I’ve written before about being old, not because I’m proud of it or sad about it or wanting to exploit my age when all else fails (okay, I may have done that), but whenever I do it I feel the need to apologize for even bringing it up. Talking about old age is boring. It may be more boring than any other subject I know, except maybe that talk about having to walk a mile to school in a snowstorm. Without boots. Or a hat.
Aging is something that happens without our permission. No matter what those ads say, it is permanent, irrevocable and out of our control. In my case, aging doesn’t change who I am or alter the fact that I really, truly believe I’ll live forever. Crinkly skin and creaking bones aside, I’m doing okay.
But here I am, talking about it again.
I’ve been having trouble with one knee lately, so I’m using a walking stick. That damned stick has changed everything! Suddenly, people are all over me, wanting to help. They lean into me (in case I’m hard of hearing, too), and use their best Kindergarten voices to let me know they’re there and they’re ready to help.
My god, I’m in Hell.
Sometimes I do need help. Don’t we all? But it’s not because I’m old, it’s because help is what I need.
Something else has happened: Now, suddenly, because I walk with a stick and look the way I do, I am no longer capable of helping anyone else. Those days are over, either permanently or until I can throw away the crutch, dye the gray away, get Botox treatments, remove those eye bags, pull that chicken neck tighter, suck in that gut, and lift those useless, drooping boobs. (Can somebody please tell me why boobs keep growing as we age? Don’t we have enough trouble staying upright?)
I can still walk a mile (though much slower and not in your shoes), troubleshoot my own and my daughters’ laptops, drive across the state without being afraid of flashing blue lights behind me, and virtually, though not literally, kick ass when certain politicians get out of line.
I can still laugh and joke and at least seem like I know what I’m talking about. I used to be pretty good at Trivial Pursuit,but now the answers seem to have to struggle through the tangles of my brain. (I hear their teeny-tiny voices saying, “Wait! I’m coming!” so I know they’re on their way.) But, since Trivial Pursuit isn’t my life’s calling, I’m okay with it. I’ll manage.
So please let me help when I offer to help. It may take me a little longer to get the thing done but I promise I won’t offer to do more than I’m able.
Do me a favor: Do not smile and coo and throw roses my way because I’m old. My age doesn’t require congratulations. It’s the least of who I am. And, for god’s sake, stop asking me how I’m feeling. I feel like steaming horse dung some days but I felt dungish some days when I was young, too.
In fact, do me another favor: Ignore everything I’ve said here. Pretend we never had this conversation.
I’m really not myself today.
(Also published at The Broad Side, my favorite feminist website)