“Age is just a number,” says the well-worn adage. But is it a number you care about, or one you tend (or try) to ignore?
Some things in this life are serious, some are not, and a lot are a matter of attitude. For me, age is in the ‘attitude’ category. If you’re going to buy into the whole wrinkle-horror, grey-is-grizzly thing, then you’re either going to be thoroughly miserable, shoot yourself at 50, or spend unconscionable amounts of time and/or money disguising and/or attempting to reverse it. And a quick tip for those going with option 3: don’t forget your hands. They’re a dead giveaway.
The way I see it, society has a lot to answer for on the question of aging. All this hoo-ha about image and eternal youth – whatever happened to grace, and dignity, and wisdom… Oh, woops! Sorry, I forgot. That’s old-people’s language, isn’t it.
But think of it this way: while we’re whingeing and griping about wrinkles and stiff joints, millions of people around the world are praying for the chance to experience them. The average life expectancy in the US is 79.8. (81 in the UK, 83 in Australia.) In 29 countries, all in Africa, it’s less than 60. Life expectancy in Sierra Leone is 47.5. I’ve already outlived my counterpart there by 23 years. What the hell right do I have to complain if I don’t have quite the stamina I used to? And here’s more food for thought: the money spent in the West on cosmetics and cosmetic surgery would change these figures beyond all recognition. Never going to happen, though, is it.
Presumably, the whole anti-aging ethos began with clever marketing. Even in my youth, getting old didn’t have quite the bizarre stigma it does today – bizarre because the alternative isn’t exactly top of the pops. And then along came wrinkle cream. And Botox, and liposuction, and nips and tucks… and Attitude. It’s the attitude that’s the most destructive. Age these days has a certain shame attached. We’ve outlived our usefulness, we’re costing too much, and if we don’t colour our hair and plaster our wrinkles, we’re ‘not making an effort’. But conversely, there’s also an arrogance about it, as if we’re desperate to stay as long as possible because the world can’t possibly do without us. Oh tosh!
I’m grey and I’m wrinkled, but I won’t think of myself as old until I lose the ability to adapt mentally, which seems to me far more important than dewy skin. Once I lose interest in new ideas, shove in the pills and carry me out, but in the meantime, I’m enjoying myself more than I have in years. No more slavery to other people’s time-keeping, no more youthful angst, the chance (within reason) to live where and how I choose. So don’t organise the black plumes yet. I may be unashamedly old, but there’s a lot going on, and I want to know what happens next!