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Age belongs… on tombstones?

It’s a little ironic really to think that we spend the first, say, third of our lives trying to be older than our years and the rest trying to be younger. I’m seven and a half. I’m thirteen and three-quarters. I’m nearly 21.  What is it about age that we can’t live with? What is it about age that we can never seem to be comfortable with? I get an almost prurient pleasure when people think I am younger than I am and the younger they think I am, the more pleasure I get. But really, at the end of the day, what does it matter? Who gives a flying foible?

In my head, I will always be 32. That’s when I broke my back (my sacrum) on a snowmachine in Alaska, 81 miles from town, 2 miles up the side of a mountain. I thought I’d been shot. But no blood. Just one broken sacrum and a fractured L2 vertebrae. With weeks on end contemplating the ceiling, hostage to a remote control and the shopping channel, I had little to do but deliberate upon whence I’d come and whence I was going. Time stood still and although years have since passed, while I might be aging outwardly, inside, I’m still 32.

So why am I so preoccupied with age?Admittedly I’ve gotten better. I no  longer insist on knowing how old you are before I deign to have a level 2 conversation with you. I no longer do the math when I first meet you. I no longer fixate on whether or not you’re too young or too old for whatever it is I have in mind. But still, all the same, it’s there. Inside me. That dread that one day, instead of being 32, I might actually have to start acting the age I am.

I have friends who are in their 50s and dress and act ten years younger and carry it off. I never question their age or what they’re up to. I have other friends who are in their 50s and, by their appearance, should be drawing a pension. So what’s the cut-off date? What’s the age at which I need to start acting my age? When does reality click in?

And then I see this video of these stylish ladies in New York and it makes me want to go shopping and go mad. And my mate, the one who has come back to life, is talking of wearing a black and orange mumu and embracing eccentricty now that she has a second lease on living.And I wonder – why am I bothered?

What is at the root of all this angst? It’s simply a fact of life that while I am beyond my sell-by date with regard to having kids (and truth be told, my biological clock was always a few minutes slow), this precludes any relationship of substance with the majority of men I meet who are under 50 and childless. Perhaps, deep down, that’s the fact of life that I’m resisting.

PS Akció means ‘sale’ in Hungarian

Grateful 50

High up there on my list of New Year’s resolutions is to stop being so preoccupied with age … and in particular, my age. For too many years now, I’ve been using it as some sort of yardstick – a measurement of how I should be, when really all I want to be is who I am. One of the beauties of moving around so much and re-inventing my life over and over again was the mental process of rebirth I went through each time I moved to a new city or country.

Those I count amongst my friends range in age from 23 to 95 and yet, although I have no problem with other people’s age, I find myself regularly joking about my own: about increasing the average age in the room when I enter or pointing out that I’m old enough to be someone’s mother. What have I been missing? A recent (and extremely painful) visit to my accupuncturist fixed some loose wiring in my psyche to the point that I no longer ask someone’s age and no longer offer mine unless directly challenged.

Out for drinks this week after a very successful Gift of the Gab, that broad hunk of British, KF, stated in no uncertain terms that he was older than me. I can’t quite remember how it came up in conversation but I sensed that he, like me, is regularly thought to be younger than we actually are. He had that tell-tale certainty about his assertion. Not one to resist a challenge, I asked him how much he cared to wager that he was not. Others around the table told me I’d lose – they said he was older than he looked – way older. I handed over my driver’s licence and suffice to say that my favourite charity is now 10,000 huf richer. I was highly amused at people’s idea of old and how relative that is. And I was gratified that everyone showed just the right amount of shock and horror at their poor judgment.

As this week draws to a close and I struggle to decipher the mess that Hungary finds itself in and get a handle on the work that’s been piling up all week, I’m grateful to those who keep me out until the small hours of the morning and make me laugh and keep me young. I could be run over by a bus tomorrow… and then it wouldn’t matter how old I was.

And as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: The age of a woman doesn’t mean a thing. The best tunes are played on the oldest fiddles.