A month from now, I’ll be the guest speaker at the annual dinner of retired Sherbrooke Hospital nurses. I’m not bragging but around here, that makes me kind of a rock star.
I never know what to talk about at these functions because I truly have no expertise other than “faking one’s expertise.”
“What do you want me to talk about?” I asked the organizer as I always do.
“Oh, I don’t know. Just be funny!”
Funny. Nurses. Retirees. Short of dazzling them with my array of catheter jokes, it’s a tall order.
So I’ve decided to talk about aging. Not the aging nurses because, well, I have no expertise in aging nurses, despite what my browser history says. Instead, I want to give them a sort of state-of-the-union address on the new middle-age — how people like me are doing, specifically people like me who will be looking after people like them. I’m thinking they should probably be terrified.
To help put my finger on the zeitgeist (something else in my browser history), I’m reaching out to my bloggy friends, specifically those of you in your mid- to late forties or early fifties, you Gen Xers:
How are you feeling?
How are you feeling about getting older? Are you fretting? Obsessing? Do you think aging is something that only happens to old people? Have you started giving up everything fun? Do you wake up every morning, look next to you and say, “Oh. Hello, death.” Do you no longer care how you look in a bike helmet?
Are we aging better or worse than previous generations? Are we destined to remain obstinately immature?
If you have any thoughts I can tap into, leave them in the comments. Or if you’ve written about this or plan to, link me up. Thanks in advance. You old fogies, you.
P.S. I created the Blog Signal out of one stolen graphic and added another stolen graphic. That’s how art works. So feel free to steal the Blog Signal and use it the next time you need help from your bloggy friends.
i feel really good about it, because i had to live life a bit before i finally ‘got it.’ looking forward to being considered a senior because i can get away with a lot, just like in my childhood, and it will be chalked up to my age. my plan is to wear mumu’s, go barefoot, bake cupcakes, write, dance, and play with grandchildren. pretty easy agenda ) beth
I read “bake cupcakes” as “beet cupcakes,” which would probably fit your attitude also. I like it! Thanks.
beet cupcakes work as well )
I’m only 43, so I can’t really speak about my eventual-slow-unrelenting-starting-since-my-first-breath-death with the insight that the mid 40s+ folk can, but I can say that I wake up wondering if I’m going to start having a yen for pant suits and what will a 60 year old woman with a Cramp’s tee-shirt look like. When should I stop dying my hair red and black – have I crossed over from weird person to trying-to-relive-their-youth-oldish-person? Will someone tell me?
I still look pretty damn dorky in my bike helmet, but I’ve never cared how I look in one to begin with…are you implying I’ll look better in it with age? I hope so.
I gave up everything fun years ago – in preparation for having a child. Now food shopping alone feels ‘fun’ (see, it worked!). Sometimes I wonder if my eyebrows will lose the DNA that tells them when to stop growing and I’ll become, well, frightening.
I also think a lot about funiculars – but I can’t say for sure if it’s age-related or not.
I think you’re’ a total ROCK STAR, Rosemary! See, I told you that you were famous and shouldn’t let me call you that. CONGRATS! Retired Nurses! I LOVE NURSES!
Oh yes, and I’m going to start eating a cannoli a day when I reach 65 or 70 – and not care about my eventual size…which might be described as ‘mammoth’.
You and your cannolis… Do you know I’ve never had one?
I feel sad for you, Rosemary. I love them – love them love them love them…and eat them like once per year.
Um…was I supposed to answer your queries in a serious manner?
This is a free forum of ideas.
You’re even more Gen X-y than I am — I’m more Boomer/Gen X cuspy. But I think you nailed something in your first paragraph. We are a very self-conscious generation, very self-aware, but not necessarily in the narcissitic way of the current kids. We really don’t want to look… ridiculous.
And I’m sorry to tell you that the helmet will always look dorky. You just won’t care that you look dorky, perhaps.
Rogue hairs! They never told us about rogue hairs!
