I’m told the cat has the health of a feline half her age. She still has a chronic condition that was supposed to have killed her by now, but everything else about little miss priggish fussy pants seems to have countermanded it. How many of us would love to hear our doctors say, not only have we beat the odds, we are living with a body as healthy as someone half our age? Talk about having your cake and eating it too.
When I reached my mid-30s, my mother was 70 and was in the initial throes of reminiscing about a life well-lived. Never one to go in for much of those homemaker/housewifely activities, she mysteriously took up scrapbooking at this time. One outcome of this strange new behavior was a handmade photo composite she created for her daughters—done on her new-fangled colored printer/fax/scanner—depicting all four of us at age 35. Let me tell you, our mother’s 35 years-of-age most certainly was not ours. She looked easily 10-15 years older than that, and we looked, well, not twenty-something, but definitely much, much younger than her picture.
As a “boomer” (a claim I get to make because I was born to parents of other more legitimately classified boomers), I am happy to boast that my generation—the one that declared anyone over the age of 30 was suspect-–has held fast to the notion of being forever-young, even as they reach their 60s and 70s. There is much discussion these days about the boomer generation being “active seniors;” something that is proving as trendy as whatever is trending for the twenty-something set.
It’s great we as a generation are choosing to live life as young as we feel, as opposed to reflecting how “chronologically challenged” we are. It’s a good attitude to embrace. My parents, once they reached their eighth decade, jumped onto their children’s positive-attitude train and started declaring that they were refusing to act their age. It worked. People were often surprised to learn that they were in their 80s.
But it isn’t worth it to throw away all that comes from having lived on the planet a good long while; wisdom being the foremost benefit. Even Viagra ads extol this virtue. I feel I’ve earned my fifty years and the few white hairs that have come with it, and want others to respect me for it. I don’t want to run a half marathon every other month, stop wearing a wristwatch, change my email carrier, give a damn about Twitter, or take up software programming for NASA just so I can be considered viable. I like being “old school” and I like being an “old dog learning new tricks.” I don’t like running and I like my wristwatch. And it gets easier declaring all this when you’ve got some experience to back you up.
Having said that, I do not feel in any way like I’m fifty. None of us knows what fifty, sixty, seventy, etc., is supposed to actually look and feel like, for that matter, except maybe for the image we first latched onto as children. Once that image was set in stone, and further cemented by our parents or grandparents decorum at that age, we moved through our early years and young adulthood thinking 50 was not middle-aged, but old. I do not feel in any way “old.” I am nevertheless taken aback when I see how my peers’ figures have filled out, their hair has grown grey, or has dramatically receded, their eyelids and the skin on other appendages is sagging, and how strangely those heavy lines pull down their otherwise bright and happy faces.
My mom once said that turning fifty was the worst. She was miserable for a long time about it. For my father, it was sixty, but for him turning sixty was daunting because most of his immediate relatives had died in their sixties. He thankfully beat those familial odds, staying with us until just before his 91st birthday. For me, turning twenty-six and forty were the worst. Those two ages were demarcations of youth and young adulthood now being behind me. Both ages meant the world would not see me as someone who was in the know, but someone who now lived on the outside looking in.
Sure, you can look at growing older with defiance, declaring that age ain’t nothin’ but a number. However, if there is one thing that absolutely shrugs-off the notion of mind over matter, it’s our biology. With genetic coding that predates pre-history with the hard and fast rule that, not only do none of us get out alive, we have to go through a process of decay first, there’s very little a youthful outlook—or medical science—can do to change it, try as they might.