The End Of Youth

The End Of Youth surprised me one morning. It didn’t sneak up on me gradually, the way friends have related their own revelatory experiences with mirrors. For me, it came all of a sudden and I was hugely, comically surprised at the face in the mirror. It was as if the wrong person had jumped out of a cake in a sitcom. What? Who is that?

I’d ignored previous clues. Now they all piled on together. The checkout counter. Any given cash register where senior discounts were figured.

In the past, I’d ask for the discount and the person in charge made a fuss of saying, “No, you can’t be.” Some were sincere, others not, but I was fine with their reaction and fine with pulling out I.D. to prove I deserved the discount.

You can guess what’s coming. One day, everything changed. As I presented my merchandise, the cashier asked “And are you a member of our Senior Club?” That was the first time nobody said, “You can’t be,” and from that day forward, it happened more frequently.

It’s not a specific age. It happens to some of us  decades too soon, because an observer isn’t really observant or doesn’t know what aging looks like, or isn’t paying attention. It also happens the other way around for some of us, years later than we really deserve, and we are offered a grace period, while we pretend not to notice the changes in the mirror.

But it will arrive. It will come in some way at some time to you, personally, and that will be the beginning of many other things, some of them very good. It can be the beginning of figuring out the next stage, of deciding our own worth based not just on a set of physical markers.

This isn’t to say that I have the answers yet, but only to remind you, as a friend, that day is coming, the day you fully accept you are no longer young and that it’s okay.

(Writing partner, Dave, shares his thoughts on the subject. Dave’s Blog)

The End Of Youth?

The End Of Youth surprised me one morning. It didn’t sneak up on me gradually, the way friends have related their own revelatory experiences with mirrors. For me, it came all of a sudden and I was hugely, comically surprised at the face in the mirror. It was as if the wrong person had jumped out of a cake in a sitcom. What? Who is that?

I’d ignored previous clues. Now they all piled on together. The checkout counter. Any given cash register where senior discounts were figured.

In the past, I’d ask for the discount and the person in charge made a fuss of saying, “No, you can’t be.” Some were sincere, others not, but I was fine with their reaction and fine with pulling out I.D. to prove I deserved the discount.

You can guess what’s coming. One day, everything changed. As I presented my merchandise, the cashier asked “And are you a member of our Senior Club?” That was the first time nobody said, “You can’t be,” and from that day forward, it happened more frequently.

It’s not a specific age. It happens to some of us  decades too soon, because an observer isn’t really observant or doesn’t know what aging looks like, or isn’t paying attention. It also happens the other way around for some of us, years later than we really deserve, and we are offered a grace period, while we pretend not to notice the changes in the mirror.

But it will arrive. It will come in some way at some time to you, personally, and that will be the beginning of many other things, some of them very good. It can be the beginning of figuring out the next stage, of deciding our own worth based not just on a set of physical markers.

This isn’t to say that I have the answers yet, but only to remind you, as a friend, that day is coming, the day you fully accept you are no longer young and that it’s okay.

Seeing ourselves as others see us is not for the weak.

We’ve heard that aging is not for sissies.  Here’s another truth.  Accepting the reality in the mirror first thing in the morning is not for the faint of heart.  And the photo taken for my driver’s license is not necessarily the real me.  I choose not to see myself the way the Department of Motor Vehicles sees me.  You’d think with that photo in my wallet I’d believe it’s true.  Nope.  I’m able to convince myself that picture is a fluke, a trick of lighting. 

I need my illusions.  People who care anything about me know that and leave them alone.  Some days I’m my worst critic.  Other days I look in the mirror and decide I like it. Sometimes what I’m liking is not the way I really look, but the way I think I look.

If I could see myself as others see me, would I want to? 

1)  No. 

2)  Depends on what day it is.

3)  Please, no.

It’s hard work staying inside my bubble. The real world is filled with so many bubble-bursters, they don’t need any help from me.  So rather than seeing it as delusion, I prefer to think of it as an elaborate alternate-reality scheme, one that helps me to keep on keeping on.

Ó Anita Garner 2009

Fifty is the new forever.

For a couple of generations at least, we’ve succeeded in blurring age lines – literally.  Aging doesn’t happen gradually anymore.  Now we age in clumps of time and style. First we’re very young – say teenagers.  Then we continue to dress like teens for at least another decade – sometimes two. 

Then there’s the hip young adult period which often hangs around way past hip or young.  Then comes a day of reckoning  – sometime in our late 40’s.  Nah.  No reason to give in now.   

Which could make 50 even more of a shock when it arrives.  Except nothing seems inevitable any more.  Because now everybody looks 50 forever.

We’ve heard the saying “At 50 a woman gets the face she deserves” but that’s not happening if we can help it.  Past sins of bad nutrition, too many late nights and other forms of over-indulgence are smoothed over with new ways of caring for ourselves – and that’s without even considering surgery.

Here’s a thought.  Since mommy and grandma look so similar, kids in the future may never know what old looks like.  

Ó Anita Garner 2009

Is Fifty The New Forever?

That table of students having coffee over there – all of them are dressed identically, all of them sound alike when they talk. Same clothes.  Same speech patterns.  Nothing odd about that, right? 

