Okay, Now It’s MY Turn To Tell You A Few Things About Aging #BOAW2018
I saw a headline on some website, and I did a massive double-take. In hindsight, I wonder if maybe the writer meant for the words to be sarcastic. Maybe. I’ll never know for sure, because I immediately closed the link in audible disgust, and now I can’t find the article again.
The headline that inspired such instant and unforgiving outrage in me read:
Horrible Things No One Tells You About What Happens To Your Body As It Ages
Are you kidding? Are you fucking kidding me with that crap?
Okay, maybe the writer really was being sarcastic. Maybe the article went on to say that a premise that dreadful stuff happens to your body as it ages and it is absolutely essential to share that depressing information far and wide is really quite unpleasant and probably the basis for many a self-fulfilling prophecy among hapless readers.
But maybe not. And that’s why I feel compelled to go on record with a rejoinder. What I’m about to share is entirely from my point of view. I duly recognize that my truths are not now and will not in the future be true for everyone as they age. But maybe they’ll spark recognition and maybe they’ll inspire some optimism. Because, if we’re lucky enough, we’re all going to get to a certain age at some point. And I honestly think that should be embraced.
I turned 60 last year. I know far too many people who didn’t make it to that age, so I will be utterly damned if I’m not going to enjoy as many of the moments of my years as much as I possibly can.
Herewith my top three favorite things about aging. I’m not going to limit it to what happens to our bodies, because I really do believe that all the details in our lives are profoundly related.
You really do have license to not give a classic fuck what anyone else thinks.
And, seriously, you’ve earned it. Now, I don’t say this by way of giving anyone my blessing to be a self-serving, selfish shithead and to not give a fuck if other people think it’s not right to be a self-serving, selfish shithead. I’m directing this at people who behave with grace and kindness. I’m giving them license to not spend time with people who don’t appreciate their grace and kindness. I’m giving them license to avoid self-serving, selfish shitheads.
I just think that at a certain age (I’m not 100% sure what that age is, but I do know for sure that I’ve been there for several good years by now…) you’ve lived long enough to not have to worry if anyone else approves of you as long as you approve of yourself, as long as you can honestly say that you are living according to your values. I think the assurance that the people whose opinions matter will respect you is a valid one.
If you’re kind and caring, anyone who doesn’t appreciate you, who belittles or undermines you, shouldn’t be in your world. In fact, they should just go fuck themselves, don’t you think?
It really is possible to love your body more and more as it ages.
I have a few friends who have medical conditions that keep them in near-constant pain. My heart aches for them. This is a cruel and unfair twist of fate. It can happen at any age. I suppose the argument can be made that it’s more possible to have medical issues as you age. Maybe. But why focus on that unless you have to?
I want to enjoy being in my body for as long as I can. I want to feel comfortable in my skin until the day I die. This is a conscious and constant goal, and I do whatever I can to make it my ongoing reality. And it turns out that there’s a lot that I can do. I believe in taking positive action at any age, and I also believe that it’s never too late to start making your health and your mental and physical wellbeing a priority.
I don’t want to start every new year that a birthday brings assuming that I’m going to feel less energetic, less inspired, less comfortable, less cozy. I want to feel as fabulous as I possibly can. And I honestly can say that I’ve never felt better than I do now. That’s something I wish for everyone as they age.
Time is precious, and that’s a really liberating thing to know.
This is a bit of a corollary to the first item on my list. Living long enough to have seen that we are not guaranteed any specific number of days has made me guard my time with miserliness that Scrooge would admire.
I don’t want to spend time doing things I don’t want to do. Maybe there are people who got that message earlier in life than I did. It took me several decades to get to the point where I wasn’t going to do something just because other people wanted me to. I do slip on occasion, and I end up doing something I don’t want to do because I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. When that happens, I swear, I get a visceral reaction of discomfort that makes it almost impossible for me to sit still until I’m back to doing what I want to do. It’s my psyche’s way of reminding me what’s important in my life.
I often do things for other people. When I want to. When doing so makes me happy. That’s my well-earned, time-tested litmus test for mapping out my schedule for every precious day of every precious year.
As a postscript, I do want to add that ageism can kiss my 60-year-old ass, especially ageism that is directed toward women. Several years ago, the New York Post ran a gossip column with a snarky comment about a movie star who was dating a younger man. She was in her early fifties. He was in his late forties.
I immediately fired off an irate e-mail to the columnist, calling him out on his specifically sexist ageism. He wrote back to say that they were not sexist at the Post, because they had also written about the age gap between Bruce Willis and his most recent girlfriend.
“So, nyeh, nyeh, nyeh, nyeh, nyeh, nyeh, and why don’t you calm down, sweetie,” was what I read as the subtext in the columnist’s words. Of course I could not let that stand without a response.
I wrote back to say that, given that the age gap between the movie star and her boyfriend was three years, and the age gap between Bruce Willis and his girlfriend was twenty-three years, I thought the columnist’s equating of the two as being equally newsworthy was at best patronizing and at worst massively fucked up.
I didn’t hear back from him. He is to this day welcome to jump up and kiss my ass.