Saturday, February 28, 2009

How Old Are You?

"Why look your age," the commercial crooned, "when with this ridiculously overpriced cream you don't have to." (Ok--it didn't say "ridiculously overpriced cream" -- I just gave the jist of it instead of the actual text!)

The cosmetic industry has made a fortune helping people -- mostly women, but some men too -- look younger than they are. Plastic surgeons have made a fortune removing lines and tightening skin in all sorts of unbelievable places and, in some cases, making people look so "young" that they don't even look natural any more. I'll bet Joan Rivers can't remember the last time her face "moved."

My mother is upset about the age spots on her hands because they make her look old. God forbid that an 89 year old woman should look "old." But I hear there is a cream you can buy that will fade age spots. I once knew a woman who spent a fortune on every single cream that came along in a vain (and I do mean "vain") attempt to stop the wrinkles from showing on her face and to keep her hands looking youthful and feeling soft. Yet she was a beautiful woman, whose wrinkles only added to the character in her face and whose coarse hands gave testament to a lifetime of hard work.
Why would she want to hide that?

I have never understood the whole embarrassment about age thing. I have never had a traumatic birthday. I have always embraced my age, whatever it is. If the thought of turning 70 in 4 years (or being married to a man who will turn 70 next year) gives me any momentary pause it's only because I can't believe how fast life passes and how close I am to my life coming to an end. (The whole idea of "death" and how I feel about that is another entry, not what I'm talking about here.)

I interviewed a woman recently. I knew she'd grown up in England and I asked her how long she had lived there. She wouldn't answer me for fear someone would be able to figure out how old she is.

We attended a surprise party for a friend's 60th birthday once. She was livid that co-workers had been invited because she had been hiding her true age and didn't want anybody to know how old she was, though one would be hard-pressed to tell that she was 60.

I understand hiding your age if it means getting a better job or keeping your job and if there is fear of being let go or not getting a promotion you have been working for.

But I just can't relate to the cosmetic stuff. I mean "cosmetic" in its broad sense, not simply in the products that one buys to put on the skin.

What's the big deal about looking like you've lived 66 years? You have lived 66 years. I think that's something to be proud of, not something that should make me feel embarrassed or ashamed or feel the need to hide the fact.

Heck, there are great perks to looking your age.

If you get to a certain age and you want to take a nap in the afternoon, nobody considers you lazy. That's the thing that old people do.

But if you want to get out and run a marathon, people are amazed at how well you function for a person your age.

You don't have to feel embarrassed about having strapping young men carrying your groceries to the car for you. You're "old" and they want to help you.

But if you want to carry them yourself, how great it is that the old lady packs her own groceries. What great shape she's in!

If you want to keep up with what "the young people" are doing you can join a host of older people who are learning and using the internet, but nobody will argue with you if you say "I'm too old to learn that stuff" and refuse to learn. I'm proud of being a trendsetter among my peers, learning Twitter and Facebook before anybody my age had ever heard of them. Now I can be a mentor to people who are nervous about sticking their toe in the social networking waters. I've been there. I know where the sinkholes are.

Turning your back on your age is like outwitting and outlasting all the other participants on Survivor then refusing to pick up your $1 million check, so you have nothing to show for all that work you put in.

As my hair started to go gray, while the kids were living at home, I felt that I'd earned every single gray hair in my head and I wasn't going to cover them up. It was a badge of honor.

If someone offered me the chance to go back to my 20s, I wouldn't take it. I did all I wanted to do when I was in my 20s and 30s and 40s and I have great memories, but the thought of doing it all again holds no fascination for me. So why would I want to look like I was 30 or 40 again?

Do I wish I'd done some things differently over the past 66 years? Sure. Who doesn't? But if I were to go back, I'd probably do it all over again just the same way, so what's the point?

Let me be 66 and let me look 66. Let me enjoy the things I want to do and not do the things I don't want to do because...well, I'm 66 and I don't have to do those things any more (it's like not having to eat broccoli because you're the president and the president can make his own decisions about whether he has to eat broccoli or not).

I'm satisfied with where I am in my life and don't need to spend thousands of dollars pretending to be what I used to be. I'd rather enjoy being what I am.



1 comment:

Indigo said...

Well said. I totally agree with you on the age thing. However, I am turning 40 in June, we'll see if I still don't care then.

Happy Mingling! We watched Bottle Shock tonight and I thought of you when I saw the sign for Davis 2 miles. :-)