Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Aging is amazing. And there’s no app for that.
Let’s look at the numbers: I still feel 25, but my neck looks like a wrinkled sock. I run 40 miles a week, but break out in a sweat reaching for a paper clip. My blood pressure is 80/65, but I stagger around like a drunk puppy first thing in the morning. (“I got stiffness in the bones,” for Queen fans.)
Other signs of middle age: I can’t read the small print on medicine bottles, which makes illness interesting. I have no-line bifocals that make me sick to my stomach. My once-normal toenails have been replaced by what appear to be goat horns. I have fat in weird places, like my inner knees and upper back. (Back fat is evil. It’s worse than cellulite.)
Getting older is a trip, but—here comes a cliché, also known as a universal truth—I wouldn’t be 19 again for anything. Nineteen is hard; you’re trying to figure out who you are and where you fit in. Fifty is easy. (I’ll actually be 52 soon, but that’s between me and AARP). It’s easy because you pretty much have the game locked down by now. Hopefully, you accept yourself, warts and all. (Look, another cliché!)
At 19, I wasted a lot of time and energy trying to be thinner, cooler, funnier, prettier. Now, I just have to pay my bills and be a decent person, and I’m happy. It’s enough. Would I like to be a knockout like Christie Brinkley? You bet; at 58, she’s stunning. Do I want to work that hard and spend that much money? Not on your life.
To be fair, there are some perks of being 19: To lose five pounds, you just stop drinking beer for two days. Expensive perfume and makeup are superfluous when you have the glow of youth. You can buy an entire wardrobe at Forever 21 for $75. Most of all, at 19 anything seems possible.
Back then, attending college on scholarship and waiting tables, I dreamed of the day I could afford to buy whatever I wanted. You may already know this, but… when you can finally afford to buy what you want, you find out there’s not a lot you want. Isn’t it ironic?
I don’t like bling, shopping, manicures or expensive restaurants. I like to travel once a year, get moles removed, and cruise Goodwill. That’s about it. My biggest expense is running shoes. (I also like to buy paintings on Craigslist. When I die, I expect Widdle to sell them and make a tidy profit. Say, $27.42… in a good market.)
I’ve found I notice small children more as I get older. I’m not sorry I never had any, but nowadays I enjoy watching them enjoy the world. Their innocence tugs at my heart. Then they start to scream or bite or shove licorice up their little noses, and I give thanks for our quiet life with a fat little dog.
Another sign of middle age: A fun Saturday night used to mean hanging out at wine bars on Wrightsville Beach, N.C. Now it’s a rollicking two-hour debate with my husband about what our grandchildren will call us. We have no grandchildren, and none in the works. But it made for a lively discussion, and we laughed our heads off.
(For the record, I want to be called Sparkle, and Widdle wants to be Papa, pronounced Pay-Pay. Don’t ask me, I have no idea.)
Julie R. Smith, who lies about aging gracefully, can be reached at email@example.com.
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