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Unwarranted Surprise

The Little “Oof” Noise

“How many of us are going to let our hair turn silver? I have, but I know I’m in the minority. I actually have a friend a bit older than I am, with flaming red hair…who says it makes her ill to look at my silver threads...

“Here’s a line from another ancient song, When You and I Were Young, Maggie: ‘My face is a well-written page, Maggie, but time alone was the pen.’ People used to say: ‘I earned these wrinkles.’ Why isn’t that ok anymore?..."

Why, indeed. That’s melinama talking on her Pratie Place blog who also says, “I’m tired of the quest for eternal youth.”

Me too, which is pretty much the entire reason for TimeGoesBy’s existence. But it’s an uphill battle to make being old, looking old and enjoying growing into elderhood acceptable.

“Doug Wilcox said he started marking his age not by the birthdays but by the way he was treated by society and his retirement…’When you’re 50 years old, you start to feel old because that’s when people start treating you like you’re old,’ he said. ‘You’re almost out of it…”
- MyrtleBeachOnline, 5 June 2005

It wouldn’t be a bad thing to be treated as “old” if the culture didn’t, at the same time, treat aging as a defect. The greatest compliment adults believe they can bestow on an elder is, “Oh, you don’t look that old” or “Oh, you don’t act like you’re that old.” I’ve often been told both and I resent it. I've earned these 64 years and I want to be what I am now without feeling there is something wrong with me.

Barring major medical problems, getting old isn't as terrible as adults assume. Many elders, even with the aches and pains and normal slowing down, just fold aging into their routine and get on with living. 89-year-old Louise Strickland says,

“I’ve had a hip replacement, and I’ve got some nerve damage in my foot and leg, so I walk with a walking stick now. I don’t feel it – getting old – all the time. It just happens, but I don’t feel it happening.”

68-year-old George Barna agrees:

“The only difference between now and then is it just takes me a little longer to do things.”

- MyrtleBeachOnline, 5 June 2005

We are gray-haired, wrinkled and slower than we were in youth and the cultural pressure to appear otherwise - to remain as midlife adults rather than moving into elderhood - can rob us, if we succumb, of thoroughly experiencing the most satisfying period of our lives. All that is needed is to let us be who we authentically are without negative social consequences or, in melinama's words:

“I would like it to be ok to get old…I would like it to be ok to look my age...and sometimes maybe even make the little ‘oof’ noise when I sit down after an exhausting day.”

Comments

I wandered into your blog and stayed a bit. From reading many of your thoughts I am of the opinion that the heart never grows old.

Cheers,
Billy

Well, Ronnie, you want to really insult someone in our youth obsessed society ? When they tell you how old they are nod your head and say, "You look it." ;)

BTW- since most people reply, "You don't look that old," when told someone's age, isn't it true that most people don't really know what a certain age looks like and are operating on a stereotypical idea of what they think that age is suppose to look like? They are trying to force round pegs (older people) into square holes (stereotype of older people).

Ronni: I urge you to go out a buy the new Summer 2005 issue of Ms. Magazine...and read the article:
"She Who Once Was: the author considers the peril and promise of aging well" by Rebecca McClanahan.
It is not only a brilliantly and insightfully written it brings into focus the difference beteen a woman's aging from that of a man's.
She writes:
"Last month, one of my nieces gave birth to a daughter, and I am happy to report that little Addison Kate is aging well. If she keeps aging, if she keeps growing old, perhaps one day a sculptor will cast her likeness in bronze as Rodin did the woman in "She Who Was Once the
Helmet-Makers's Beauifl Wife." Art critics debate the sculpture's content---the withered, naked figure, the sagging flesh and shriveled breats--but it is the work's title that breaks something loose inside me. To be anmed not by what you are now, but by what you once were. The old women pass by on the street of my city, and I imagine captions floating over their heads:
She who Was Once the College Professor's Brilliant Daughter. She Who Was Once the City Ballet's Principal Dancer. She Who Was Once a Living Doll.".
It's a wonderful written: I hope you will find it and read it.
md

I wonder if there's a way we could all blog or comment our way to a gracious response to the bald statement of older age that is positive about aging. Something like: "You're 73? Wow, so that's why you look so knowing, like you have life knocked. Could you tell me your secret?"
Yeah, yeah, I know it's clunky and could be taken the wrong way, but it's a start. Anyone else care to make a stab?

