From the world around me the message comes home loud and clear and with unrelenting persistence, “Emily, you’re getting old”.
My recognition of the phenomenon occurred when I found myself unemployed five days before my fiftieth birthday. To seek a new job and be interviewed by “children” has the same chilling effect as ice-water showers at dawn. Age is not a factor in my life; but the world is oriented to think, look, and act young.
When I WAS young, respect for age was strongly dictated by society--my parents and grandparents in particular. Childhood and youth were a necessary limbo to be endured while getting THERE. THERE, being that Utopia of middle-to-old-age which brought with it wisdom, security and contentment. Now that I have arrived THERE, the pendulum has swung the other way.
“Now”, the world says, “Youth is where it’s at”. I am told that I should cover the wrinkles --laugh-lines-- which I so painstakingly developed over the years by raising children. (make-up provides for that) A little hair color will wash away that gray that everyone seems to hate so much. I do not hate it. I earned every strand of it caring for sick babies and trying to mold unyielding teenagers.
“Thin is in”. The ideal grandmother of the 21st Century is supposed to look more like her sixteen year old grandson than the cheerful Mrs. Claus of yesteryear.
What can I say about jogging and aerobics? Actually nothing. My attitude toward this type of physical violence is passive. I’m sure if I ignore it long enough it will go away like hula hoops and pogo sticks. However, there is some degree of insult--if not disgust--that I suffer when I watch a size five, 20 year old, bouncing up and down on a mini-trampoline and encouraging me with such lines as, “come on now, you can do it”. “Wow, just ten more times now.” All the time she has not one hair out of place in that cute little pony tail. And I haven’t seen a drop of sweat on those spandex shorts yet!
Darling, twenty year old, I have yearned for this rocking chair and it serves as an island retreat in which I can bask in the sunlight of my memories. For you see, dear little Goddess, I have run in my time. I have laughed and I have cried. I have loved. I have won and I have lost; and though my appearance is deceiving, I am young at heart.
Please do not pressure me into a mold of modern day society which masks my face with youth from a jar, or dresses me in styles which are unbecoming my age. Do not deny me the pleasure of being myself.
Old is not a state-of-body, but a state-of-mind. The aging process of the body cannot be denied forever; but the youthfulness of the mind can be maintained with TLC.
Please do not judge me old by outward appearances. The hair has turned gray, the laugh-lines have become more pronounced and the waistline has turned to waste-line; but don’t criticize or pity me. This age like any other has its’ compensations.
When I become unwilling to learn more of the secrets of life, or to share those secrets with my grandchildren; when I become content with the status-quo; or when I no longer want to try new things and new ways--then and only then--will you know that Emily is old.