Monday, October 27, 2014

Not quite a pile of ash

In my last post I said we would talk about how I don't think it's much of a compliment when someone says, "You can NOT be 39." So let's.

I actually get this comment a lot because I spend my days surrounded by the Very Young who have no concept of age. To whom, in fact, 39 is nigh unto death. I remember being young and thinking that 40 would be the end of it all. So I get it.

I absolutely know this is meant at a compliment, but here's the subtext: "I think 39 is old and I'm so impressed with how you're not turning into a pile of ash right before my very eyes like that guy who chose the wrong cup on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." What's behind it all is that there's something wrong with being 39 and for now I've escaped it by looking younger than what they think 39 should look like. Folks, there's nothing wrong with being 39. Just like there's nothing wrong with being 16 or 52 or 78 or 3. Why do we feel like we have to cheer people up by telling them that they don't look their age. What if I want to look my age? I worked hard for this age! Those wrinkles around my eyes mean that I have spent a lifetime laughing.

"But Rachel," you ask, "what if I don't want to look my age?" Then dye you're hair and buy some face cream. I want you to feel good about yourself. But what I don't want is for you to think that there's something wrong with you simply because you've lived to be a certain age. On that note, lately I've seen advertisements for face creams that say what they're really doing is improving you. Which is just a bunch of baloney. Your wrinkles neither add to nor subtract from your value.

Don't think that it's not lost on me that I'm constantly referring to myself as an 80 year old woman, or that I have complained about feeling the effects of age (hello, arthritic shoulder!) But know that I don't think it's the end of the world. Plus, I'm jealous of the 80 year old ways. I'm going to be that sassy old lady, so you have about 10 years before I start saying what I really think.

I kind of want to get a group of people together and ask them exactly what it is about aging that makes them so uncomfortable. Is it the gray hair? Is it the thought of death? Is it that things stop working and their knees are creaking and there are weird bumps showing up in random places? Or is it that we have been conditioned to think that aging is bad? Do they genuinely feel like there is something wrong with getting older? I'm really curious about this. Who wants to be in my focus group? We'll eat cookies afterwards and watch the Golden Girls.

While we're on the subject, doesn't it just bum you out when you get excited for someone's birthday and they're all, "Ugh, yeah. Let's not talk about it." I mean, there is cake and celebrating in their future and all they can think about is the price of burial plots. We've got to stop this madness!

So I'm issuing a challenge. When you learn someone's age, instead of saying, "Wow! You do not look it." I want you to say, "Congratulations! Keep up the good work!" And when mentioning your age, stop looking like such a sad clown about it. Think of how smart you are for always wearing a seat belt and putting on sunscreen. You did it!


Laura said...

This is such a great post! And I think the "Congratulations" technique is awesome. A great way to help others celebrate all the great things about aging.

I will totally be in your focus group - especially if there's cookies and Golden Girls!

I think for me, the bad thing about aging is the physical part. I mean, I'm 41, and my body is experiencing so much wear and tear. I suppose it's normal, and also worsened by my less than healthy eating/exercise choices! But...I notice it. I notice that I'm hurting more and creaking more and less able to keep up with my 2 year old! In a way, I feel bad that I had her at 39, because now she has an old, creaky mother to deal with. But...she also has an incredibly wise ad awesome mother to deal with, so it's a trade off I suppose!

That was my 2 cents for the day!

Rach said...

I used to get mistaken for being much younger than I was. Tim thought I was a freshman and not a grad student when we met. It's just the way things were. This has stopped happening, and I think that's why suddenly I feel shocked by aging. I found a gray hair and it sealed the deal for me. I look my age, and it kind of bummed me out for a while, but I'm becoming more accepting of my age and wisdomosity and I'm trying to embrace my smile lines. I am going to start congratulating people like you suggested. It's awesome.