Old age is consistently disparaged as a time of decay and despondency as our world washes in the fountain of youth with waters that spring eternal. I am bored and angry at reading and hearing of the lament of a life lost to old age as if our date of birth dictates how we should feel, behave and think. Yes, too, old age, or older age, is occasionally applauded as a time of greater wisdom, experience and even happiness as people no longer feel forced to be other than who they really are, no longer having to seek approval at work, at home or at play. Positive certainly, but the fallacious negatives persist, betraying us in daring to seek employment, enjoying life with younger people and proscribing our lifestyles. Pains and aches are of course a more pertinent issue, reminding too many of us that we cannot dance for hours through the night liked we used to (lest our knees buckle and we fall on our bums) or have sex for as long as we used to (is the libido still extant at all?) and moreover, our bodies feel exhausted after just a routine clean-up of our new, down-sized apartment when the kids finally opt to leave home. Maybe you can even afford a cleaner!
For too many people on an age pension, popularly penned as old-age pension just a few years ago, they presume of themselves, and are presumed by others, to have ‘ended’ their lives with just meaningful memorabilia to massage their useless egos for the future. They stop living as they might have once, not necessarily because of their lower-backache, but because they have absorbed, as if by osmosis, the socially accepted mores of a lifestyle of the not-so-young. I once went to a pub and sat down with three men aged circa in their late 20s, and when I laughingly admitted to being 65, they said: ‘You’re not like most women your age who’d be sitting at home knitting.’ (Little did they know that I spent many nights doing just that at 31 years old). I had to laugh, not with them, but at them for their idiotic assumptions, though in their not so subtle way, they seemed to be giving me a compliment. It was a Saturday night and about 9.30pm and truth was, I’d walked 20 minutes to the pub from home chasing a younger man aged 50 years who I liked and fancied. It was his local watering-hole, but he wasn’t there so I chatted to the young men and then they left. Moreover, the 50-year-old man I was chasing had previously also told me I didn’t seem my age! Whatever that meant I’m not sure as I didn’t ask him what 65-year-old single women did to enjoy themselves, and was it irrefutably, albeit unequivocally, different from when they were younger? I’ve heard it a few times over the past few years, and I quietly laugh to myself as at 65, I’m told I’m elegant, stylish and look good. As if my appearance, yet again, says everything about me at 65! Part of me wants to fling back in anger, storm off and let them work out for themselves why what they think is a compliment, irks my ire.
Certainly, I was born with some good genetics as I’m reasonably tall which enhances stylish elegance, but other significant ‘symbols’ such as good taste in clothes, being slim and keeping myself enlivened by life itself have just come naturally, albeit with much thought and experience as well. When I did have some money to fritter on personal passions such as clothes et al, I invested wisely and still have lots of garments in my wardrobe that hopefully, will last me the rest of my life as I’m broke now. I’m also lucky with my hair, genetics too, that my younger auburn locks have gone golden without the aid of Clairol. Saves heaps at the hairdresser. Lifestyle in some ways is more complex as does it transcend our DNA, depending on personal choice and/or physical capability? Or is lifestyle determined by a positive mentality, optimistic attitudes and passionate interests that free us from the constraints of our aches and pains? Or is it purchased by the surgeons’ scapel with cosmetic surgery that may temporarily camouflage our bulging bellies and buttocks with liposuction as well as smooth our wrinkles with botox, our arthritis catching us out as mere apparitions of ourselves nonetheless. A writer recently waxed depressingly about how ageing men with wrinkles and lines were deemed as of more interesting character, while women, once rated as beautiful when younger, were later regarded as ‘interesting’, sans character. Men it seems are assumed to be of more worth beyond the superficiality of appearance; characters no less. Women just less ornate and decorative objets d’art!
I am also lucky, and it’s also genetics, that I’m in reasonable physical health so I can still dance, walk, and exercise as I need to, and moreover, still retain the stimulating interests I pursued in my younger years. I love talking to people (those I think I can converse with), I enjoy reading, different musical styles, and shopping, even if I can’t always afford to buy what I’d like to. Recycle shops provide fashion sustenance. I still attend the football, would go to the cricket and tennis if I had the money and drink in pubs more often than I do. Cash restrictions limit my lifestyle which also includes quiet days and nights just lying on the couch thinking and feeling good about myself. I sleep as much as I slept in my youth too; but inevitably, there is a dearth of men to fuck so I’ve not really tested my sexual energy as it used to be. But because I no longer work in a paid job in an office, I choose to ‘work’ for myself when I have the interest and energy to write. The pension is a blessing as I don’t have to endure paranoid workplaces and bullying bosses. Of course, ageism caught up with me regarding paid employment, and I’m one of many people, women AND men, too, decrying forced retirement for no other reason than their birth certificates. At the same time, it is significant that Hilary Clinton, at 67, is running for one of the most powerful, if not THE most powerful ‘job’ in the world as U.S. president. Apparently, ageism is selective not to mention hypocritical, too. Like so many issues I’ve blogged about, there are very many contradictory and confusing realities in this world; ageism along with racism and sexism do not seem based on reason and logic but a whim of assumptions that defy wisdom.
Moreover, our appearance is also paramount; men, too, as I was once told by a plastic surgeon more than 40 years ago, were vainer than women, I’m not going to get into that, but you certainly see far more grey and white-haired men in the media than women. One woman of 50, a news anchor, said she had been dyeing her hair for decades. It’s not than men might or might not be more or less vain than women, just older looking men are far more socially acceptable across the board. Maybe that’s my lament; not for a life lost to older age, but that my age, appearance and behaviour are topics for comment at all, apparently out of sync with each other. There is nothing new about that when so many other conformist suppositions have attempted to ‘conventionalise’ and ‘conservatise’ my life.
It may be that many older people do feel broken with built-in obsolescence, but old age so-called, can also be a time to celebrate the opulence of a life enjoyed with lots more enjoyment to come. Riches don’t always belong in a bank and pity those whose bodies creak and groan as they try to walk despite having amassed millions as their booty. I feel opulent in so many ways that don’t translate into a big bank account, but I also accept that parts of my body aren’t what they used to be, but I enjoy living as best I can and refuse to let obsolescence overtake me. You shouldn’t let it, either!