Photo credit: Thomas Leuthard. (CC 2.0. Original photo b/w)
I glance at myself in the mirror and notice what time has allowed me — new lines, it seems, almost daily. I see slightly puckered lips, a place I never knew wrinkles formed. I see sagging cheeks that fold into my smile; little bags under my eyes that don’t disappear with enough sleep. This new face covers a much younger mind, caught somewhere between 30 and 40.
I now have officially become someone who looks good ‘for my age,’ or so I have been told, which is another sign of aging. People don’t make such a comment unless you are old. They also say that 60 is the new 50 and 50 the new 40, and so on, but really?
I believe that the new numbers are only created by the very same age group who doesn’t want to admit they are older. Certainly, there is validity in thinking that I look younger at my age than my mother did, judging from the pictures, but perhaps she was thinking the same thing about the way she looked compared to her mother.
Young For My Age or Too Old for Yours?
I bring my grandson to the playground and it’s clear to everyone that I am not his mother. Although, my ego must remind me now and then that someone asked me if he had a sibling and I responded, “Oh yes! She is six weeks old.” At which point, the blessed woman stated that I looked so good for just having had the baby. I laughed out loud and figured, while younger than I, the woman must have had cataracts.
I don’t have to ask for senior discounts; I get them automatically now, often by the employees who are about 40 years younger than I. I assume I look ancient to them while they look about 12 to me. Doctors, policemen, firemen, all look about the same age as the employees who give me the senior discounts. Were they always this young? Probably, but I wasn’t always this old.
Men who used to turn their heads to the left or the right as I walked by, now just face straight ahead. Men who would stop talking to each other and whisper as I walked by, now don’t miss a beat in their conversations, which provides me great relief, to be honest, from misogynistic behavior. My aging face, and, of course, my body, have gratefully relieved me of those sexist catcalls.
I am now invisible to most of the male world, a slow disappearance I have been adjusting to over the last 20 years. The process has finalized and to be honest, I am peacefully content with the smaller population surrounding me.
Aging Brings Relief
I have three adult children, which means they survived my youth and my parenting. I am old in their eyes, too. Of course, they will make kind remarks like, “You’re not old, Mom.” But I know what they mean, for I used to say this to my own mother to make her feel better when she lamented about aging. I consoled her, but inside, I was saying, Yes, Mom, you are old! I am at the age that my parents were when they were old!
Yet, aging also provides some relief from many pressures. Fewer people ask me my opinion, which is ironic, as I finally know more now than I did when I thought I knew so much. Not to be asked what I think has its rewards. I am not involved in others’ business and decisions and don’t say the wrong thing, so I am not blamed for my perceived faulty advice.
Social Media Minus 90%
I have Facebook and Instagram accounts, but I use only about 10% of their functions, very much the way I use my computer. I know there is so much more, but I don’t have the patience to spend working through my confusion.
If I ask my son one more time to explain Twitter to me, I think he will scream and I don’t blame him. While I understand some, I have a hard time conceptualizing abstract entities like The Cloud or why a friend of a friend pops up on my Newsfeed and then suddenly disappears.
Occasionally my frustration grows along with my courage so I ask other younger social media pros to help me. Their fingers fly across the keyboards along with their explanations and I am immediately lost, reminding me that it is better to suffer my ignorance in silence. I now accept that I will never understand what is second nature to the two generations who have come after me.
The Comfort of Growing Older
I still have a strong and vibrant career, yet no longer do I have to build this career—to jump through so many hoops, suffer through painful interviews, and constantly update my resumé. Growing older within a job and position I have had since I was young provides me with the pure joy in truly knowing what I am doing.
My talents have been polished over three decades. I have agonized enough about balancing family and career and now there is no more agony and balancing. I am riding the wake of the wave without fear of being pulled under. It’s the home stretch. There is something to be said for my hard-earned knowledge and experience.
Younger souls might follow current teaching trends and utilize new technological tools, but I have successful years of proof. Most of all, aging has given me the gift of not having to prove my worth at work; actually, I do not have to prove anything any more in any area of my life. Another gift of my many years.
Detaching From The Mainstream
Aging is a slow detachment from mainstream society: clothing styles, restaurants, movies, music, jargon, advances in social media. I have vanished from the desirable demographic; my societal relevance has waned, yet I actually feel just fine about this. I
don’t mind growing old, for I have a sense of freedom now that I never had before. My motto: “If I don’t do it now, when will I?” So whatever ‘it’ is, I do more of it!
I am grateful for my years and for my aging. The gift of timeless youth is to die young. The memory of someone cut down in her prime is always of a wrinkle-free face, one of eternal softness and roundness, a face of sadness and loss. My good fortune is to age and joyfully earn each wrinkle, sag, and bag, reflected in my mirror.
Book by this Author
When Will I Be Good Enough?: A Replacement Child’s Journey to Healing
by Barbara Jaffe Ed.D.
Barbara was born to fill the vacancy left by her little brother, who died at the age of two. This book tells the multitude of readers who have been “replacement children” for many reasons, that they, too, can find hope and healing, as did Barbara.
About the Author
Barbara Jaffe, Ed.D. is an award-winning English professor at El Camino College, California and is a Fellow in UCLA’s Department of Education. She has offered countless workshops to students to help them find their writers’ voices through writing non-fiction. Her college has honored her by naming her Outstanding Woman of the Year and Distinguished Teacher of the Year. Visit her website at BarbaraAnnJaffe.com