It's hard to deny your age once you've worn the tiara.
I’m going to let those of you younger than I am, and this is just about anyone reading this post, in on a little secret. It’s something that has taken me the last few years to figure out. Getting old, in addition to being fraught with angst, pain both physical and mental, and loss, is just plain embarrassing.
For reasons both mundane and profound, aging, especially for women in our culture, is a shameful act. Few of us avoid the trap of ageism, assuming the elderly are to be pitied and marginalized. The media tells us if we aren’t young, vital, and lovely to behold, we are less – less important, less valuable, less interesting.
And, to a large degree, I’ve bought into this construct. I’ve fought encroaching old age with all my resources: I color my hair, I Retin-A my skin, I whiten my teeth and laser off my sun spots. I work out. I diet. I look longingly at younger, sleeker, firmer versions of myself. I am clearly not going gentle into that good night.
I’m guilty of perpetuating the negativity we associate with aging, and so with the impending arrival of my 60th birthday, I am making a concerted effort to be kinder to myself and to my brothers and sisters in age.
The first step in this process is proudly reclaiming every year.
Since I turned 50 almost a decade ago, I started to closet the number. On Facebook, I coyly left the year of my birth off my information page. I was slower and slower to offer my age in casual conversation, until the number disappeared, like a shameful one-night stand or a particularly unfortunate haircut.
With this series of posts I will attempt to embrace sixty and find ways, not to turn back the clock, but to relish the time and place I inhabit.
February 7, 1953. I was born when Eisenhower was president, television was black and white, and women of impeccable virtue wore garter belts and stockings (as did my 13-year-old, church-going self). It is a distant, murky time for those of us who lived it. For Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Next, it’s ancient history. To them, I might as well have ridden a stegosaurus to my one room schoolhouse.
I can measure the years in friendships forged and battles won, meals cooked and moves made, races run and risks taken. Experience and just hanging around the planet for sixty years has made me cagey, cautious, and a bit cynical. But it has also made me more generous, less judgmental and slower to anger. Getting old isn’t for sissies, it’s for philosophers, pragmatists and clowns.
My goal in the next six months is to get healthier and fitter, to jettison preconceived notions of ageing and embrace the possibilities that lie before me. As mundane as it sounds, I want to turn sixty without dread or sorrow for what I don’t have, but with joy for a healthy body, a rich life, and a close circle of family and friends.
This is my experiment and my quest. I’ll take all the help and support I can get. Leave me a comment with any ideas, thoughts, suggestions, or words of encouragement. You young people can offer me your boundless energy and optimism. My contemporaries can come along for the ride.
It should be a blast!