Friday, January 27, 2012
Be here now
I saw an old couple on the subway a few days ago. I couldn't take my eyes off them. They looked relaxed and cheerful, were having what appeared to be a very fun, interesting conversation. Their vibe was great, but just as great was their appearance. Neither one of them was trying to look young. They were grey haired and it was clear neither had had "work" of any kind. She was dressed in a colorful tunic and leggings, her long hair in a braid down her back. He wore a simple sweater and pair of jeans, black Chuck Connors. I always notice shoes, so I can tell you she was wearing some version of a clog; I didn't recognize the brand. Maybe she was wearing a little make-up, maybe none at all. They were stylish in an age appropriate way. More significant, they looked comfortable in their wrinkly skins. It came to me that the only time old people look really weird is when they try to look younger.
It's sad, the way our culture vilifies aging. It's not like we've done anything wrong by growing old, we just haven't died yet. Watching a family close by who is about to deal with the untimely death of their 28 year old daughter makes me want even more than ever to embrace the wonders, beauty, wisdom and liberations of older age.
For a long time, in accordance with cultural hatred for old age, I tried to slam the brakes on my aging appearance; I colored my hair until just a few years ago, for instance. I loved it when people said, "You don't look THAT OLD!" because I didn't get it. I really didn't get it, how powerful and freeing it is to grow older. I had no idea I would like it so much! I also didn't understand that when people say I look young, they are insulting me. Why is it wrong to look my age? It's like saying, "Don't worry, you can hide your dirty little secret. No one will know." Please!
Researchers and scientists work their asses off every day, figuring out how to help us live longer and longer. But no one is putting two and two together: that a long life, in this culture, means you'll have to spend the last half pretending it isn't a long life. Or said another way, do these people want to be old for a really long time? Crazy.
Yes yes, life is precious. Being young has its pros and cons, just like every age. For those of my age who try so hard to act/look young, I want to say we had our time to do all that! Now it's another generation's turn. Same as it ever was.
Live well and fully. Be who you are, act your age! L'chaim.