Except two of them just stood up to leave and someone at the table addressed one of them as “Mister” somebody and the other one indicated that they’d better hurry or they’ll be late for his class.

It’s official.  I can no longer tell high school and college students from the teachers and professors.  Not when they all look like they could be anywhere from 15 to 35. 

It’s not just because I’m getting old.  (I am, but that’s not the point.) The ageless look of this group is partly due to the fact that no one is wearing adult clothing anymore.  Some of the boys-to-men are wearing today’s iconic cap.  Some are in hoodies.  Everyone’s in soft shoes.  Everyone’s in jeans.  

And now my doctor has moved his practice to a huge group where no one wears doctor coats anymore and it’s nearly impossible to tell the young patients from the young doctors. 

Clothes used to be labels unto themselves – not the inside label, but the statements we made by what we put on. How we look offered clues about other things.  We did that on purpose.  Used our clothes to make a statement. Our statements probably offered comfort to some and consternation to others.  Genius or goof-off?  Can’t tell by the clothes anymore.

Here comes the back-in-the-day part:  When we were in our teens, we couldn’t wait to be adults.  Adolescence held no great appeal.  It was pre-Summer of Love, before the culture switched to worshipping youth.  It wasn’t a lot of fun to be a teenager.  In fact, nobody even called us anything except maybe “young people.” 

 

So we copied older people.  We dressed like them as soon as we could.  For my girlfriends, and me it was high heels all the time, tight skirts (think of the Office Manager, Joan, on Mad Men) with loads of makeup and hairspray.  Since there was no glory in staying young, the natural progression was to dress like adults soon. We didn’t hate it. 

 

I must have missed the memo about it not being okay to dress my real age.  Not that getting old is a picnic, but it’s also not awful and doesn’t need to be a secret. 

 

We can’t blame the 60’s and free love for everything.  We all bought into this whole switch from natural aging to forever young.  How come we ever thought it was okay to say “Don’t trust anyone over 30?” 

 

Fifty seems to be the outside age that my friends are comfortable with.  Some of them have already been in their fifties for quite a while and now staying fifty forever doesn’t seem like such a stretch.  Heck, it might even be medically possible one day soon.

 

Ó Anita Garner 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birds Of A Feather

Here’s a question that comes up a lot lately:  Do you still hear from her/him? I used to think it was a badge of honor to say I’ve had the same friends forever, but just as all of my old clothes don’t fit anymore, neither do all the people I used to know.  I still cherish friendships that have endured for decades, but not all the people I used to know are people I want to be with today.  When we were younger, we clumped together for various reasons.  We formed parent groups, church groups, hobby groups, business groups and volunteering-in-the-community groups.

Today I’m not so big on groups.  One size doesn’t easily fit all.  The friend who makes me laugh may not be the one with whom I want to discuss problems.  Neither does one size fit forever.  I now have a shorter list of friends and a more focused to-do list.

Recently my daughter asked, “Remember when we used to have those parties at our house and we’d have a hundred people there?”  I wonder, where did I get all that energy?  I look at photos and examine old memories and they point to the fact that indeed, fun was being had, yet it’s not a situation I’d be drawn to now.

Have you ever fallen out of touch with someone and then you reconnect and it’s just different?  These days I let an extra beat go by before deciding to restore the relationship.  A few sentences after “Hello again” we may no longer have anything to talk about.

Letting go of relationships doesn’t happen without guilt.  I ask myself why don’t I want to be with these people?  The answer’s right there, but I’m sometimes slow to accept it.  History alone isn’t enough.  Seasons change.  Values change.  People change.

My friend, Catherine approaches life in the most realistic way of anyone I know.  She believes we need different kinds of relationships at different stages in life.  Not only does she let go of the ones that don’t fit anymore, but she quickly replaces them with people who do.

A few months ago, she hosted a party to celebrate her 90th birthday.  I’m one of her newer friends, considering we’ve only known each other about twenty years.  I take her counsel to heart and try to be more aware of the natural ebb and flow, but there will never be another like Catherine.  When I mention any age-related problem, she says, “Oh honey, you’ll work it out.  You’re still just a baby.”  Where would I find another friend who’ll take the trouble to lie to my face like that?

Ó By Anita Garner

Is It Just Me?

I can’t believe it’s time to start a new year.  I also can’t believe this is me sounding exactly like every older person in the world talking about how quickly time flies.  

Days go by faster than I can mark them off on my calendar – or more accurately my Day-At-A-Glance appointment book and ever-present To Do lists.

There’s both good and bad about this.  The good?  We don’t have to wait too long for anything we’re looking forward to.  When we were kids, it seemed the day after tomorrow would never get here.  Now?  Just turn around.  Here it is.  The bad, of course, is that it’s possible for several days to slip past while we’re still deciding what to do about next week.

As inevitable as aging is (someone said if we’re lucky we’ll get old) so is the need to make time count for something.

I’m not a resolutions person, but I do have intentions that matter to me,  and one is to make better use of the time allotted.  That’s about the only thing I stand a chance of affecting.   There’s nothing wrong with a modest goal to ring in the New Year.

Ó By Anita Garner