I saw my grandmother and I knew what was in store for me….it made me wish for selective alopecia…
Yes, I don’t want to look pathetic and/or redonkulous – but I shall never wear pant suits. I still really only like wearing tee-shirts. I might be to torque my mom…which is kind of sad for a 43 year old woman, eh 🙂
My husband is Boomer/Gen-X cuspy too – 1964…I should as him; he’s closer to ‘old’ …
TIME WARP – he desperately hopes his future old life does not require Depends.
Dream on, old dude.
(Had to look that word up. Good one.)
Re pant suits: I look at people in their seventies, eighties (i.e. our parents) and what they’re wearing and think, “Thirty years ago, didn’t they look at seniors and say to themselves, ‘I’m never going to dress like that!'” Apparently not.
If I ever wear a pants suit – I hope self destruct.
I think that when you get used to the process of aging, rather than any actual age, it’s much easier to tolerate the aging process. But, of course, I am younger than those whose advice you’re looking for, so I don’t have as much aging experience.
Hmmm… “process.” I like that. A profound thought from such a young man!
How are you feeling about getting older?
It sucks. I resent every single moment of getting older other than the fleeting happiness of thinking that I do not have go through adolescence again. Or, OMG, is that menopause? Holy sweet baby geezus, I just had an epiphany! What is menopause is actually a big lie (like Santa) and its really just like what it was to be a teenager only you’re all old and wrinkled. Dammit. This is getting worse by the second.
Are you fretting? Obsessing?
Please refer to the above paragraph–everything is a fret or obsession.
Do you think aging is something that only happens to old people?
Nope. I spend half of my childhood wanting to be older, most of my youth wanting to be richer and now, I’m neither. Middle of broke-ass, nowhere. And, I’m tired.
Have you started giving up everything fun?
No way. The definition of ‘fun’ has definitely changed, though. It is no longer fun to stay up all night and then eat chili cheese omelettes covered in french fires in order to put a hangover to bed before I sleep all of two hours and then go to work (in a bar) to do it all over again.
Do you wake up every morning, look next to you and say, “Oh. Hello, death.”
When I wake up, I usually say something to my husband. I haven’t started calling him “Death” yet but he may be the death of me.
Do you no longer care how you look in a bike helmet?
Do I still have to wear a bike helmet? I’m gonna die anyway. OK — it’s still important to be good role model for the kiddos. Naaah, I don’t care what I look like in it. Dorky is better than brain dead.
Are we aging better or worse than previous generations?
Probably about the same–just with more internet memes and cat videos.
Are we destined to remain obstinately immature?
I can hear you now: “You kids get off my lawn!” And that’s tomorrow.
This is great stuff. Thanks!
🙂 The kids can stay — it’s the old people that I shoo away!
Alright, I’ll offer something up because I like you, even though I don’t trust you or know who “you” really are. And because I am starting to fit into your category of Crystal Blue Persuasion. (It took me several attempts to spell that last word and I had to ask my wife for help, kept getting the angry red line underneath it. I’m 1970 and putting you around 1968…being generous.)
Getting old(er) is a change in control for me. I have less control over some things which feels good, and more control over other things which also feels good. More control over the urge to fix and keep things in order, which is idiotic and impossible. Less control over my concerns about drinking too much, but more control over the actual drinking. (The math and the logic may not add up but trust me, IT’S OKAY.) Getting older and maintaining my punk rock attitudes, well, that might be awkward, were I honest. A neighbor kid friend said once (10 years ago) something like, you’re at a really cool age because you’re old enough to be responsible but I can still relate to you. I am starting to care less, which is liberating, They say old people become more of who they really are, and that feels good. Even if I’m a bastard, which I am. Are “you?” “Ross???” Anyhow, you’re going to slay those old nurse types. I wish I could be there for it. You’re a funny old git, and you’re only getting better.
That’s a whole lot of “something.” I like the idea of loss and gain of control. When I stopped drinking, I lost one of the few things that made me culturally manly and cool. It also made me old (not to mention untrustworthy in many social circles; another story…). But I was quite convinced that if I didn’t gain control I would have nothing left to control at all. Wisdom? Or just desperation? Liberation is great. But do you know what I really want? Epiphany! I want epiphany, dammit!
