“Old age is always 15 years older than I am.” This quote, attributed to Bernard Baruch, encapsulates my own attitude towards aging. I flatly refuse to do it. Sure, in my mid-forties I have the odd grey hair, and a few lines are appearing. But I can deal with that. The only way you can escape the body aging is to die, and that seems to me a pretty drastic way of evading the signs of physical maturity.
But emotionally, I don’t feel mature. In part this is probably to do with the fact that I am child-free and therefore devoid of the stresses that rapidly age a parent. But society has also changed, as recent decades have seen a transformation in the way we view ages. And, in my opinion, this change is much for the better.
Not so long ago, people were considered middle-aged the moment they hit their forties. It was the era of grandparenthood, beige cardigans and ‘young people nowadays…’ Life stages were much more clearly defined. By 30, you were married, had a mortgage and had started a family. At 30, I had only achieved one of these things; at 40, I had divested myself of even that one sign of maturity. And my forties have been the best stage of all so far. Coincidence? Maybe not.
Fact is, my date of birth and state of mind refuse to have anything to do with each other. When I hit what most people define as old age, I fully intend to be an absolute disgrace. I shall take full advantage of the allowances people make for the elderly, and be an outrageous old biddy. No young man will be safe from a lascivious comment and a slap to the butt. And I shall get away with it all, because you have to make allowances for the elderly. That much hasn’t changed.
So, to hell with what other people expect you to do at certain ages. If you think you are old, you will be. Judge a person by who they are, not by how old they are. Never think you are too old for something; that’s very rarely true. Ignore anyone who tells you that it’s too late to ride a Harley or backpack around the world. Achieve what you want and do what you enjoy. And when you meet me in the nursing home – watch your butt.