"But it's an uphill battle to make being old, looking old and enjoying growing into elderhood acceptable."

Acceptable to whom? How can we expect other people to accept our aging if we, ourselves, don't even accept it?

"I've earned these 64 years and I want to be what I am now without feeling there is something wrong with me."

We are in charge of our own feelings. If you don't want to feel as though there is something wrong with you, then don't. Are you saying that you, as an elder, can't control your feelings?

"All that is needed is to let us be who we authentically are without negative social consequences..."

No one prevents us from being who we are. When we make that choice, and we must, the consequences will occur, but the choice is still left up to us. If we value being treated as if we were younger, then we can act younger. If we value being received authentically, then we must act that way.

It's true that our society is focused on youth. I don't deny that. If we, as elders, think things should be different, then we can only make those changes within ourselves. It does no good for us to complain to others. I think society needs elders, but we elders must begin to act like elders, rather than expect society to bestow us with the honor.

Thanks, Steve, for writing your thoughts so well. When someone says that I don't look my age, I assure them that I do. I am 67 years old. Trust me: this is what 67 looks like!

When I was younger, I accorded my elders respect. Now that I am an elder, I accord myself respect--and younger people seem to join in my cadence. Assuredly, there are people out there who have no respect for age, but they evince no respect for anything else so I cannot be bothered by it. The only complaint that I might have about being treated as I am is that younger people wish to be too physically helpful...not understanding that I must do for myself or shrivel away to disability. BTW: I have to guard against being too physically helpful to a 94-year-old friend. She, too, needs to do for herself! She definitely has my respect.

Marion: Thank you. The article sounds fascinating.

ML: Not clunky at all. I like it. How about too: You must have a lot of stories to tell. Let's sit awhile and I'll listen.

Steve: I couldn't agree more with your ideal and the need among some elders to behave so, but others prevent elders from being themselves every day.

There is no way to prove it, but I know the look well when I walk in for a job interview and the the hiring manager face falls when he or she sees I'm much older than they thought on the telephone. And I know I haven't a shot at getting the job.

It's hard to be what I am when every recruiter tells me I ought to color my gray hair.

But age discrimination in the workplace is neglible compared to the healthcare industry:

"The signposts of age discrimination in the nation's health care system are nearly ubiquitous and, often, disturbing in their implications:

"Older people are often denied the kind of preventive care routinely provided to others.

"Older people are less likely to be screened for life-threatening diseases.

"Older people are routinely overtreated, undertreated or even mistreated by health care professionals with little or no training in geriatrics.

"Proven medical interventions for older people are often ignored, leading to inappropriate or incomplete treatment."

Self-respect cannot correct these, often life-threatening, biases. A concerted public effort, even legal action, will be needed. You can read all of the overview from which these quotes were taken at Second Class Care.

No one - at least no one at Time Goes By - is asking anyone to "bestow" any honors on older people. We only want to be treated equally with adults.

There is much to ponder in these comments and I too, am exploring my older years and what they mean. If you have time please visit my site and the post "Invisible".

And there is no need to color your hair. Silver is a beautiful color.

Me being younger, 17 to be exact I find myself almost scared of getting older. People are always telling me to enjoy my youth because it leaves fast. You need to be more positive about your life and instead of dreading that grey hair growing in appreciate your time here on earth. Age is beautiful.

I disagree with mikala. Age is disgusting. You guys walk around with your saggy tits and ugly grey hair. you would be better off to just kill urself and get it over with. do a favor for all of us.

Thanks. cheers.

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