Monday, April 16, 2012

like a moth drawn toward existential self-annihilation

I read as Debbie weighed in on her feelings about RAFing and was reminded of a conversation with my husband and his friend over the weekend.

If you don't know what it means to RAF (1) you have to check out her post to find out, and (2) you might be one of the young people I mention below, in which case, I hope my little thesis here is proven wrong.

I have already passed over that freakishly daunting milestone, thank goddess.  The two men I spoke with are older than me, more in line with RAS,* so when I expounded on my fears of aging they looked at me like I was so-o-o six years ago.  The conversation came up after the friend, who is getting his teacher certification, admitted he was touching up his gray in an effort to appear younger during interviews. (Doing a good job, I must say.)

My story of coming to terms with my aging went like this:

I have several 20-something clients. Periodically one of them mentions an encounter with someone "really old" and, like a moth drawn toward existential self-annihilation, I cannot resist the urge to stab myself in the ego ask, "How old is this person?"  and I invariably hear, "Oh, he was old. At least fifty!"

Ouch. Might as well have said fifty-hundred.

What makes it the hardest for me, this process of accepting that I am schfifty,* is knowing that young people see me as irrelevant.

Not that my young clients see me as irrelevant.  They see me as god like wise and expensive.

Not my kids, either. They see me as god like a taxi driver and cheap.

But young people I meet, in general. I know that they do not see me as a potentially cool person who might be fun to get to know. No way. They see me as a potentially one-foot-in-the-nursing-home person who might be fun to tune out.

I remember it very well, when I was in my twenties and thirties. People who were fifty-plus? Ancient. Out of touch. From a completely different era. Planet, even. They cannot possibly relate to me and my experience. They are old.

I'm pretty sure there is no overcoming this assumption. Fifty the new thirty? Not in their eyes. In their eyes my eyes have bags under them.

So what I say to myself is this, "Self? Get over yourself. You're schfifty. Be relevant in your own mind. In your own life. If you can't control others' perceptions, control what you think of yourself."

And then I sit in my rocker on my porch and feel a tiny bit better.

* Debbie said, rather than write the number, it hurts less to write out fifty.  I find it hurts less to disguise it even further.  Schfifty.

* Rapidly Approaching Sixty, not to be confused with Rapidly Approaching Schfifty.  


Susan said...

I don't know why 50 didn't bother me. It was a rather hellish time in our lives otherwise so I guess it just fit right in.

Now I am RAS and I am not happy about it at all. I don't really care what anyone else thinks because when you are fat and have had a head of gray hair since your 40's, you get over all that.

But I am not going happily into my next decade.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

So far I haven't minded birthdays, but who knows how I'll feel 22 months from now?

I'm hoping a grandchild will take my mind off of it--the upside to having your kids young.

Red Shoes said...

One day in class, I asked one of my students if he could re-live a year in his Life, which one would he go for? He had an answer for me, and then the other students wanted to 'play'...

After making the rounds, they turned the question back on me... I thought for a moment and told them that I was too old to just go for one year... instead, let me pick a decade.

I opted for my 40s... I told my students I would live my 40s over in a heart beat, and reminded them, that right smack dab in the middle of my 40s, my Dad died and I got divorced... just months after Dad died... talk about a double-whammy...

Yet, it was in my 40s that I felt that I had finally figured things out. My hair was a bit gray... my skin a bit looser... but I understood Life better than at any other point in my Lifetime.

I will say the same about my 50s... :oD


smalltownme said...

I'm approaching 52. fifty two. Spelling it out doesn't make it different. It's what it is. Life is still there to be experienced. Maybe even more so since my younger son wil get his drivers license next week. No longer required to drive at certain times of the day...what can I do with that time? The world is wide open.

dkuroiwa said...

SmalltownMe is someone i hold near and dear to my heart and i look to her for inspiration into this aging process. i hope to look at it as she does....i just don't see it happening anytime soon. oh, i have my moments, but for it to be a constant, hmmm. yeah. that may take awhile.
when i turned 40, i was pregnant (not exactly on my "list of things to do when i'm 40" but, there you go)....i didn't get to lament the loss of that era because i had a new on one on the way and a 5 year-old to deal with/love the stuffin' out of. i think maybe the angsting i'm doing is a compilation of decades.
can i come and lie on your couch a bit? or at least, sit on your patio and talk about life over cactus margaritas? i think that would help.

Martin Willoughby said...

Having just turned 48, Whenver youngsters (usually my kids) tell me I'm old I remind them that in 16 years time I retire and get a pension while they'll still have to work. Suckers!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oh dear. This totally explains why old people probably SEEM all crotchety and "get off my yard." I'd hate being perceived as having no worth either.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oh dear. This totally explains why old people probably SEEM all crotchety and "get off my yard." I'd hate being perceived as having no worth either.

Magpie said...

been there, done that. can't remember how old i am anymore. :)

shrink on the couch said...

smalltownme -- I do focus on the freedom I'll have once my kids are on their own. Back-to-Me bucket list.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

I'm approaching 52. Bring it!

If young people are fortunate/healthy, they'll be 50 someday and realize that they are only irrelevant in the minds of those who think so.

Also, I AM GOING TO BE A GRANDMOTHER NEXT MONTH! Yes. Indeedlee-deedle-dee. That is the best thing ever and something that a 20-something could not be. :-)

Great post. Good stuff.

Ben Ditty said...

I'm 24 but I don't think 50 is old. It's like the new 40!

Anonymous said...

I'm a RAF-er. This is my Jubilee Year (I love that)! I get what you're saying about the 20-somethings thinking 50 is ancient and maybe they even think we're irrelevant. But who cares? I like myself and my world so much better at this age than I did at 20-something it's not even funny. So do I care that they think I'm old...not so much...

Stacie said...

I love it! I can leave blogging for years (ok, I did leave for a few years) but what's great is when I come back I can always read your posts and feel like...yeah, this is why I read blogs. Again, relevent to me (turned 40 a few years ago and had a TERRIBLE time with it, and really when you get down to it, after 40, aging sucks!). What kills me is the referring to Julia Roberts in Mirror Mirror as "older". I am doomed!

Aunt Snow said...

I'm almost through the five decade, and I've enjoyed it! The only thing that's a little weird is seeing the signs of aging I don't expect - so it's not the wrinkles on my face that surprise me, it's the crepe-y quality of the skin on my arms or knees, once pretty smooth and muscled, now I look and go - "Oh, shit, I guess I'm old!!"

But to hell with that! I'm enjoying it and hope the next decade will be just as much fun.

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JCK said...

Having turned 50 last year, there are good days and bad days. Most of the time I don't think about it, but then am caught up abruptly by something -and the tug is difficult. But, I try to appreciate the now, so that I'm not reflecting back someday ...wishing I had enjoyed "those years" more. Great post!

momiss said...

I have never had a problem with getting older. Mainly because I've gotten so much SMARTER!
When I turned 30 I felt---completely legitimate.
40 went by in a haze because I lost my mother when I was 38 and I was still drowning in children of my own. I simply did not have time to give to something I could not control.
47 now and somewhere along the way I realize I passed the line where I started seeing myself as "older". Mainly it's just been a relief. I look forward to the opportunity of getting these young women's minds back on what is important instead of all the shallow sh*t that the world tells them is important about themselves these days.
We owe it to them in my opinion. The younger generation is LOST and needs us badly. Let's show 'em what we got, and I'm not talkin' about our boobs! LOL