This will sound goofy to anyone not in the Western world, but it’s amazing and mystifying to suddenly find yourself old.
It’s not as if Old is new. Old has been around a long time.
But when does Old start? That’s a toughie.
I used to think: Old is 10 years or more older than me.
Then I caught up.
I can remember, quite easily, lying in bed on a summer morning when I was 12 or 13, looking at my arm, wondering if a boy would find it beautiful.
The only boy who finds my arm beautiful now is my little grandson who delights in pulling my skin out as far as it will go.
Don’t do that, I say. It won’t go back.
I like you better than Grandpa, he says.
I give a little speech about people being different, hurt feelings, it’s not a competition, and a few more hard won life wisdoms.
He says, Grandpa’s bony, you’re mushy.
I wasn’t always mushy.
Not that anyone ever mistook me for Kim Novak in her pink dress swaying down the stairs in Picnic stunning Bill Holden, (YouTube it), though in the right light, I had my moments. And I worked at it. Or resolved to work at it.
Everyone knows internal beauty is all that matters, but sometimes you just want to get it on the outside. For many years every half-decade was a goal line for me. I’m going to get in shape, lose those five pounds, take better care of my skin, work out regularly by 30.
Positively by 40, time’s running out.
45 is pushing it, but I’m going to do it, look at Cher, well maybe not, I can still do a lot with posture.
After 45, the half decades became annuals.
Every January 1st, Happy New Me, until one January 1st, close as I can figure I was 67 or 68, it was over, there was no way, no exercise, no product, no prayer that’d get me in shape: the new years had run out, baby.
Listen to me, if you’re only 60, move it.
At a certain point you can buy every newt-blood cream in the world, and move in with your personal trainer so you can work out day and night, but your dynamite days are over. Men will not turn around to look at you on the street. They won’t even look at you when they knock you over passing by. If you’re still longing for the male gaze to animate you, you’re a goner. The two peaks you can hope for are:
to slow the slide, maintain, until even that becomes The Impossible Dream, and
to have people say that dread androgynous phrase, “She’s a handsome woman,” which means She must have been beautiful once. This will give you a real pang because you didn’t know you were beautiful when you were.
There’s an old woman at my hair salon who thinks it’s never too late. She’s my age and 40 pounds lighter. A praying mantis in tiny designer clothes, her diet tip is drinking hot water all day long. She’s going to have a size 1 coffin and I hope they keep it closed so as not to scare the children.
Don’t cross the bridge of youth to the scary woods beyond.
Become a troll.
Whatever age you are, say you’re 50 and feeling the rush and marks of time, remember the odds are you will never be stronger, more agile or attractive than you are at this time. In ten years you will look back with much clearer eye and say, Oh to be 50 again!