You might have noticed that from time to time here, I write about liking old age. I perfectly well know that, as the old song goes, “my days dwindle down to a precious few” but that doesn't get in the way of my appreciation for this time of life.
I like being old. I like being old better than I liked being young. I like it better than I liked being middle aged. I particularly like being old in the era of the internet because it gives me easy access to other cultures. (Well, English speaking ones since I am mono-lingual.)
Which brings me to Virginia Ironside whom I've mentioned once or twice in the past but not nearly enough. I doubt I would ever have discovered her without the internet.
For many years, Ms. Ironside – who is 69 years old this year – was an advice columnist - what the Brits call an “agony aunt” - for The Independent newspaper and has written a slew of best-selling books through the years including two or three on aging.
In 2010, she turned one of those books (You're Old, I'm Old...Get Used to It) into a one-woman stage show, The Virginia Monologues, that itself was published as its own book.
The Virginia Monologues – Why Growing Old is Great not only covers the same territory as “You're Old, I'm Old...”, it hardly differs at all. Several people, over these ten bloggy years of mine, have told me that I “tell it like it is” about being old. Well, so does Virginia Ironside.
I love having discovered someone - a soulmate, if you will – who “gets” aging in the same way I do but often says it better than I can. So today you get a few quotations from The Virginia Monologues.
“When I was young everyone older than me was frightening...The confidence comes not with just feeling others are not a threat but actually no longer being a threat. If I’m not frightened of you and you’re not frightened of me, then that breeds confidence – and friendliness – on either side.”
On Living Alone:
“I’ve sometimes got dressed in order to go to the local library, discuss the weather with the librarian, exchange a book and come home again, just to get clear the whole idea of who I am.
“'It’s all too easy, when being alone, to start to feel that you are just a non-person, a glass of water poured into another glass of water. Without other people, it’s easy in no more than a few hours, to imagine yourself as just a blob of nothingness.
“A small bit of conversation can usually put things right.”
On Looking Good:
“The standard of looks in England is so low that with the minimum of effort you can stand out as some kind of ancient Marlene Dietrich or Tina Turner. It just takes a bit of flair and courage. A good-looking oldie can have the time of his or her life, particularly in England.
“Looking good not only lifts your own spirits, but also other people’s as they see you walking down the street. In my book, looking one’s best is actually a kind of good manners.”
On Liking Old Age:
“People who keep pretending to be young are just pathetic specimens, the sort of folk who despise facelifts but are, by their actions, chasing a lost youth.
“I don’t want to be young any more. It’s so boring. I don’t want to bicycle across Mongolia or go bungee-jumping. I like the fact that my love affair with life is settling into comfortable companionability.”
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chlele Gummer: Treading the Board Again