Opinion: Aging Gracefully? Well ...

It's not as easy as it sounds.

After trying for many years NOT to be a cliché, I’ve come to realize it’s all been for naught. You cannot be middle-aged without also being a cliché. Your sight is worsening, your hearing as well. I cannot help but elicit eye-rolls from my sons because I can never decipher what they're mumbling unless they are facing me and moving their lips slowly like a Clutch Cargo cartoon. Even then, I have to ask for multiple do-overs and deal with the head shaking and "You should get your ears checked, Mom" comments. Someday, you won't be so smug, guys.

Okay, so my hearing stinks. I went to too many concerts at the Spectrum: The Who, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Bruce, Loggins & Messina, Chicago, Prince. If it's their fault my audio system is going downhill, then I'm okay with that, but can you please kick the TV volume up to 67 when you pass the remote?

Statistics on aging Baby Boomers are scary. Hip replacements, knee replacements, implants, Ex-Lax, aching backs, fallen arches, body drooping, bunions (what exactly is a bunion and can I get one at Target?), torn ACLs and on and on. When you’re in your middle decades, you go to bed feeling fine, but when you wake up, your shoulder aches, your ankle is swollen or a tooth falls out. Wait. Perhaps it’s just a filling or half a tooth, which is way better, say, than having an appendage fall off—so count your blessings!

So why, with all the mysterious maladies and inconvenient indicators that time is marching on, do many people in their middle decades feel contentment, or dare I say, happiness? Is it because most of our active parenting is done and we have segued into reactive parenting?

Active parenting is the 24/7 thing we do before the young’uns go off to college. This begins at birth and (hopefully) ends at 18 and includes running a diner from your own home, driving three different kids to four different activities on an hourly basis, food shopping, chocolate inhaling, gentle discipline (yea, right), bedtime maelstroms, cleaning, homework monitoring, class trips, guilt trips, feeling responsible for their happiness and the occasional break for “me time,” which may or may not be fueled by vast amounts of alcohol.

Reactive parenting is what happens when they leave the nest. They call on the phone or text and we react by sending them money. That’s it. Oh, from time to time a collegian may call for moral support, but this, too, is generally followed by a request for money. And now with the continued fragility of the economy, most recent grads have been unable to find work, which means they have returned home and a new phase of parenting has begun. I can’t offer any insight because I’m still one year away from the “Return of the First Born,” so good luck with that and feel free to send up a flare if you have any helpful information.

We Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 during an unprecedented economic upswing following World War II. The future was blindingly bright and prosperity was beckoning with both hands. So our parents were feeling pretty darned optimistic and amorous because today there are more than 77.6 million Baby Boomers, including Freda Birnbaum, a 60-year-old psychologist from North Jersey who gave birth to twins last May.

“I don’t feel like I’m 60,” she said. “I don’t know what 60 is meant to feel like.” Freda. Let me tell you what 60 with twins is meant to feel like. It feels like getting smacked in the head with an anvil while attempting to set the world record for the longest stretch of sleeplessness, accompanied by the buzzing and biting of a thousand mosquitoes and several old, flatulent dogs. I know you’re a professional, Freda, so I’m sure you have a cadre of youngish nannies to help you, which is the only way a 60-year-old could possibly live through twins. You go, "girl"? I need to take a nap now.

We Boomers are trying to stay young and relevant, which is where the clichés occur. Aging is not easy and it definitely isn’t pretty unless you have a good plastic surgeon, able to perform a facelift without making you look like a cat. So how exactly does one "age gracefully"?

My first recommendation for the ladies would be to avoid skinny jeans and white leggings. Skinny jeans only look good on the young and the thin. As for leggings, if you must wear them, make them black and wear a great, big shirt over them. It should be illegal to manufacture white leggings because they flatter no one and offend everyone. When I see a fully-grown woman in white leggings, I want to scream, “Do you NOT have a mirror?”

Boomer gals might also want to reconsider body and/or facial piercings. Nothing cries cliché like a 50-something woman with a pierced bellybutton. It is not hip, it’s pathetic, so put it away. Now. Put away the short shorts as well. And forget about peasant tops. When we wore them in the 70s they looked cute on us. Now they make us look frumpy.

Before you jump all over me for being critical, let me list the many clichés associated with my middle years:

  • Graying hair, both on my head and in my nose. Really.
  • Forgetfulness. (What was this column about?)
  • Hearing loss. (Did you say something?)
  • Worsening eyesight. (Who is that smudge over there? Nevermind. It’s a tree.)
  • Forgetfulness. (Wait a sec … did I mention that already? I’ve forgotten.)

Maybe wearing a burka wouldn’t be so bad after all.


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