I haven’t blogged for a while because I had bunion/arthritis surgery on my left big toe and have been recuperating. That really made me feel old. As a younger person, the words “arthritis” and “bunions” were associated only with old people. These days, an old woman has been stalking me. She follows me wherever I go. She also has the audacity to jump into every mirror I look at and mimic my antics. Although she seems vaguely familiar, I don’t know her, and I wish she’d go away.
Yes, “getting old sucks” is the prevailing attitude. It is to be avoided at all costs including pushing ourselves toward age-inappropriate behavior, dress, and the exploding popularity of surgery toward that ever-elusive youth ideal we’ve been sold.
Although I try to fight it, I’m certainly a victim of it. My hearing began to deteriorate a few years ago. However, I resisted even exploring hearing aids; it smacked of being old. I went around missing part of what was being said in conversations, lectures, movies and TV, and, of course, asking people to repeat. When I finally got hearing aids, a whole new world opened up to me.
What a jerk I was, playing the “youth” game. We don’t resist getting glasses as we age because lots of young people wear glasses. However, we’ll shun a cane as we teeter off-balance, chancing a fall and a broken bone. It’s only after the bone is broken, we’re in pain, and we spend months in a nursing home getting daily physical therapy that we admit to “I should have…”
Where did this all come from, this pathological race toward eternal youth? Is it Madison Avenue, Hollywood, what?
It hasn’t always been that way. So many prior and current cultures of the world embrace aging. The elders are the wise of the tribe and are to be respected and emulated. Why can’t we go back to that? The answer is: we can, each in our small way.
We can admit that we tire more easily and choose not to over-schedule just to keep up with our fictitious, youthful self. We can use hearing aids, canes, low-heeled shoes for women, whatever, and have a better quality of the life left us. No one will hate us for it. No one will shun us for it.
Some years ago, I let my dyed-blond hair color grow out. It wasn’t an easy decision, and I was nervous about it–about looking old. I had been dying my hair since my twenties, and I didn’t even know what color it was naturally. It grew in a snow white.
Skeptical friends started admiring it. Friends and strangers would comment on it in a positive manner. A well-known actress in her sixties with whom I worked in a production for the baby boomer and senior market remarked that I was the only one there without dyed hair, including her.
I was becoming a pace setter to other friends. Some started letting their dyed hair grow out. We have all survived the experience, and no one has ostracized us. We still have a good quality of life and lots of fun.
Once, a friend gave me a left-handed compliment: “Lee Gale, you look so good. Imagine what a knockout you’d be if you had your face lifted.” I felt only sadness for her. My purpose in life is not to be a knockout by the “youth” definition. My purpose is to be as healthy as I can, to embrace life as it is now, and to enjoy it. I don’t have to wear the facade of youth to do so.
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