“Feisty” is the only f-word I’m allowed to spell out in this family publication, but let me tell you – if you ask a person at the upper end of the actuarial table what it’s like to get older – step back! Because she will answer! And, it turns out, one of the salient qualities of the senior set is that they have shed their inhibitions and donned their daring. I love that!
Just to cut to the chase, consider Madonna. I wasn’t a big fan of hers until I read what she said to Nightline six years ago about approaching the half-century mark: "Yeah, f*** you, I'm 50. That's what I'm going to say when I turn 50."
OK, you’re right. I hardly consider 50 to be old, but I appreciate her bold spirit! At the same time, I admit I’m pretty tame in contrast.
Still, I kinda wanna be like that!
But gosh darn it! There’s so little a person can do between going all ‘Madonna’ - chest bumping Old Age and shouting in its face – or meekly inviting it in – aging “gracefully.”
To me that’s the same thing as surrender. I don’t want to give up being cool!
So I say ‘no!’
I know. I talk a big brash game, but in the execution, I revert to diplomacy. And clearly, Old Age is about as susceptible to diplomacy as ISIS.
Therein lies the dilemma. A person like Madonna can express the rage that comes with the daily realization that time is not just slip, slip, slippin’ into the future; it’s downhill racing. Time is screaming and careening around the track toward the checkered flag.
What is a mild-mannered ‘fraidy cat supposed to do?
I figured I’d better get busy and figure out how to deal with this aging thing. So what if I’m about a decade slow on the uptake?
I went to my loving husband first. “Honey,” I said, evincing the timidity I felt both at broaching the topic and at facing the inevitability. “I don’t know how to get older.”
“Well you’re doing it!” he said.
Ah. OK then. Let’s see. Maybe I should study some role models for aging; they will show me the way to forward progress without loss of cache.
Just look around and ask the question, “Who do you know who’s getting older while retaining that certain je ne sais quoi?”
(I looked it up: In French it’s literally, “I don’t know what:” An intangible quality that makes something distinctive or attractive. You know – cool.)
A few folks leapt to mind:
First I thought of Mork. As you recall, he got to go backwards. That’s the dream: As we get older, we get younger! Alas, it’s fiction. Not a good example.
Next, inexplicably, I thought of Keith Richards. He’s defiant; and so far as I know he never gets in anyone’s face like a certain Material Girl does. But, but… Well, I hate to succumb to vanity, but I don’t want to end up looking like a smokin’ zombie either! (Sorry Keith! You are still very cool.)
Maya Angelou! Now we’re getting somewhere! Could I please mature into her kind of patience? I want that same steady gaze of experience and wisdom.
Mahatma Gandhi! He was a courageous old guy. And, that wardrobe!
What about Dolly Parton? I love her approach to getting older: “I will never retire unless I have to. As long as I'm able to get up in the morning, get that makeup on and my high heels on … I'm going to do like Mae West; I'm going to sit in a wheelchair with my high heels on.”
I wouldn’t mind being like Dolly except for the likelihood that we would both end up like Bette Davis in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” Uncool.
Bette’s the one credited with saying, “Old age ain't no place for sissies.”
That quote used to scare me, maybe because I am pretty wimpy. But now, since I’m doing it, I only feel scared some of the time.
Other times, I get that I can grow older and retain my awesomeness.
OK, got it! Helen Mirren! Eh? Right?!
Yeah. Helen Mirren!