These days, if I stand still too long, my (thankfully-still-functional) feet seem to sink noticeably further into that squishy phase of contemporary (North American female human) life when one can no longer ignore the preponderance of pop-ups, adverts, magazines, robocalls, inserts, etc etc re the “Secrets of Living Your Dream Life into the Third Age” & “Secrets of Getting Rid of Disturbing [Age Spots][Belly-Fat][Unwanted Facial Hair] Without Surgery” etc etc.
I’d like to be able to tell you I’m having none of this secret aging drivel: I’m gainfully employed, thank you, trim, waxed, lifted & botoxed, greeting each day with a youthful outlook & looking forward to decades of thrilling travel adventures to check off my long bucket list.
I’m not. Sadly. Any of those things. & I detest the term ‘bucket list’.
Well now, having put this in writing (& having also no doubt insulted a good number of my friends who in fact do look & feel as great as this beautiful 80-year old), I guess the above isn’t totally true. There are things I (truly & totally) love about being eligible for MediCare. And being the ever-available grandma. Art workshops with freewheeling female artists. Freely expressing my opinions at meetings without worrying (too much) about my professional reputation. Writing in my new 17th Ave. work space (yay!). Playing mah jongg with Linda & the guys, euchre with goddess-worshippers, & poker with dog-worshippers. Visiting snow-birds in strange suburban deserts. Not having to run off to work in the dark, & time to plan history walks in the park. & lest you think I eschew all age-masking procedures, I have been known to indulge in highlights & pedicures.
Getting older sucks.
One day in the Kinko’s parking lot a few years ago (in those younger 50’s), I offered to assist an elderly (eeek, I don’t consider myself elderly…yet) gentleman & his very frail wife into their car. The old man looked at me with deep fatigue in his kindly listen-to-me-please-I’m-returning-the-favor eyes & said “These aren’t the golden years, you know”. My 83-year old mother had just died & I knew she would’ve agreed. I wasn’t yet old enough to envision myself in their shoes, but I am, now. &, I have lots of company. We boomers are just getting going on this aging adventure, & unlike our predecessors, there are just so damn many of us we’ll be hard to ignore.
NOTE: If you’re under 50 feel free to stop now (if you’ve even managed to get this far), because you probably won’t grasp a word of this moaning & may even feel unsympathetic to these complaints. Really, I won’t hold it against you…I know you’ll (most likely) get here eventually. On the other hand, if you’re over 50 – well, maybe this will give you license to do a little moaning yourself, even though I know you usually tough it out, because – you know the saying – old age ain’t no place for sissies.
Humans haven’t had much experience living this long. First of all, it took us a few million years in Africa to even feel comfortable moving about on two feet. Then, when our brains started getting bigger due to the benefits of bipedal walking (omg, the things we could do with those freed-up forelegs! the energy we saved! the predators we could see! the places we could go!), it took us at least another couple of million years to figure out how to help each other live long enough to birth & nurture our ever-bigger-brained (but ever-more- helpless) infants – while at the same avoiding becoming prey ourselves.
So, yeah, back in the day, there were a few tribal elders – revered I might add – but most people either died in childbirth or in childhood, or from big cats, or from snakes, spiders, starvation, floods, droughts, volcanoes, & a host of other everyday catastrophes. Later on, about 10,000 years ago when humans started settling down due to our love of farmable carbohydrates, communicable diseases were added to the list; for a long time, these voracious viruses did a good job at keeping the human population in check – well, sorta. Antibiotics and vaccines became commonly available only 75-100 years ago – conveniently, right before we boomers started being born (…getting the connection here??). Ergo, having so many humans moving into older age at the same time is unprecedented in human history.
So what do we call this age we find ourselves in…upper middle age? Lower old age? For sure we’re not elderly yet, but nota bene, we’d better start figuring out what’s going to happen when we are, because this sketchy patchwork of elder care that we’re living through with our parents isn’t going to work for the multitudes that will all too soon be us.
I recently noticed that my ears are looking more like my mother’s. No really – do you know why this signature aging feature occurs – that the ears & nose seem to just keep on growing?? There are different theories about this – the one that makes the most sense to me, besides decades of heavy earrings, is gravity. As in, they’re not really growing, they’re just dripping (along with other body parts that will go unmentioned). & even though I’m hopelessly entrenched in that 70’s-feminist-notion of let-it-all-hang-out…
…I guarantee you, this sort of hanging & sagging is not what we had in mind back then.