I’ve told this story before so I’ll give you the abbreviated version today. When my husband turned fifty he told everyone he’d just turned sixty. I think that birthday bothered him more than he let on but that didn’t stop him from enjoying the comments people would make about him looking so much younger than his (fake) age. This went on for several weeks until he tried it on a girl taking money at state park and she looked him square in the face then gave him the senior discount. That was the end of his telling anyone he was sixty until he had actually achieved that distinction. I re-tell this story not because I’m old and people my age have been known to repeat themselves but because I find myself doing the same thing. Sometimes I present myself as being eighty when I’m far closer to seventy. And I use the “I’m old” line all the time. Why do I do that? I must get a kick out of being told, “No, you’re not!” Or maybe I need the affirmation that follows when they tell me words to the effect that I’m too sharp "to be old." Note: no one ever tells me I don’t look my (fake) age which probably is a silent condemnation of my choice of going full-out gray on top. I tried doing the low lights during my Pamper Myself Period after Don passed away and people actually did think it made me look younger. So did I, but I got sick of the ever present process of keeping it up. I’m old, why can’t I be proud of that fact? Old people get gray hair and wrinkles and need hearing aids. So what.
One of my favorite bloggers (also named Jean) is a recently retired sociologist with a thirty year history of teaching college courses. She’s responsible for me thinking about this topic today. She had commented on her blog, Step into the Future, that: “It seems to me that if organizers of events like this one worry that ‘only the old’ are attending, they have fallen victim to the widespread denigration of aging and elders in our society.” Oh, my gosh, I thought when I read that, am I adding to the denigration of the elderly when I play games with my own age? After thinking about it awhile I wondered if it isn’t more of defense mechanism for me---joke about being old before someone else dismisses me because of my age. Growing old and irrelevant is my biggest fear in life. There, I said it out loud. Darn it, I think I've written that before in my blog! I really am starting to repeat myself.
My determination to stay home alone this Thanksgiving was part of an experiment. (On aging, on widowhood? Does it really matter which?) The point was: 1) I didn’t want to be someone’s charity case, an old person/widow only invited because others felt sorry for me being all alone on a holiday; 2) I actually wanted to see what it felt like to be alone on a holiday. And you know what, it turned out fine. I didn’t wallow in loneliness, self-pity or memories of happier times. I didn’t go hungry as an elderly relative predicted I would, forced to eat stale crackers for dinner and I didn’t treat Thanksgiving like any other day on the calendar. I planned a big meal with a few comfort foods from holidays past. I cooked, cleaned up and froze my leftovers for Christmas dinner. I also realized that I do have a post-Don Thanksgiving tradition---watching the annual National Dog Show with Levi. We saw it last year and this and that dog actually watches the TV, barking and whining at his favorite canines on the screen. He is my core family now that my husband is gone.
Even though my experiment turned out fine, that’s not to say I will stop accepting invitations for future holiday dinners. There are nieces and nephews on both sides of my family where I can go and not feel like a fifth wheel. But what I won’t do in the future is go to a place on a holiday just because I dread being alone. Been there, done that since Don died. There’s a reason why the phrase, “lonely in a crowd” sticks around. What my experiment reminded me of is that 'alone' does not translate to being lonely. I also realized for an old lady with no kids or grand-kids I fared pretty well in the invitation department. I got two formal invitations, and I got three you’re-always-welcome invitations that I would have gladly accepted if not for the unpredictability of winter roads.
Oh, cripe, I got side-tracked from the topic I intended to write about—aging like fine wine or stale crackers. Although I guess facing our vulnerabilities as we grow older could be a sub-topic under a stale crackers umbrella. I wanted to write about is how the older I get the more I value myself in terms of how my brain works. I know stuff. Good stuff. Jeez, for a would-be writer you’d think I could express myself better than that. What I meant to say is the older I get the better my world view gets, the better I get at being a well-rounded human being, and I don’t waste time cluttering up my brain with stupid stuff. Stupid stuff like wondering why big butts have gone from women loathing having them to desiring big butts so much that people are willing to enhance theirs surgically. Okay, maybe I’m not the age-induced “intellect” I'm painting myself out to be because I really do want to know how that astounding butt evolution happened and seemingly overnight when measured in old people time. Light bulb moment here: If that transformation in attitude about big butts can happen maybe we can apply the same formula to making old people a cool commodity. Are you with me? Can we start a movement? ©