Every time my 32-year-old son says, “Oh, man, I’m getting old,” I want to smack him. I don’t, of course, because (1) I love him and (2) he’s just doing what we all do. It has become the norm in our society to complain about aging, while fighting it tooth and nail.
I do it myself, and I’m sure my older friends want to smack me sometimes (maybe for more reasons than that). One of them has a favorite line, whenever somebody is moaning and groaning about getting older. She says, “It sure beats the alternative.” One of my older brother’s favorite lines is, “Ain’t none of us getting out of this alive!”
But I think I like another of his favorites best. “Enjoy life now; it has an expiration date.”
|photo by Ardfem, Wikimedia Commons|
So why do we Americans waste so much of our precious lives fighting the inevitable? The beauty industry, with its hair dyes and anti-wrinkle creams, is a multi-billion dollar industry. Western countries–the U.S. and to a lesser degree Europe–lead the charge on this. We have face-lifts, lipposuction and Botox. We’ve even got children on TV encouraging their dad to use Just For Men so he can get a date! And of course, he magically does, as soon as he ditches that nasty graying hair.
Today is my 60th birthday so it’s to be expected that I might have aging on the mind.
|Me at 30; said son is 3.|
|Me at 60.|
I like to think that I’m handling it well.
But it’s tricky, finding a balance between
not letting age stop me from doing what
I want to do, and respecting my limits.
I’ll admit to dying my hair and using some
of those anti-aging products. What bothers
me the most is that I look in the mirror and
my mother is looking back. Now don’t get
me wrong, I loved my mother. But I don’t
want to be her. I want to be me.
And I guess that’s the crux of the matter. As
we age, we have to keep redefining ourselves.
I used to be the one who loved doing fixer-
upper type projects around the house. Now
I get vertigo on a four-foot stepladder and
I’m exhausted after a couple hours of such labor. A couple weeks ago, I finished a task–spraying all the mildew off the rafters of my screened-in back porch–that took four sessions on four separate days to complete. The first time I did that chore, seven years ago, I got it all done in one day.
|Mother at her 75th birdthday party.|
But there I go again, complaining about aging. We in the West don’t really get it that there are advantages to age. We develop expertise, wisdom, confidence. Those of us in ‘late adulthood’ (the euphemism now for being old) are comfortable in our own skins, wrinkled as it may be, in a way that we often didn’t experience in our youth.
My husband is a retired linguist. He now teaches English part-time to international students. He loves it, mainly because a lot of his students come from countries that revere age. His Asian students especially adore him, because he is the wise old man who deigns to spend his time helping them learn. They call him, in their various languages, the equivalent of “Grandfather,” with no clue that in our country, that is a bit of an insult. But he doesn’t take it that way at all.
The strangest thing is that this birthday isn’t particularly bothering me. Not like turning 40 or 50 did (I flipped out over 50).
I’ve lived six decades, and every one of them has been packed full of interesting experiences, poignant moments and learning opportunities. I’ve had my share of heartache too, but I wouldn’t trade a minute of my life in order to magically be thirty again, or even forty.
And my forties were probably my best years. No wait, I think it was my fifties.
Or maybe it will be my sixties.
How are you aging?
(Kassandra Lamb is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)