The Old Broad in My Pajamas Gets Cake
Sixty-four years ago, something amazing happened: Me. Well, every birth is amazing, I don’t think there was anything special happening with mine in particular (my mother said she’d had worse stomach aches eating green apples which COMPLETELY prepared me for my own twenty-four hours of labor ending in an emergency caesarian twenty-five years later, but I digress) and then some stuff happened and BAM, now I’m sixty-four.
I find this difficult to believe until I remember that I saw the Beatles live on Ed Sullivan. Stuff I wore when I was in college is now vintage. I’m vintage. In one more year, I’ll be in the Last Demographic (you know, that box you check that says “65 and older”). I’ve never pretended to be younger than I am–what’s the point? nobody cares how old a novelist is–so it really shouldn’t matter, especially since I wake up every morning and it’s just me, same as ever. But then I look in the mirror and think, “Who is that old lady? And why is she wearing my pajamas?” (How she got into my pajamas, I’ll never know.) (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) “OH, SWEET JESUS, I’M OLD.” So this week, I’ve been thinking about what it means to grow Old. (Not older, everybody does that. OLD.)
Here’s the thing: You know all that crap they tell you about how your elderly years are the best time of your life? It’s true. I think it’s the result of surviving sixty-four years of trying different careers, battling different disasters, refraining from strangling different men, drinking an ocean of Diet Coke, and personally supporting the cacao fields of the Ivory Coast during times of stress. You build up some experience doing that. You establish a base line for disaster (“Am I dying of cancer? No? So not the worst day of my life. Carry on.”) You develop a good idea of your coping skills and when to put them to use. You start saying, “No” a lot more to the crap you don’t want to do and “Yes” to the guilty pleasures you no longer feel guilty about. You’ve spent sixty-four years sweating the small stuff, and now the small stuff is old enough to sweat on its own, so you can do other things. It’s peaceful. There are some real downsides (high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, AMD, polycythemia vera, and boobs that aren’t as high as they used to be), but it’s a fair trade-off for all the things that age gives you (self-confidence, proportion, skill, treachery). On the whole, it’s a win.
In fact, it’s more than a win, it’s a relief. I remember feeling all this pressure when I was younger, to accomplish things, to get things, to hurry up because I had to get everything done before I got OLD. OLD was like that farm upstate your parents told you your dog had gone to when you came home from school and he wasn’t there. It’s okay, they told you. He’s chasing rabbits. But you knew there weren’t any rabbits. Except now I’m on that farm upstate (cottage upstate) and it turns out there are rabbits. And bears. And dachshunds and a poodle. It’s actually a great place to be. It’s such a relief to know that it’s okay to get Old. Nothing’s really changed; I couldn’t remember anything in my thirties, either. It’s still me. We’re good here. Like Tennyson’s Ulysses, I’m still on board for striving, seeking, finding, and it’ll be a cold day in hell when I yield, but I think the quote I want comes from that very wise man, Douglass Adams: “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Or if that’s too high falutin’ for you, there’s the inscription I’m going to have on my tombstone: “Nothing but good times ahead.”
So you youngsters out there, don’t worry about getting Old. When you get here, you’re going to love it. Also, thank you, Jo, for giving birth to me sixty-four years ago, even if you did mislead me with that green apples story, I forgive you. And now I must go find some cake because I don’t have to count calories any more. Thank God, I’m Old.