What they never tell you is how embarrassing getting old is.
I knew my looks would fade. I was aware of the impending slump of boobs and butt. Nora Ephron warned me about what would happen to my neck. It is no surprise then that, as I arrive at 65 all hell has broken loose in my body. Everything takes a little longer – running, walking, getting to sleep, waking up, sex, and personal hygiene. You cannot begin to imagine the time and energy required to get a 65-year-old female body ready for public inspection.
Getting old feels a little playing strip poker and losing. Each year takes away an article of psychic clothing – athleticism, grace, mental acuity – until you are stripped bare of all the attributes that armored you against the world. Getting old leaves you feeling naked. And not in that fun, sexy way. More like in that “sitting bare-assed nekkid waiting for the doctor to come in” way. It’s embarrassing.
Yup, the 60s are a uniquely challenging age. But then I think, so were my teens – zits and raging hormones. And my 20s – self-involvement and abject idiocy. And my 30s – toddlers and sleep deprivation. And my 40s – more raging hormones and divorce (and I didn’t even notice how fabulous I looked). And my 50s – empty nest and professional upheaval.
Bette Davis was right. Old age is no place for sissies.
Well I’m no sissy and I know I have it better than most. I love my family and friends. I love my work. I love where I live and the astonishing beauty that surrounds me. Being old has slowed my roll. It has allowed me to pay attention to all this love, to nurture it, and sometimes, when I’m lucky, to pay it forward.
Getting older means abandoning all those unnecessary fucks that I used to give, that gave me so little in return.
Getting older means since my looks won’t get me anywhere, I’ve worked at cultivating my big, old brain to compensate.
Getting older means my heart might be physically compromised but its capacity to love and withstand loss has grown exponentially.
Getting older means less judgment and more perspective, less complacency and more audacity, less fear and more courage.
If I’m honest, my 60s have been pretty fantastic – I road an elephant in Thailand, sailed through the Panama Canal, lingered in quiet campos in Venice, discovered secret places in Maine, moved to an old farmhouse, worked on professional projects with each of my children, made new friends, reconnected with old ones, took up gardening and CrossFit, actually got fit, rescued a couple of adorable dogs and a pair of feral cats, made a few fateful, fruitful career changes.
So I’m going to celebrate my Medicare birthday – with a vengeance. I’m going to embrace getting old, neck wattle be damned. If you need me, look around. I’ll be the old lady across the room having way too much fun.