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Boomers Don't Lie About Your Age: perpetuating the stigma of growing old
We have the air raid sirens go off
in San Francisco, every Tuesday at
Noon. It's a signal to me to check all the clocks in the house to make
sure they are all calibrated. I use battery operated clocks because
electric energy can sometimes be a dicey proposition here in the shake
and bake state.
Checking the clocks made me think about the passing of time and I have
this boggle going around in my head about our perception of age,
aging, being elderly and realizing one's own inevitable mortality.
Been talking to James a lot about it since I've been home.
Why do people lie about their age? I mean, lie so folks would think
they are a handful of years younger?
This hurts my brain. Doesn't being old mean one survived one's life?
If you're very very old, like Gerald Jonas, my next door neighbor
...who says, "I'm 91 and a HALF." and he winks and chuckles. "Count
that half for I don't know how much longer I got to count." He's not
in denial about his age or his physical condition. He celebrates it by
joking with us about it. He walks with his walker up and down the
halls a 3 or more times a day for exercise. Hilda too, she's 89, she
is proud to have survived this long for she is from Germany, and is
Jewish. Got her Chanukah kisses from me when I got home Sunday.
Hilda and I stand in the hall way each night and talk about things
when she comes with the sports page for Said and garbage for me. The
garbage room doors are too heavy for her, ya see. I asked her "Why do
some seniors lie about their age? As if 5 years younger will mean
anything one way or the other?"
Hilda said simply "They were afraid of living, so they are afraid of
dying. So they lie about their age as if to prevent death."
I love Hilda, she got it straight.
Japanese women lie UP about their age. If you're 49, someone asks your
age you lie saying you're 55. "Oh you look GREAT for 55." is the usual
response. Japanese culture teaches us that the older you are the more
respect you deserve, the more indulgences, for you did your job, you
survived your life. Along the way of a long life is much duty,
sacrifice, energy put towards the group, so as a senior woman you get
to wear "little girl colored kimonos". You can be silly again, enjoy
your old age as a child enjoys its childhood.
As a bi-cultural person, having both American and Japanese cultural
values, I find the American's being disdainful of age as a "sickness".
It's setting the stage to curse what which we shall become only if
we're lucky to live so long.
Think of it Boomers... do not carry prejudice about the elderly into
your elder years. There is going to be the largest population of
elderly in the next two decades, the likes of which has not been seen
in America to date. We cannot perpetuate the "Cult of the YOUTH" just
because we had population clout as youngsters. We swelled the schools
to bursting, we had our sexual revolution because we all hit our
stride at the same time around the 60s. We effected the economy with
regards to our parent's buying habits when we needed hula hoops,
Barbie dolls, and Tonka trucks. We shuffled around like cattle during
college registration. We fought for jobs and competed with each other
for single unit housing. Everywhere we go we are the cohort pig in the
population python. The big lump moving down the line.
I predicted in 1975, that as the Boomers age we will see hair
implants, male sex drugs, body sculpting, wrinkle remover, because the
Boomers will carry into their senior years the "Cult of YOUTH" values
and will perpetuate the stigma of having lived a long life on into
It's all coming to pass.
I told Ruth about my short story idea of the Kavorkian Rave. Instead
of living the last years infirmed, toss the biggest party your
remaining assets can manage. Spread that wealth around to caterers,
dancers, musicians and gifts. Throw a rave and invite everyone you
want to see before you die. Kiss them all good bye, give gifts and
when you've spent every penny to the dismay of your greedy offspring,
you go willingly into that good night. "Great budgeting and time
management." I said as I finished that story. Ruth laughed at that,
just dismissing it as "another crazy thought of Nora's".
Not a joke - a prediction. The Boomers didn't do anything like any
other age group has done, what makes us think that how we leave en
mass will be typical or traditional? We could have 3 or 4 decades of
retirement with the life enhancing drugs and medical tricks. How will
we use that time?
Shall we waste those extra years wincing each time we see our gray
hair or wrinkles? You got to be alive to complain. Don't look at
yourself with expectations of seeing yourself at 20, be happy you're
alive, sentient and still have the ability to laugh.
Shall we lie about our age, ashamed of having survived or shall we
yell it out off the roof tops, "I'm 91 and a HALF, dagnabit!"? Shall
we despair that we don't look like prime breeding stock? That makes me craziest of all.
After a certain age the whole courtship to breeding dance should be
swapped out for being comfortable with one's body and enjoying the
remaining years doing things one likes. The breeding dance takes up
enough of our brain pan from puberty to menopause, for women. The
Viagra craze... like these old men think that that bad hip or bad
heart is going to be able to perform even if they get an erection?
It's enough to make me pull my hair.
Be proud of all your years. Don't despair if your hair turns silver.
Don't wince when you see another wrinkle. You survived your life. You
lived to tell the tale. Enjoy all the moments you have with glee,
counting your blessings instead of your problems.
Or what's the point? If one lies about their age, that is living in fear
all the time of the inevitable, this is a mental illness I'm thinking.
It's crazy from my point of view here on the fence of two cultures.
When it comes to age I'll be Japanese and Muslim, for it's God's Will
that I live as long as I live.
I'm 53 and 1/4th years old. I didn't think I would survive this long,
frankly. A lot of folks I know didn't make it through their 40s. Some
didn't make it through their 20s. I am proud of my gray hair, the
stripes from the battle of life. My stretch marks too.
Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave, advises the Prophet
Mohammad. Even if it takes you to China. Keep learning new things. We
create new neuron pathways when we learn new things, experience new
things. Keeping the delight of discovery in our hearts will keep that
part of youth that is most important, the ability to be in awe... to
be able to look at something and go "Wow...". For what is missed from
youth the most is that innocence. Didn't Jesus say, "come to me as a
child", full of awe, delight and trust?
Just some thoughts this Tuesday afternoon, and that's an hour of
typing... see you at 3pm, Pacific, for webcam, nothing planned, open
to Short Order Claying today.
Life is like a lump of clay, both are what you make of it.
Monthly Highlights Since 8/2003
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