That’s awesome. I like you for you.
1965, by the way.
Wife is reading Louise Penny and wanted me to ask you about her. She’s chiding me now because I’m not being present gotta go
Louise Penny is a great story. She was a radio host for CBC Montreal and (speaking of which) secretly had a drinking problem. I remember her announcing that she was leaving radio to become a writer and thinking, “Well, good luck with that.” The success of her second life has been astounding and inspiring to a lot of people. She’s more or less adopted the region I live in and is very generous and genuine. I MCed a literary luncheon at which she was one of the invitees, and she and her husband are just lovely people. Isn’t that a happy story?
I should add that having a wealthy, doctor husband to support her while she tackled this new literary career certainly helped, something she openly acknowledges.
That is a happy story; I’ll relay to my wife. Thanks for sharing that Ross.
1968 here – do I like aging? Strange enough, I do not mind. No hair dye, no anti-wrinkle-creams, ok, I plug out hair that is where I think it should not be.
Do I care if the young ones think I am old? Why should I? Whoever is happy to live his life by judging other people – do it! I did it in my time (and fight hard lately with myself to stop this at least to some excess.)
What have I gained – besides weight? Experience, knowledge, memories, emotions, abilities and dreams (yes, dreams gained, not lost). And choice. I have become more independent. Understanding, empathy. (But for people in a midlife-crisis – I just shake my head at those).
What have I lost by aging? – Naivete. And to some extent even sarcasm – slightly – I was more sarcastic with 16. Or less choicy in my topics for sarcasm.
Humour? Hey, I am german, do not ask ME about humour. Uncharted territory 😉
Would I wish to be younger if I could make a wish? No way!
“Have you started giving up everything fun?” Of course not. Maybe my topics of fun changed. But I read – and I loved reading since I learned it. I hang on the internet too long, play games (computer or board games), do “crazy” things like queueing up for hours for an evening of fun or still dream – a lot! I love to enjoy my life, I still hate to do the chores.
“Do you no longer care how you look in a bike helmet?” – Bike helmet? Ok, let’s start slowly – what is that bike you are talking about – something modern I never got my mind around? 😉
I love your attitude. Positive and clear-eyed. Thanks for the thoughtful answer.
I’m part of this ghastly, narcissistic ‘yoof’ so I probably shouldn’t stick an oar in, but have you considered starting the speech with a bit about being asked to do the speech and wondering what to talk about and being told ‘oh just be funny’?
I’d be tempted to say something like ‘You first start to realise you’re getting on a bit when all those feckless, lazy kids start complaining about how lazy and feckless kids are today…’
I love the word “feckless.” I’ve been looking for an opportunity to use this sentence: “He was a feckless man; he didn’t give a feck.” And I guess this was just it.
The great Nick Lowe uses “feckless” in his song, “Hope For Us All.” Great song from someone who’s aging gracefully. http://grooveshark.com/s/Hope+For+Us+All/1XQiyu?src=5
Thanks for the comment, young feller.
1957 here, with a much older body …
Here’s a take on it that nobody read because I was a baby blogger … http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2011/06/20/corrective-packaging/
And your signal is brilliant. Just brilliant!
Turned out nice, eh?
Way better than that stupid old bat signal!
I was thinking about your post while driving this morning. Listening to the radio commercials, I realized my ears perked up more for the ads about laser vision surgery and proton therapy for cancer than for the back-to-school clothing sales.
Maybe you know you’re aging when ‘laser vision’ has more to do with surgery than with super-powers?
The other night I looked at my hands and realized my daughter is right: they DO look old. Like crepe-paper. Fine wrinkles all over. I might be able to fool someone into believing I’m still in my 30s by dying my hair and wearing make-up, but my hands will give it away.
