[This piece was originally published in slightly different form at blogher.org.]
A large amount of writing about getting older is done by those of 50 or 60 or so who insist they are young. Those among them who make anti-aging their calling – and they are legion – tell us they are the same as when they were 25 and if you will just spend the $300 per bottle for their (patent pending) elixir or adjust your attitude to their (heretofore secret) life perspective, you too will never get old.
For more than three years here, I have been arguing for recognition of old age as it really is with about as much success as I would have pushing an elephant up the stairs. Now, along comes a doyenne among mystery writers, Ruth Rendell, who is 76 and telling it like it is in the Australian publication, The Age - which is not about aging, but Ms. Rendell’s story is.
Except that she is a famous writer, a life peer and the recipient of dozens of writing awards, I could have (and have) written much of this myself. So I’ll quote Ms. Rendell on the theory that famous people get more attention and, perhaps, belief.
“I feel [my age] without much minding that feeling…I am not young or young at heart.”
“…I am not going to pretend that growing old is all sweetness and light. And this is not because of my outlook on life and my attitude, but very much because of the way younger people view old age. Old women especially are invisible. I have been to parties where no one knows who I am, so I am ignored until I introduce myself to someone picked at random. Immediately word gets round and I am surrounded by people who tell me they are my biggest fans. This is fine for me, but what about the others, my contemporaries, left isolated?”
“’Still’ is a word I don’t much like. Nearly everyone I talk to asks me if I am ‘still’ writing.”
“The phrase ‘at your age’ doesn’t please me either, with its underlying implication that it would be better if women in their 70s were to stay indoors and pull down the blinds.”
“I don’t like the way young people write and talk about the old. I don’t like their attitude, which, if they weren’t young and therefore bright and vibrant, would be called outdated.”
“When I was young and middle-aged, I used to boast that I never felt tired, but I do now and, as one who gets up at six, I struggle to keep myself awake till 10.”
“…I walk whenever I can. I thought I walked at the same pace and with the same energy as I did when I was young until I began to notice that I was soon outstripped by anyone younger.”
“I don’t want to live with anyone…I like living by myself. I like to come and go as I please and not have to tell anyone where I shall be and what I shall be doing and when I shall be home. I am an old lady who lives alone with two cats.”
It is understood by the youth-centric world we live in that old age is a horror or, at best, boring and there are far too many, including elders themselves, who deny that old age is different from adulthood. Thank God for Ruth Rendell.
[Today at The Elder Storytelling Place, kenju tells about her righteous revenge in Show Me Yours and I'll Show You Mine.]