the middle of a shower. I'm sure more than a few callers have hung up on a middle-aged huffer, mistaking his gasps for heavy breathing.
A few of us even huff and puff putting on our shoes. You thought tying your shoelaces was a challenge when you were four? Try it when you're forty. That's probably why so many seniors opt for slip-ons. Tying shoelaces just isn't worth the battle.
Opening things can leave us huffing and puffing, too- things like potato chip bags, vacuum-packed cookies, vacuum-sealed cans of cheese puffs, or a membership account at the gym. I don't see why manufacturers have to package their foods so tightly anyway. Is keeping us out of the package the only way they can get away with the nutritional benefits printed on the back?
Now, contrary to what you might think, not all huffers and puffers are smokers... or even ex-smokers, for that matter. I'm a huffer even though I've taken very good care of my lungs. I've never smoked and I'm very careful not to inhale too much of my own cooking. And although I did grow up in the Los Angeles smog, I held my breath during most of my formative years. Yet even after taking all these precautions, I still huff and puff. The bottom line is lungs are delicate and susceptible to routine damage over the years no matter what you do to protect them.
So, you see, it had to have been a middle-aged wolf chasing those three little pigs. No teenage wolf would huff and puff that much after going to only three houses. And to huff and puff hard enough to blow two houses in? Why, the poor beast should have been carrying a portable oxygen tank! The story's been told wrong all these years. That wolf didn't want those pigs' houses; he needed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and not one of those pigs would help him. Not a good-hearted Babe in the bunch. That poor wolf had to keep going from house to house, huffing and puffing and wheezing. Then, when he finally climbed down the chimney of the third house to personally plead for help, what did they do? They lit a fire in the fireplace, which took up even more oxygen! The story ends there, of course, but it makes its point: middle age? It's rough on both man and beast!
Taken from Chapter 4 of Martha Bolton's book- Didn't My Skin Used to Fit? Living, Laughing, Loving Life After Forty! Bethany House Publishers Copyright 2000
Illustration of Three Little Pigs from http://math-www.uni-paderborn.de/~odenbach/pigs/pig2.html.