I am a bonafide Baby Boomer, born in 1950, five years after the “boom” started. What this means, from a decidedly egotistical standpoint,t is that I have always felt as if the world’s focus was on my age mates and me, and I have always felt eternally young.
Therefore, it came as a great surprise to me that age is catching up to me. Besides the usual aches, pains, and unexpected body sounds that come with being halfway through my sixth decade, I suddenly feel that my age is showing in ways that have never before applied to me.
I’ve listed fifteen of the most emotionally traumatizing. Perhaps you share some of these or could add your own aging wake-up calls (hopefully they don’t call after 9 o’clock because I’m asleep) that reminds us that we are not just over-the-hill but rolling down the other side:
- The unexpected mirror encounter – I am standing at the deli counter awaiting my turn for one quarter pound of Boar’s Head roast beef, no more no less, and I look up at the security mirror that reflects my image. I immediately look around for the small, grey-haired woman who must be standing in back of me. Nope, no one there. Just me.
- You retire your black belt in shopping – I used to love shopping. I could easily kill a day at my favorite mall. I could easily kill a paycheck, too. Since I retired, however, I live in jeans and tees and, frankly, nothing in the stores appeals to me (or fits me very well). Also, of course, I no longer have a paycheck, just an allowance. Why go through the depressing exercise of pretending to shop for clothes that don’t fit or flatter? Anyway, my closet runneth over with work clothes I will probably never wear again.
- You watch SNL in the desperate hope that it will be funny again– Over the Christmas holiday, when Jews around the world go to the movies or binge watch television, my husband and I watched a VH1 marathon of Saturday Night Live. Remember when it was the Not Ready for Prime Time Players and all the jokes were new and actually funny? Remember Bass-o-Matic and Super Happy Fun Ball? Remember “Jane, you ignorant slut” and “Cheesebugha, cheesebugha?” I still DVR the new episodes every week in hopes that the current crop of young comics and writers will recapture the magic, but I’m always disappointed. I fast forward through the musicians unless it happens to be Adele or the little old man who passes for Paul Simon. Paul McCartney’s last appearance reduced me to tears with the ruination of his voice. Anyway, I’ll never get over Gilda Radner’s death. Never. I’ll always retrospectively laugh at Roseanne Roseannadanna, Emily Latilla, and Lisa Lubner. “Memories like the corners on our minds/ Misty water-colored memories/ Of the way we were.” Just like buttah!
- I’ve stopped watching music awards shows – what’s the point? I don’t know the artists and music without melody makes no sense to me. Sad to say I am also put off by the expletive-filled lyrics. Anyway, as a recent meme said, it isn’t just that today’s “music” is bad. Our music was really better. The best.
- My default television station is TCM – what would I do without wonderful old movies with little violence or explicit sex? How do we exist without full screen, technicolor musicals? Where are the glamorous stars of yesteryear, the Judy Garlands, Fred Astaires, Susan Haywards, Elizabeth Taylors, and Ava Gardners? Certainly, there are pretty people in the movies today, but there is an element of stardust missing. I’m glad film is a medium that never dies. I would probably die without wonderful, movies in stark black and white and glorious technicolor.
- Every time a celebrity dies, I check the birthdate – if they are in their eighties or beyond, I make appropriate comments about how they had a good life. If they are close to my age, I get depressed. Really, really depressed. When Robin Williams left us, I watched and rewatched Doubtfire for weeks.
- No one asks for proof that I am over sixty, anymore – that is my own fault, I guess. I embraced my gray hair, several years ago. I like it and everyone tells me it is extremely flattering. However, the minute my hair went gray, people stopped asking me for proof of age. Did they stop seeing my young soul?
- There are fewer and fewer “do overs”- I’ve made my share of life altering mistakes. I was always sure that nothing I could do was fatal or undoable. There was always another chance to try again or walk a different path. Lately, I realize that we are only given so many “reinventions” in this life. I may have used mine up. I think it’s time to make my peace with the life I have.
