I’ve been thinking about growing older recently. No particular reason except that I’ll be jumping the half-way point between a couple of big ones soon.
Words associated with being old that I like:
- The long view
Words associated with being old that I don’t like:
- Set in her ways
- Narrow minded
- Out of touch
- Losing one’s nerve
- Oh, and “twinkling”
The problem is that habits are comfy. I know who and what I am, what I like and don’t like. I’m at ease with myself. I’m comfy.
I’ve lived long enough to know that I can’t bake cakes, and that – no – I won’t enjoy a night-club where I can’t hear what people say and everyone is drunk anyway. But if I avoid baking cakes and clubbing, will other horizons gradually narrow until I become not just set in my ways, but cemented in them?
A girl at work wore a t-shirt the other day saying “Mary is my Homegirl”. I have no idea what a homegirl is, so I asked. I didn’t understand any of the first three synonyms. This unnerved me far more than when I was handed a postcard in a Glasgow street in 1999 which advertised a band or a club. The only words I recognised were “of” “at” and the date. I found it funny, that time. “Losing my nerve” is on my list of things I don’t like about growing older and it seems I am losing my nerve. The list of things I don’t want to do is getting longer, and that worries me, too.
Maybe it’s because my Ma and my Grandma did not provide positive role models for growing older. My Grandma, by the time I knew her, was slipping from grief to senility. My Ma – well I hesitate to call her a sissy, but she didn’t flower in late middle age and old age.
Chasing youth is pointless. (They can run faster, for a start). Why deny the good things about the age one has reached? What I am afraid of is a gradual narrowing of the outlook, a gradual disengaging from the world. That I will get to the point where new things either don’t interest me or I haven’t heard of them.
Here are the top 10 from Google Zeitgeist this week, and my view of them.
1. valentine’s day – yeah, ok
2. Michelle Manhart – never heard of her
3. grammys – not interested
4. peanut butter recall – presume it’s local to the US – not interested
5. dixie chicks – not interested
6. obama – not interested
7. westminster dog show – never heard of it – not interested
8. the police – not particularly interested
9. PS3 – really not interested
10. wii – so not interested you would not believe it
You see, it is partly that the world is so big and scary and accessible that the nasty stuff stares you down and waits for you to blink, if you let it. It is completely bloody terrifying, what with Iran and Bush and Afghanistan and Terrorism and Climate Change and all that.
On t’other hand, it is partly that we are, in the words of Neil Postman, amusing ourselves to death and, sorry, but I really couldn’t care about Ms Spears’ bad hair days, or Wii, (whatever that is), or celeb-trash or the popular beat combos de nos jours.
So at one end, we have things which are too trivial to bother with, and at the other we have things that are too scary to face up to, and the most comforting option is to hide your head under a blankie and say “wibble”.
But how many steps from “wibble” to dribble?
If you withdraw too far into a comfort-zone, you’ll end up like the wizard in the Pratchett book who is so afraid of dying that he locks himself into his room, sealing himself into a box which is so impregnable that nothing can get in or out, including Death. Or, as it turns out, air.
So there are two challenges. One is to avoid being a narrow-minded, apathetic lump who isn’t interested in anything but where the next cup of tea is coming from. The other is to stay sufficiently engaged with the world and the devil to know what a homegirl is without allowing the sheer freaking terror of the c**ts in the White House and Downing Street sending one into gibbering rage.