A Certain Age

I’ve always been mystified by the people who are terribly age-conscious. When I was younger, I didn’t get the agonies my peers went through over longing to be old enough for this, that, and the other thing. Driving a car was never especially thrilling or compelling to me, alcohol had little allure as an illicit tipple when I could see how stupidly my peers (and many legal-age drinkers) behaved when drinking more than they could handle, and I’ve still not had the remotest interest in trying to smoke anything. I didn’t even care about R-rated movies any more than I do now; most of those are too violent, too rude, and or too loud for my usual taste.

When I got old enough to do all of the supposedly grownup-geared stuff, I became just as amazed and confounded by those who wish and try to be or appear younger than they are. If I want to lie about my age, I won’t pretend I’m some young thing I’m not; I’ll certainly tell everyone I’m much older than I really am so they’ll be impressed with how fit, alert, and fantastic I am compared to everyone else “my age”—but that’s too much effort for a silly joke on my part. I’m pretty content to be myself, whatever age I am, and let people love, respect, and admire me—or not—for the real me that they know. I’m happy to have accomplished what modest things I’ve learned or done, to covet the thin grey hairs and fine-lined wrinkles I’ve earned through years and experience, and to relish the freedom that comes with age.

Because as far as I’m concerned, the biggest and best goal of growing up (insofar as I’ll concede to attempting anything like that) is to be so at home in my own skin, however baggy and spotty and misshapen it might be, that I can like myself fine and expect the same respect from others without trying to be someone or something I am so obviously not. Here I am, 53-plus years of ordinary, thin-haired, not-so-fit, tacky happiness jammed into a humbly passable carcass, and I’m mighty glad of it.Ink drawing: A Certain Age

Now that My Hair is Longer

It’s interesting, this growing out my hair after about fifteen years of having it fairly short. Suddenly I’ve got wavy hair, and it not only looks different from the super-straight short stuff I had but I kind of like it better now that it’s got white hairs streaking through it here and there. Go figure. Still, that doesn’t make the following poem true. Just sayin’.photoLady Samson

 Her hair’s grown long now; does this signify

She’s stronger yet somehow, or then, have I

Mistaken this adornment so hirsute

For something that a person more acute

Would recognize as only pretty hair?

I’ll ponder it (and hope not seem to stare)

Until a sign arises that this length,

If only by its beauty, gives her strength,

For anyway, I oughtn’t give a fig

E’en on discovering that it’s a wig.photo

Rust in Peace


I flatter myself that I am improving with age. This morning’s Wordsmith offering from the fabulous Anu Garg of A.Word.A.Day was ‘crepitate’–one of my very favorites, thanks to the also fabulous S.J. Perelman‘s introducing it to me in the context of one of his typically scintillating, outrageously funny tales. I was reminded that crepitation refers to the creaking cracking popping grinding and other percussive noises of dusty old age, and that, not at all surprisingly, Perelman used it in self-deprecatingly hilarious description of his own antiquated joints as he gave what one must assume was–despite his stated intent of dash and panache–a dance demonstration to his date that was more rusty than rakish. Having done the requisite amount of damage to my own human machinery over the years by falling over and off of things, lifting things I had no business hefting, and in turn, turning, squeezing, smacking and otherwise torquing various portions of myself just enough more out of sync and syncopation that it’s remarkable if I only creak and don’t fall into syncope or crack up altogether.

So, whether dancing or just shuffling my slippered way around the hallowed halls of home, I consider myself  very fortunate only to ‘boop, whoosh, queel and grake‘ like another of my pantheon of fabulous wordsmiths, James Thurber‘s, old family car, and not to simply disintegrate wholly on the spot. Grey hairs? Bring ’em on! (Best color of hair I’ve ever owned by nature, as it happens.) Wrinkles? Oh, my, yes. Smile creases are only a badge of honor reserved for people who’ve had long and happy enough lives to earn them. Aches and pains will generally come and go, with more of the comings than the goings as time passes and I forget to accommodate my crepitude a little, but by golly it beats lying around and dissipating into a dust bunny of boredom.

