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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Growing Old Gracelessly

Here's the deal. I'm going to be 60 soon. No matter what anyone says about aging, it all comes down to one thing: it sucks. I should celebrate that I've lasted this long, right? I don't. In my head I'm 35. When I see my reflection, I'm saddened.

Growing older, gaining wisdom (LOL), and maturity are all overrated. I am now learning the answers to many of the questions I had when I was young. I now know that the reason old ladies address everyone as "honey" or "sweetie" is not a misplaced sense of familiarity, but an acknowledgement of memory loss. We've met far too many people to be able to remember all their names. I haven't yet figured out how to introduce a "honey" to a "sweetie." ("Darling, I'd like you to meet my very close friend," then let them figure it out?)

Older people's clothing was once a source of wonder. Why do they dress that way? Doesn't she know her outfit doesn't "match"? Isn't she too old for that? Who's he trying to impress with the cowboy hat? It's just a matter of priorities. Being fashionable isn't as important as being comfortable once you're past the age of wearing stiletto heels. If I'm out in the yard pulling weeds, who will notice that my pants are striped and my shirt is plaid? And I won't consider my attire (or changing it) when I jump in the car to make my ValueMart run. I bought Crocs to wear while gardening and vowed never to be seen in public wearing them. Then I broke my ankle and heel (we older folks do that a lot), and I had to wear them. Once, I'd begun wearing them in public, the ice was broken and after my foot heeled I kept wearing them. Hey, they're comfortable. However, they are not good on slippery slopes.

Being older is the end of changing outfits four times a day. That's a good thing. Being older also means not having the energy to do the laundry as often (or having a mom to do it for you). If there were a way to wear the same thing all the time, NEVER changing, I'd be interested. Showering in my clothing is not an option.

There are so many myths about old age that we subscribe to when we are young. "At least when I'm older, I won't have acne." Yeah, right. Not only will you be dealing with blackheads in the same exact spot over and over again, but you can also keep the tweezers out to deal with those "hairs on your chinny-chin-chin." "I can't wait to go through menopause, then I won't have my period to deal with." You've got two errors there: one is a dangling participle, which is easy enough to fix, and the other is that you don't go through menopause. Menopause is more like demonic possession. It latches on to you and never lets go. Oh, sure, some of the symptoms ease (or maybe we just get used to them), but others continue for decades if we're lucky enough to live that long. There is no exorcist and there is no magic cure. Periods are to menopause what limbo is to hell.

Everyone who lives long enough gets old. Pretty basic concept, right? Not everyone feels the same about it. I've known so many people who dreaded turning 40, but I welcomed it. I was glad to be 40, it was a milepost that said "a lot of bs is behind you, now." Of course it wasn't, but I had my illusions. Fifty wasn't a big deal either, just another birthday. So why is 60 so depressing? "Sixty" is a name for all the things I never desired. I can't walk as quickly, take the stairs as well, carry as much, stay up as late, or work as hard as I once did. And, more frighteningly, I am aware of the slowing of my mental processes. My superior math ability is now merely average, my memory--never that great--is untrustworthy at best. What 60 represents to me is the continuing decline of all that constitutes me. I am becoming the weakened, watered-down version of me. It sucks.