If you are 29, reading this and worried about your thirties, fear not – it gets much, much worse! I suppose I should feel grateful that I have reached the 7th decade (60-69 years old). Did you know that Greenland sharks may live for up to 500 years – isn’t that amazing? I am not envious of them, however, as they spend most of their time at the bottom of a frozen sea with long periods of hibernation (similar to living in Scotland). These last two years have allowed all of us to indulge in pointless navel gazing. I have peered into my indifferent mirror that doesn’t even bother to tell me that “I am not the Fairest in the Land”.
As I pondered this subject, I thought about which decade I liked the most. I loved being a teenager, blossoming at high school and then college. The puppy fat disappeared and a pretty girl appeared. One boyfriend commented that I looked much better without clothes on – not sure if that was a reference to my lack of style or a back handed compliment. My body still looks pretty good if you are a myopic, older man in a room with dim candles. He should also be a tad inebriated… It’s funny and yet it’s not.
Some of my older friends used to tell me to enjoy my 50s because it all changes after 60. Shorts are not my friends anymore. More exercise would help but that triggers my osteoarthritis. I run to hug Teddy, all joints creaking, and then pull something because I moved too fast. He creaks even more than me – it’s as though we have turned into Sequoias. My skin tone has changed the most. Why are my pores so large – aren’t deep wrinkles bad enough? I was helped by a charming young man at Sephora as I was browsing skin care. He said I really needed retinol… At least the Israeli guys who try to sell you Dead Sea stuff at the mall, pretend you are gorgeous.
Why am I so vain about ageing? I come from a long line of relatives who look after themselves at all ages. My aunt made sure she put on self-tanning lotion before her operation for breast cancer in her late 70s. Recently, I had a revelatory moment about my age. For almost 20 years I have had a reciprocal fondness for our gardener. He always undercharges me and then I pay him more. We have a small yard but we needed our oak trees trimmed. If you employ an arborist to trim trees, it costs thousands of dollars. He went up a ladder with a chain saw – good enough for me.
When he arrived, he caught me off-guard and I answered the door in my ratty old dressing gown, hair tousled unattractively with my glasses on. Even he looked embarrassed, so I ran and put some clothes on. The job should have cost a few hundred dollars but he asked for $40. It was a pity invoice. I could almost hear him say “she used to be so attractive”. Laughingly, I told one of my friends but inside I felt crushed. Since then, I have dyed my hair blonde again, had it cut in a cute style and started wearing CLOTHES (sometimes they aren’t leggings).
My twenties were a mixed bag – marriage to Teddy and moving house 6 times in 8 years. Exciting and stressful. My thirties were strange because although I finally achieved some professional plaudits for grant writing and project work, I was palpably anxious. My forties were adventurous – we moved to two different continents in 2 years and landed in Texas. By then I finally had my weight under control and had decent medication for my mental health.
My fifties were fantastic!! I looked the best I had in decades, felt healthy, travelled solo to exotic locations and started a completely new career. Had the pandemic not happened, I might have slipped into my 60s with little or no impact. Work came to a standstill, as did the airport so I had no raison d’etre. My husband was deeply unhappy at work and wanted to retire early which he did. I thought we would hate each other with enforced cohabitation but we settled into a new rhythm with plenty of humor and silliness.
I should be #grateful or #blessed but I just feel annoyed. I want to be 51 again but that’s not possible. There are a couple of nice things about ageing. Most people are very polite to me and younger ladies ask me for Mommy advice. I no longer have to worry about sexy lingerie but Teddy will testify that I never did! My one push up bra will last me forever and I need never buy Spanx or Skims. I would pull a muscle if I tried to put them on – even Lycra stockings are the work of the devil.
The timbre of this post was intended to be humorous yet poignant. Many of us feel a bit hopeless in the wake of war and pestilence. I am certain that we all aged mentally and physically through the pandemic no matter our biological age or infectious status. As someone who struggles with mental illness, I know that it really is possible to take one day at a time and move forward. I don’t have as many happy days as I used to but that is improving with increased interaction without masks. Long may it last.