- It’s really tough to make new friends – after I retired, we moved to South Florida. In the past, I’ve had no trouble finding new people to socialize with and now I realize that most of those people I met through work. Anyway, the culture down here is different. If you aren’t in a 55+ community, you’re really out of luck. Also, the demographic is disproportionately single women so my almost forty years long marriage is more an object of curiosity than a point of pride. I’m proud of us for surviving some really traumatic times. Other people just look at us as if we should be preserved in amber.
- I gave away my cookbooks – during this last move, I gave away a lot of things that I have hung onto far too long. Gone are my vinyl records. Of course, vinyl experienced a revival the minute I gave them away. Gone are my hardback books, except for signed copies and special favorites. Gone are my many, many cookbooks. My husband and I had a huge collection. His were mostly spicy foods; mine were vegetarian. In the past few years, neither my husband nor I are interested in eating anymore, let alone cooking. It gets to be 5 o’clock, and we start searching the refrigerator for leftovers. Since we don’t cook, there are no leftovers. Frequently, a cup of yogurt is a very filling dinner. Amy’s frozen dinners are also good.
- We’re thinking about renting for always – we gave up our last house about a decade ago. It wasn’t by choice. My husband was very sick and we didn’t know how long his recovery would take. It turned out to take a long time. We lived in a New Jersey apartment for six years. Last spring, in anticipation of my retirement, we tried to buy a house. We were frustrated at every turn. On one house, we made it to inspection and it turned out that the owner failed to disclose that the whole roof was rotted. No sale. You know how people say things happen for a reason? That may be the case. I honestly don’t know if I want the responsibility of caring for a house, especially in hurricane country. It’s convenient to drop into the front office and tell the property manager that we need pest control, or a pipe is leaking, or the dishwasher needs to be replaced. Do I really want to own again just for the tax advantages and the built-in social life? I’m not sure.
- I’m living in the past more than I should – I blame social media for this. Thanks to Facebook, I am now friendly with more of my high school classmates than I was when I was in high school. It’s a sort of revisionist history because I don’t remember loving high school all that much. In fact, I couldn’t wait to graduate and go to college. Then I couldn’t wait to get out of college and get a job. Then I couldn’t wait to go on to graduate school. The bottom line is I think I should have waited more, taken my time and enjoyed the experience. Meanwhile, I just bought two T-shirts with my high school name and time emblazoned on them. Considering that I only went to one football game in all of high school, cheering for the Overbrook Panthers now is just absurd.
- Old friends are the best friends – this is the converse of the statements above. I have several high school friends living nearby, now. There is something unique about getting together with people who share the same geography, the same cultural references, and knew you when you were a totally different person. You speak without any explanation needed. Even though I value the friends I’ve made along the way, I am very much in favor in favor of of reunions.
- And speaking of reunions – my classmates are planning our fiftieth in 2017. I’ll probably go, but if that damn Peter Pan kid from the Geico commercial shows up, I’m swatting him.
- You begin to wonder where you will end up, and it’s scary – for my friends who never left our hometown, this is perhaps less frightening. If you’ve been in the same home in the same neighborhood for fifty years, you have a fairly good idea where you’ll end up. That has not been the case for me, and I do wake up in the middle of the night wondering how my life will ultimately resolve.
Without a doubt, our generation has made its mark. For the good or the bad, we have held sway over society for a very long time. Our generation wrote the song that the world sang. We made the movies that reflected our history and mores. We never, ever wanted to grow up or grow old. Perhaps we must now think beyond our place in Neverland and see if we can manage one more re-creation as elders. Like it or not, that is the next turn in the road. I found a quote by George Clooney that applies: “I’m kind of comfortable with getting older because it’s better than the other option, which is being dead. So I’ll take getting older.” If I was aging the way George Clooney is, I bet I’d say that, too.