Um, yeah. There’s lots to be said for growing old. Of course, we have to turn up our hearing aids to hear it. Seriously…as if any sentence that began “seriously” wasn’t a joke…there are a few good things about getting older. It’s not dead. That’s the main thing. And there is still a small sector of society that respects, if somewhat begrudgingly, its seniors.
In an attempt to mitigate my abject disapproval of what is happening to me, I’ve decided to expose the bright side of “maturing.” Truly, if I was mature, I wouldn’t be whining about this whole experience all the time, would I? However, there are some perquisites to growing older.
An impaired memory means never having to say you’re sorry. After all, before you apologize you have to remember what it was that requires an apology, and to whom it is owed. More importantly, though, it means not holding a grudge. When someone approaches you saying, “I owe you an apology,” you can simply say “you’re forgiven.” That way you can both be happy—the person apologizing can be at peace with him/herself and you won’t be reminded of the rotten thing that was done to you.
When my daughters were children I read an article intended to help mom’s deal with stress and the responsibilities of running a home and raising children. The thrust of the article was “lower your standards.” If my standards were any lower, my children would have become wards of the state and my home would have been condemned. Getting older loosens our inhibitions—we don’t believe what other people think of us is worth worrying about. So, dust? Nature’s protective coating for my furniture. Socks? Well, today I spent the whole day wearing one pink and one white and didn’t even notice until I took them off to take a shower. And, hey, remembering to take your socks off before a shower is an accomplishment. Was I embarrassed? Why would I be? Maybe thirty years ago, had anyone noticed my socks, I’d have said that I’d done it on purpose. Now, no one notices my socks. And it’s a good thing, too, because what can you say about someone who’s checking out old ladies’ socks?
Getting older is also a time of great achievements. Most of those successes are things that thirty years ago would have been just another dollop of daily life. I remembered my brother’s birthday, yay me! I got out of bed this morning, woo-hoo. I can’t believe I did three whole loads of laundry today (I’ll put it all away tomorrow). Of course, those are minor achievements. Shouldn’t we break out the champagne when we make it across the ice without falling?
Okay, so I admit there are certain rights and privileges attached to getting older. They are not all as much fun as the ones you can exercise when you’re 35 (my self-age), but some of them are even better. My favorite? I get to make the rules. All kinds of rules. My sovereignty covers a wide section of life from what constitutes a good lunch (Lay’s Original Potato Chips and a Coke or Diet Peach Snapple) to fashion (What? I know I’m wearing dots with plaid, they both have blue in them!) to how to play solitaire. Now, if making the rules is the whipped cream on the banana split of aging, breaking them is the cherry on top. And old people can break all kinds of rules, not just the ones they themselves make.
There are so many things you can get away with by saying, “What can I say, I’m old.” Even better, there are so many social transgressions that no one will ever call you on because everyone’s already decided it’s because your youth is far behind you. Think of all the extremely rude things older people say. Think of all the things they “forget,” and all the people whose names they don’t bother to learn because they get away with “honey.” If little kids knew what seniors are pulling, they’d be green!
Here’s the lowdown: if you can convince everyone you’re nuts, you can do absolutely anything. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, just stroll around the neighborhood in your bathrobe at a few times or stand on the porch and have a loud argument when you’re alone. Dye your hair a different shade of red every month. Bark at dogs. Or the mail carrier. Your reward for this slight investment of time: the next time you do whatever it is you want, someone will be saying “Oh, Crazy Old Harriet (or Harry)? You never know what that one will be doing!” Do you know what that is? Permission. Permission to do every fool thing you want, when you want, and know that there will never be any consequence, because your PR has already assured everyone that you are not quite all there. And that is the real benefit of aging—never being responsible because no one is sure you are.