No place for sissies

Mary is my Homegirl

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:

  • Wisdom
  • Experience
  • Perspective
  • The long view

Words associated with being old that I don’t like:

  • Set in her ways
  • Grumpy
  • Miserable
  • Conservative
  • Narrow minded
  • Infirm
  • 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.

Bette Davis

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?

DeathIf 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.


11 responses to “No place for sissies

  1. I guess I am probably older than you are, and one of the main ways I cope is I try to stay in tune with the natural cycles that surround me. Every spring I have golden crocuses and daffodils, I plant peas. Later I eat the peas and then the vines die. I keep my hands deeply plunged into the earth as often as I can. I play with my dog, and make wild passionate love with my husband, when we have enough energy, that is. And then I read the papers, especially the online ones, and blog. Lately, it has been pretty fun. Good luck, Aphra.

    How important is it to know what a homegirl is? I don’t, and I suddenly am wondering if I should.

  2. Perhaps you’d understand the UK version of the google zeitgeist better –

  3. The uk list is quite utilitarian really, except…

    Paris Hilton, Chantelle, Katie Price?! So people really *are* interested in plastic women and their dull lives?

    Anyone seen the ‘stupid spoiled whore’ episode of Southpark?

  4. I’m sure that you are a long way from buying a zimmer frame, but when you do reach the old codger stage like me, just lay back and enjoy life, if the arthritis, flatulence, gout, haemorrhoids etc. allow you to of course. 🙂

  5. A delightful rumination, Aphra. Please take a peep at my responsive post in anticant’s burrow. And stop fretting – you’ve a long way to go yet, unless the lunatics at large blow us all to smithereens first.

  6. hmh, how interesting. You are right, although I live in a rural area I am not leading a rural life. Gardening. Good call. Come April, though.

    Phil, yes I do understand the UK version better. Thanks for finding it. But even so, I don’t find myself enthralled by anything there, except train times of course.

    Southpark kelli. There’s another gap in my cultural experience. 😦

    Flatulence is fun at any age, Big John. (Welcome to my blog, by the way). W H Auden said that we all love the smell of our own farts. Arthritis, gout and haemorrhoids are not so exciting. Thanks for the Awful Warning. 😉

    I’ll amble over to anticantland. Its the lunies that worry me. They’ve taken over the asylum you know.


  7. I think every age narrows its focus though, and probably for much the same reasons – to cope with the big scary world and what’s going on with it. It was DNA who had that comment about humans needing to keep talking otherwise their brains start working. I always rather liked that one.

    in fact, the younger they are the more narrow the list really. If being obsessed by Paris Hilton isn’t a sign of an immature mind running from confronting issues bigger and more scary than they can cope with, I don’t know what is. If older people are doing it, they are clearly avoiding thinking asbout the fact that they are 20 000 pounds in credit card debt. And it’s still the sign of an immature mind.

    Even the youngs’ fire to Fix The World and think about the things which scare the rest of us witless is probably displacement from having to think about the even scarier prospect of leaving the nest and coping in the real world.

    My age class are all obsessed by property prices and family life. I find having conversations aboujt this immensely satisfying in a way which my five years ago self and my five years from now self would probably be horrified by. Keeps my mind off the Iraq war and worrying about my pension though.

  8. The lunatics are very much at large, and are creating global mayhem, but they haven’t finally taken over – that will not be until Armageddon, and we still have a chance – if only a slim one – to avert that. It’s why I blog, as you will see if you look over my earlier posts. Remember, there are many more of “us” than of “them”, and it’s the age-old issue of how to stop small tails wagging much bigger dogs. First, the dogs need to wake up and growl. So let’s keep on blogging!

  9. If it helps, m’dear, my reaction to the Goggle zeitgeist is identical to yours, and there’s *mumblemumble* years between us…

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