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