Are You Aging Graciously?

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.)

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  • Reply
    September 4, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    Inspiring. And congratulations, you look fabulous! What face cream do you use? 😉 Just kidding. Genetic, right?

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    September 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Thanks Debra! Actually oily skin finally pays off when you get old. Little or no wrinkles!

  • Reply
    Prudence MacLeod
    September 4, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    You must have Bilbo's ring, girl, for you haven't aged a day. Trust me, let go of the fear and embrace the sixties. Think of all the bonus points you get, ravage those seniors discounts, and laugh at those still struggling to figure out who they are. You know who you are now, so go enjoy being her, she's awesome!

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    September 4, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    And apparently our reply function is still screwed up.

    I was trying to thank you, Prudence. You are such a delightful lady! And yes, I do so love those senior discounts!

  • Reply
    September 4, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    I didn't believe you were actually almost 60 when we first met! I'm actually looking forward to getting older. Maybe it's because I live in a place where the average age is 70 but everyone stays active. They ride bikes, work out at the gym, dance in the wine bars 🙂 And they are passed the point of raising kids, worrying about starting a career, etc. They just seem to be living each day fully and enjoying life. Of course, I know there's physical problems that come with aging. I'm being optimistic about what science will be able to do in a few years. 🙂

  • Reply
    Lynette M Burrows
    September 6, 2012 at 1:01 am

    I'll be turning 60 at the end of the year. Yes, I've had to slow down a little. And my age reminds me that there is an expiration date, so I'm going after what I want. It's liberating. Hope you had a terrific birthday and that it's the beginning of a wonderful decade.

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    September 6, 2012 at 1:44 am

    Liberating! That is the word, Lynette! Yes, we slow down some, have more aches and pains, but we are free of so many of those earlier demands you talk about, Shannon. We can just live. I freaked out at 40 and 50 because I was 'getting old;' now that I'm here, I kinda like the landscape!

  • Reply
    Reetta Raitanen
    September 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

    An inspiring post, Kassandra. It's sad that we respect older people so little these days and shove them to nursing homes. Us youngsters have so much to learn from the generations before us once we get over the annoying 'I know it all' phase 😛

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    September 8, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Thanks, Reetta. I know that I miss my mother the most when I wish I could ask her for advice on something!

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