I’ve always been 30. When I was in my teens and twenties, people said I was like a 30-year old. When I turned 30, I was finally me. Overly responsible. A bit pedantic. Listening to the ‘adult contemporary’ radio station I’d discovered in my teens. Preferring gardening to partying. Books to magazines. Tea to coffee. Wine to beer. But now, on the cusp of 40, I’ve realized I might still be 30 on the inside, but not so much on the outside. Every joint creaks. My knees have creaked since my first year of high school, but now everything creaks and cracks. I’m my own chiropractor.
One of the sure signs that I’m aging is that I listen to talk radio. I never used to do that. Only music. But now, I listen to the news and commentary on public radio. But that might not be due to aging, just my need for adult ‘conversation’ now that I don’t work in an office.
I’m not quite in your age group for this request–I’m 3 months short of 40–but most women are at least a dog-year older than most men, so that makes me 45, almost 46. At least in the U.S. Maybe in Canada it’s only a 3-year difference. You Canadians are so much more egalitarian, I imagine men might be almost as mature as women of the same age.
And I AM a Gen-Xer. I watched Slackers and Reality Bites. I listened to U2 and The Cure back in the day, and still do. And Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, and The Eagles.
I will always be 30. And thanks to ‘vanity sizing’ it appears I will always wear the same size pants I wore at 30, even as my waist-line expands. If 40 is the new 30, then 12 is the new 4.
Good luck with your talk. I imagine nurses are a tough bunch to shock–they’ve seen and heard it all.
What astute observations. I laughed at the commercials and talk radio comment. As long as it’s public radio, you’re okay and quite wise. When it’s AM talk, you’re in trouble. The English AM station in Montreal runs frequent ads for mattresses, Alarm Force security systems and Mount Royal Cemetery. They know who their audience is.
I know I’m just not quite a Gen X because I’ve always found Ethan Hawke somewhat insufferable. Except in Before Sunrise. Is that a beautiful movie or what?
Seriously, thanks for your thoughts.
That IS a great movie.
Before Sunset was also good and I look forward to seeing Before Midnight. I understand it’s appropriate to this very conversation we’re having.
What about Before the Afternoon Nap?
Well, they do make these movies every ten years, so…
Also, Q (or is it Cue or Queue?) with Gian Gomesschi (sp?) is my favorite show.
My Irish ancestors immigrated to Canada before moving to the US. Do you think that gives me an edge on dual citizenship???
Q is really good, one of the few things CBC did right when they tried to be “younger.” Some older listeners just don’t dig him though. Any Canadian broadcaster lives in the shadow of Peter Gzowski, who was just a smart, calm, warm, fatherly figure. Gian is more of the hip, bachelor uncle.
Unlike, say, NPR, which aims for a distinct niche, the role of CBC as the national broadcaster in this country can’t be underestimated. I truly believe it has been a unifying force. But that’s a topic for another time.
Everybody wants to be Canadian! Or at least you and the Mercenary Researcher; she tries to play that “we stopped in Canada” card too. Did you know, though, that you could get an Irish passport? Apparently you can play that ancestry card over there with relative ease!
I was planning on it. Right out of college, I was going to work for a bit then head over there. I got engaged instead. Not the same.
Work of a different nature….
So glad I resigned.
Three things scare me about getting older more than anything else:
– My wife dying before me
– Me dying before my wife
– Not being in physical condition to damage myself doing all the fun things I wat to do.
(Better start working on those BASE jumps now…)
I’ll see that list and raise you:
– taking care of my parents
– my kids taking care of me
I’ve spent so much time dealing with unhealthy parents over the last few years that I’m just blotting that one out of mind.
Sadly, no kids. But we may adopt a 23 year old when we’re older…
I shouldn’t really be commenting on this post, but I kept thinking of a blog that might provide you with some inspiration. Maybe you already know it, but either way: http://anyshinything.com/
I think her posts regarding aging are great and I really enjoy them. I often write (and read) about old people, since I grew up sourrounded by them, and I feel like that blog author’s feelings on the matter reflect my own thoughts, and are often insiprational. Goodluck!
Thanks. I’ll check it out. And feel free to comment on anything. We’re not youthist around here.