“Age is just a number,” if we are to believe the cliche.
a lie an alternative fact – technically true as a fact, but “age” is not “just a number;” it encompasses so much more.
I understand the sentiment behind the well-meaning saying, of course; “don’t worry about your age; people don’t judge you by how old you are.” The blissful ignorance of that statement is precious and lovely, but also naive and ignorant in so many circumstances. Hanging out every day, sure – it’s not necessarily on everyone’s minds. On an employment application? Age can mean the difference between getting a job or not.More to my point here, though: Folks, it’s not just the age – it’s the miles. It’s the shit we’ve witnessed and lived through and cried over and laughed at until we couldn’t anymore (often at ourselves.) We have seen absurdity and serenity, abject cruelty and profound compassion, acts of altruism that make us burst into tears from their sheer beauty and acts of hatred that leave us enraged and hopeless.
We have borne witness to events much bigger than any of us are, as well as millions of simple, repeated, everyday moments, and that leaves us with little choice but to expand our awareness, to become mindful of how little we know, and, for many of us, it leaves us with a deep and abiding sense of smallness. Humbleness.
I should note – that humbleness does hibernate at times. I am reasonably certain my ego, if unchecked, would run absolutely amok. You have only the smallest idea.
I know plenty of people younger than I am who look like they were ridden hard and put away wet for decades; the sun, their lives, their kids, illness, jobs – something shriveled them, some from the inside out, some from the outside in. I also know people older than I am who look a decade or more younger.
I’ve been fortunate to apparently have good anti-visible-aging genes, and it probably helps that I’ve never spent a bunch of time sunbathing, or wearing a shitton of chemicals on my face. But the wrinkles are creeping in – first, around my eyes, now a bit around my mouth. It’s making me panic just ever so slightly, just occasionally. Now and then. Infrequently.
For now. I am certain it will increase and intensify if I do not get ahead of this looming trainwreck.
That ego is glancing around the edges of the mirror, finding each and every pore, every imperfection, every scar, every smidgen of evidence I am Not As Young As I Once Was, and she wails in despair. Oh, the unfairness of it all. Youth is wasted on the young! Get off my fucking lawn! Et cetera.
Both helping and hindering reconciling ego with reality is this: Since 2008, the vast majority of people in my life have been significantly younger than I am; I work with primarily twenty-somethings, with a few thirty-somethings peppered in there. Almost no one at my company is 40 years old or older. Most of the kids I work with are remarkably more mature than I ever was at their age – hell, some of them are more mature than I am now – and I have remarked before upon how much they have helped me to grow and develop as a human, for which I am eternally thankful.
I’ve been very fortunate that my team/tribe has been very accepting of an older person in their midst. For a long time, most of them did not realize how large the age gap is between us, but they recognized it was there. Many politely suggested they thought I was in my early-to-mid thirties (thanks, good genes!) and seldom have any of them seemed to really judge me for my age. There have been times when I’ve felt like Jane Goodall – even to the point of having mental conversations/note-taking sessions in that vein:
The young tribe members are wary and uneasy today; I let it slip I had never once in my life played a Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario Brothers game. This was a rookie move; my inclusion has ebbed slightly as a result. I must find a way to regain their trust and once again move with them as a troop member. “Hey, how about those Pokemons?!” did not have the desired effect. I will consult with my source text – The Urban Dictionary – for better vocabulary consistency.
Sure, it’s a source of some good-natured teasing, and a lot of groaning on my part when I realize these people have zero context for formative parts of my life, and indeed, most were not alive before I went to college. It’s sobering. Humbling.
But it’s also helped me come to terms with things much better. I hid my age pretty obsessively until the last few months, when I decided “oh, fuckit. If Dana Delaney can be out and proud about turning 60 and looking fucking amazing, then who am I to keep hiding it?” Out of the mid-life closet I tumbled.
I am 46.
I spent most of 2015 and 2016 saying I was 46, when I was actually 45, but whatever.
The guy I was dating until about a month ago was 28. The guy before that – 26. My husband was 9 years my junior. Thus, I have a bit of a history with younger men, sure, because I’m fucking surrounded by them and have no life outside of work.
The person who just asked me out is about 24. He’s an insanely mature 24, but I think that is too young even for me, no matter how well-traveled, well-read, ridiculously attractive, and generally amazing he might be. My entire brain balks at that number – nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, NOPE.
Of course, were he to know my age, he’d probably be NOPE-ing right along with me.
Men dating (often significantly) older women is quite a trend now, according to some sources, so I’m apparently not alone, but I’m not entirely comfortable with that large an age gap.
Per usual, I have digressed.
Just as I cannot fathom the perspective of someone 15 years my senior, these kids cannot fathom the things I have seen and done, and why I have answers to many of their questions. Why I can offer seemingly sage advice – it’s not because I am “wise,” my friends; it is because I have made a fuckton of mistakes, many of them more than once. I learned the hard way most of the time. I’ve seen many other people make similar mistakes, and have learned from them, as well.
When older people say, “someday, you’ll understand,” we’re not trying to be patronizing or dismissive of your life experience – we just know it to be true in more cases than not. Just as once cannot innately understand how the Krebs cycle works until we’ve seen it in action and have actually put the time in learning about it, we cannot expect to have the life perspective we’ll have 5 years hence.
Aging, like life in general, is not for the faint of heart. Today, a Physician’s Assistant at my doctor’s office told me (of my extreme sciatic pain,) “ah, you’re almost as old as I am; yeah, this is probably going to keep happening, and it’s probably going to get worse as you age.”
Naturally, that reminded me (as many things do) of a Louis CK bit:
As a parting note for those of you youngsters reading this: These are all things that have happened while I have been alive (source: http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe70s/worldevents_01.html:)
- Nixon was President
- Anwar Sadat became President of Egypt
- Apollo 15 lands on the moon and uses the Lunar Rover vehicle for the first time.
- The microprocessor was introduced.
- The environmentalist group Greenpeace was founded.
- Roe v. Wade legalized abortion
- Beverly Johnson became the first black model on the cover of Vogue or any other major fashion magazine. (Important aside: THAT IS HOW RECENTLY SHIT LIKE THIS HAPPENED. IN MY LIFETIME.)
- The United States Bicentennial
- Microsoft and Apple come into being as companies
- Elvis died
- The original Star Wars is released… and I watched it in the theater.
- Jim Jones/Jonestown
- Three Mile Island
- Iranian hostage crisis
- John Lennon killed
- The wreck of the Titanic is discovered
- First woman appointed to Supreme Court (not so long ago, eh?)
- AIDS identified
- US invades Grenada
- First woman goes into space
- Hole in the ozone layer discovered
- Chernobyl explosion
- Challenger explosion
- DNA used for the first time in a criminal case
- Berlin Wall came down
- First computer virus reported
- Exxon Valdez disaster
This brings us to 1990, a time by which most (but certainly not all) of my people were at least born, if not fully aware of the world around them.
I am as susceptible as anyone else to think of “anything that happened before I was around happened forever ago,” (for example, I spent the first 10-15 years of my life thinking Black Americans had been treated like equals for easily 50-75 years – that racism was truly a thing of The Past. Tragic.)
I was about to launch into another whole thing about Trump and the things he’s destroying that we’ve worked so hard for during my lifetime, but I’m spent. Thank your lucky stars. 😉