And honestly, lots of things get more beautiful not just in spite of but because of their evident age, so why shouldn’t I give it a try?photo








I’m So Worth It

I’ve never understood the horror some people have of others knowing their age. Among other things, it requires endless forms of subterfuge and denial, from falsifying mere statements of age to all of that domino-like cascade of phony documentation and historical records that must be juggled over time–though, according to those claims, that will have stood quite still. In more extreme cases, it leads to a compulsion to alter oneself to fit the imagined character of the mythical preferred age. I find lots of highly stylized and generalized and ‘flawless’ dolls unappealing, weird and creepy, and ever so much more so, living beings who have had themselves altered by cosmetic means (temporary or, in extremis, surgical) to be less age-appropriate or individual.

Yes, I do understand the urge to fit in, to be accepted. But perhaps my having felt, most of my life, that I look pretty average and ordinary–none of me either bad- nor good-looking to any extreme–makes me inured to the pain of those who think themselves terribly, awfully out of sync with others in appearance. Certainly I know that there are many who have had external reinforcement from thoughtless or cruel others that they are unattractive or unfit or otherwise unacceptable. That is one true form of ugliness: bullying. Demeaning and hate-fostering and belittling are as terrible in their way as any forms of torture, because they scar the soul just as effectively as physical abuse scars the body and spirit. And that can make anyone feel old ahead of time.

But when it comes to the simple and petty desire to deny the years spent on earth or the effects of living a full life on one’s body, skin and hair, I still don’t quite get it. I watch those hair-coloring commercials where fabulously primped and preened models assure us that those smart enough, like them, to use X brand are obviously grand and wonderful enough to warrant the expense of that harmless form of self-adornment “because I’m worth it.” Well, good on you! But it so happens that I think I’m worth just as much with my own dull dishwater brown hair sprinkled with hard-earned threads of white. Plastic surgeons are always eager to inform me that I could be smooth, cellulite-free, and have perfectly formed chin, nose, breasts and cheekbones if I’d only let them perform their magic upon me. In addition to my having seen a long parade of walking evidences to the extreme contrary, or at least extremely contrary to my own tastes, I am shockingly content to have a mole practically right in the middle of my face, one ear far lower than the other, shoulders of quite different sizes, stubby hands, remarkably pasty and slightly sallow skin, a couple of scars from clumsiness and carelessness, and–oh yeah–quite the growing collection of wrinkles here and there upon my entire personage.

Get used to it. I’m a used vehicle. I’ve driven this body through a lot of history, which, if not remarkably rough or exotic, takes its toll in bits and pieces, softening up that muscle tissue which once was a tad more taut, stiffening the formerly flexible joints, adding a few pounds here and a lot of freckles and spots there, and all of the other signs of ordinary aging. Beyond beating, as it’s said, the alternative, growing older has some distinctly positive aspects to it in my view, not least of them that I know, like and respect myself and my finer features far more than I appreciated such things in younger years. I am finite, yea, even slithering down the slope of the latter part of my life, and I will die. Before then, I plan to live it up.

And if that shows in my greying, thinning hair, my spotty memory (which was always a hair more colorful than reality anyway) and my thickening waist and glasses, my slowing reflexes and my ever speedier increase of dithering and forgetfulness, so be it. If it shows in my increasingly complex network of wrinkles, why then Good on Me. Literally. I earned all of these insignia of my fine, me-sized-adventure filled life, and if they make me look less than smooth and perfect and doll-like and youthful and conventionally beautiful, I don’t mind one tiny bit. I certainly never liked ironing anyway, and I earned the right to savor my wrinkles just as they are.graphite drawingP. S. I was born in 1960, and I still have hopes of getting a whole bunch older than I already am, if all goes well.