My ‘get up and go’ hasn’t got up and went yet.
I’m 70 years old. I have trouble believing this.
I often joke that there must be a clerical error on my birth certificate. I don’t look, sound, feel, or think the way 70 ‘should.’
I’ve always looked and acted much younger. Sometimes I wished I didn’t. Back in elementary school, when I was in grade 7 and was hall monitor for a day, a little girl stopped me in the corridor, and asked — seeing my monitor badge, and knowing that monitors were always seniors — “Are you really in grade 7?” She squinted at me as if I were some kind of imposter.
Once I was mistaken for my friend’s teen-aged babysitter. I was 24, a parent of my own toddler, at the time.
When I was 25, the ticket-seller for the movie “Easy Rider” asked me for proof of age. You had to be 18. “But I’m a mother,” I wailed, as if motherhood automatically conferred a sort of chronological credibility.
Credibility, that’s the thing. I had always equated age with wisdom, privilege and power. When I was 16, I said I was 16½. When I was 19, I made sure you knew I was 19½. I wore high heels and sedate beige wool dresses to work. But I didn’t fool anyone. This 19½-year-old working woman still looked like a high-schooler.
Ironically I now shun heels, my pantyhose have unravelled from utter disuse, and I wear a dress about twice a year. I’m much more comfortable in sweatshirts, leggings, and sneakers.
Some say having kids when you’re younger helps to keep you young yourself. It’s true that I was in my twenties when I gave birth to my daughter and son, and I ‘grew up’ with them. Since I was not so far removed from the stresses of my own childhood, I empathized with them easily. I understood their frustrations, and also had little trouble relating to their schoolwork, hobbies, music — well, okay, my son’s predilection for rap? Not so much.
At 30, embarking belatedly on a career, I found myself in CEGEP (community college), surrounded by supportive, ebullient adolescents. Later, as a volunteer remedial English teacher at age 45 at the same CEGEP, I was still able to relate to a younger milieu.
I continue to be in touch today. Reading alternative newspapers and comics, catching an occasional low-budget ‘indie’ movie, and surfing off-beat corners of the Internet all provide me with a window into youth culture and concerns. Even though I don’t partake of every cutting-edge craze that comes along, at least I’m aware of a lot of what’s out there.
It’s funny that in my earlier life I was keen to look and act older than I was, and now it’s the opposite. Back then, I was striving for maturity, for respect; I yearned to be taken seriously. But now that I’ve ‘seen the future,’ I’ll just stop right here, thank you very much.
If this is denial, so be it. Who says that just because I’m on the far side of middle age, I have to look stodgy, think conservatively, and behave like — well, like a ‘matron’? Where is it written that a woman my age must begin to put a dimmer switch on the sunshine of her days? That she should adjust the dance of her days to a slower rhythm? That she must somehow prepare herself for a long decline of her vitality, because she is growing — shudder! — ‘old’?
No, I’m thrilled to be young at heart and young in mind, and I hope to stay this way, future wrinkles and grey hair notwithstanding. It’s really not about appearance. It’s about your view of the world, and how you interact within it. Join me and these ladies!