It’s a new year and many of us have once again written down resolutions to accomplish all the things we failed to achieve last year, the last five years, oh, Hell, EVER! But this isn’t a blog post about that. But, what I am going to talk about is related to time and how it passes. Today, my dear readers, I’m going to share with you a few of the ways that I’ve discovered that despite my protestations to the contrary, I am aging.
Oh sure, I’m hyper-conscious about my age at two specific points in the year: my birthday and New Year’s Eve. The former because, well, it’s a tangible marker in time glaring at you in black and white telling you just how old you are, and the latter because emotionally it reminds you with the infernal resolutions exercise, just how little you accomplished over the last year.
Recently, a couple of events triggered my realization that I’m just not as young as I used to be, so I decided to compose a list of the signs of aging. Are you ready?
You think of your past as the “good old days”:
Admit it. You used to roll your eyes when you’d hear your parents wax nostalgic about their high school years. This was especially true if you were currently going through the high school equivalent of Lord of the Flies. Until recently, I looked back at the years 1979-1983 as the worst four years of my life. They were full of backstabbing, clique-conscious Catholic schoolgirls, ill-fated attempts to feel attracted to, and attractive for, boys and trying in vain to find that group of friends with whom you did and shared everything. Does this sound like an episode of Happy Days to you?
Imagine my surprise when I recently discussed these points with a new friend in the same matter-of-fact way as I did when voicing my disappointment when Pat Benatar went “soft” with synthesizers in the mid-80s or my ill-fated perm of 1982, which arose from my desire to look like Stevie Nicks. What had happened to me? Did I forget the pain of being the butt of teasing on the tennis team or feeling inferior because I lived in the “wrong” neighborhood and I didn’t have my own charge card at Nordstrom at the age of 16?
No. The answer was time. While my high school years were difficult, they were easy compared to the stress and angst of adulthood. Mean girls have nothing on death, money problems, health problems and career derailments. Bring on those “bad old/good old days”!
Your high school years are fodder for nostalgia:
This goes hand-in-hand with the “good old days” phenomenon. It’s a moment that happens after about age 35 when you hear music you danced badly to in high school on the “classic rock” or “oldies” radio station. At first it shocks you, then it makes you angry and then you settle into self-righteousness.
The shock happens because you’ve managed to delude yourself that indeed high school wasn’t really that long ago. You’ve been able to do this by perhaps not going to any high school reunions, not keeping in touch with anyone from that time in your life or avoiding pictures of yourself with that tragic big hair, or the leg warmers. Hearing the Go-Gos singing “We Got the Beat” as the DJ discusses the possibility of their “reunion” tour snaps you out of your delusion.
Then comes the anger. How dare your formative years be resigned to the cornball niche of nostalgia/oldies! Wasn’t that the realm of the tiresome, self-absorbed baby boomers who were always professing their generation as the most important, the most influential? The idea of being lumped in with those whiners was appalling! It was the fault of our youth-obsessed culture. These kids today.
Uh oh. You actually said the three words that make you know you’re not a kid anymore: THESE. KIDS. TODAY. You have now moved into…
Self-righteousness. Yes, indeed, my friends. You now have become as annoying as the baby boomers. You compare your music to the crap that the kids listen to now. All the music you thought you were too cool for back in the 80s (I’m looking at you, Spandau Ballet and Tears for Fears), now rates a teary sing-along by you when it comes on the radio. You scoff at the inability of young people to entertain themselves without aid of cell phones, videogames, iPads and the like. Don’t even get you started on writing out your high school papers on typewriters! Oh, the humanity!
You gauge the aging process by how often you need to color your hair:
Now, the tangible signs of aging begin to appear. It’s one thing to have an existential crisis over music and television before cable. When you first see those grey hairs sprouting out of your head, it’s getting serious.
I remember when my mother first started going grey. She asked me if she should start coloring it and I was adamant that she “age naturally and gracefully”. The poor dear took the advice of a teenager. Luckily for her, though, her grey hairs have come in nicely and evenly, not like some women who get that shock of grey down the center of their hairline making them look like skunks a la Cruella Deville.
I wasn’t going to take that chance. In my late 30s, my stylist suggested highlights to “freshen up” my look. I think that’s code for “How can I tell her she’s getting old?” This worked for a couple of years and then she said, “You may want to start coloring if you don’t want to see the greys. They’re coming.” Like the fear of communists or aliens in the 1950s, I “ducked and covered” (i.e., ducked into the salon and covered those damn grey hairs). Currently, I only duck and cover every 7-8 weeks. My goal is to keep that schedule until I’m at least 50. So I have less than two years and counting.
You now need reading glasses:
I’ve been nearsighted since I was 11 so I’m used to wearing glasses and contacts. But, I used to pride myself on being able to read the most minuscule print sans any assistance. Well, that has changed. I find myself teary-eyed and squinting if I try to read without aid of glasses or contacts and even with them, I’m now doing an excellent trombone imitation with my right arm in an attempt to achieve the right distance at which to read something.
So, I shouldn’t have been shocked when my ophthalmologist gently suggested that perhaps I could use some “help” with a new prescription. This “help” came in the form of a “progressive bifocal” lens. Yes, bifocals. A word I only associated with old people. I think of bifocals the same way I think of those old hearing aid horns. They are the domain of the old. I have yet to fill the prescription, but my arm is getting quite tired of the trombone action and besides, if Brooke Shields can shill for Foster Grant and she’s my age, maybe it’s not so bad?
You wake up with mysterious pains:
Remember when your body was practically rubber? You could stay up all night, sleep in the most contorted positions and wake up feeling fine? Well, those days are over. A couple days before Thanksgiving, I went to bed without any aches and pains but a mere six or so hours later, I woke up with my knee killing me! It wasn’t swollen but it hurt like Hell. It was stiff and tight and it pained me to walk up and down stairs and to stand for too long.
What had happened while I was asleep? Did I sleepwalk and fall? No. Was I engaged in some tricky Kama Sutra move with some hot, young number? Ha. In my dreams. No, all I did was sleep. It’s now over a month and my knee still hurts. It’s better than it was but it’s not normal. I now understand when old people get together and discuss their ailments. It’s not because they have nothing better to discuss. It’s because they can’t believe this has happened to them. They used to be fine and then, bam! Mystery ailment.
So, to all of my fellow late baby boomers/early Gen Xers, I feel your pain, literally and figuratively. You are not alone and you are not crazy. You’re just aging. We can fight it with all the creams, dyes, hair plugs and Botox that we want but we can’t stop it. But, doesn’t that story of The Picture of Dorian Gray resonate with you more than when you read it back in high school?