Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Getting Old: A Retired Baby Boomer Reflects on Aging

We all get old.

Even us forever young Baby Boomers.

As I reflect on aging (and that's what old people do, we reflect), I am inspired by this Clint Eastwood "spaghetti western."

Is there anything good about getting old?

What's bad about it?

Worse, what's ugly about it?

Even Clint got old, though he is not a Baby Boomer.
But he is still a great filmmaker as his new movie "Jersey Boys" will attest (see my review in my post "Kevin Costner Sports Movies and The Week in Reviews"), so that's good.

But now he's cranky...and that's bad.

And did you see that mess at the Republican Convention?

That was ugly.

I am not commenting on his politics. I am embarrassed for his showing his age by being so unaware of how bumbling he appears.

There really are some good things about aging and definitely some bad and ugly things about it.

Let's discuss.

The Good

I asked Hubby what was good about getting old.  He said perspective. 

Perspective means we now have the power to see how our lives fit in.

Then I asked him if he would give up perspective for a 32" waist again.  He didn't answer.

If you were to ask me that question, my first answer would be "nothing." 

But then once I start thinking about it, I can come up with some things.

Senior discounts. 
If I can remember to go to the movies on Tuesday, it's only $6.00.  Likewise, if I rode the bus, my senior discount would also kick in, but, please lord, don't make me ride the bus.

Social Security.
I get paid for doing nothing though I worked my ass off for 50+ years to get an amount of money that no one could live on.  Thank goodness I had the foresight (well, actually it was dumb luck) to work in public service so I also have a pension that also pays me for doing nothing.

If you have the means to do so, being able to retire from an 8-5 job to doing what you enjoy is a good thing.  Now my new job is watching movies and talking to you!

You know some stuff.

You have an endless array of stories and adventures to bore, I mean, share with your friends.

You don't have to worry anymore about how your life is going to turn out.  You already know.

And you ladies will enjoy this one.
No more visits from Aunt Flo!

The Bad

It's a bad thing if you don't have the means to do so or are forced to retire when you don't want to.  Some people are married to their jobs, define themselves by their jobs and won't know what to do with themselves when given freedom.  That's too bad.

There are those who think of wrinkles as something they have earned and they wear them proudly.  I am not one of those people.

Weight Gain.
For some of us, it is inevitable, especially if we are in the "saving our face" camp instead of the "saving our butts" camp.  (See my post "How Not to Look Old" for more enlightenment on that topic)

Aches and Pains.


You are Invisible.
I started noticing this when I hit the dark side of 40.  Wolf whistles (not that I approve) and compliments were replaced with...nothing.  I no longer existed.

Being called Ma'am.
On those few occasions when I wasn't invisible, being called Ma'am was just as bad. This may seem like a small thing, but we Baby Boomers don't like that sort of thing.

The Ugly

Bette Davis got it right when she said, "Aging isn't for sissies."

Bette knew what she was talking about.  She didn't age well.


Yes, there is the physical ugly we have to deal with as we age.

But there is ugly and then there is UGLY.

Yes, Bette didn't age well, but to her credit, she didn't try to stave it off with tons of plastic surgery like so many big-lipped actresses have done who now have 23-year-old faces with 65 year old necks.

But apart from the physical ugly, there is the emotional ugly of getting old.

The really ugly thing is what happened to her relationship with her daughter.

She had to live with the fact that she had an ungrateful daughter who wrote a "Mommy Dearest" book about her. 

That's pretty ugly.

I read the book and from what I can gather, Bette wasn't a bad mother who inflicted the kind of mistreatment on her daughter that Joan Crawford did on her daughter.  She in fact was a doting mother who supported both her daughter and her husband financially. It comes off as a daughter who married a guy who was a born again Christian and didn't approve of her mother while at the same time taking her money. Her daughter then denounced her mother for just about everything and made money off of her by writing a cruel book.

But then Bette let her daughter marry this 20+ guy when her daughter was only 16, so go figure. 

That's another ugly thing about getting old.  We have to live with our mistakes.  

It's interesting that she and Joan Crawford were contemporaries who aged at the same time  and even starred in horror films in their later years.  Remember "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"
Both of their daughters felt the need to castigate them in public.  Joan might have been a "Mommy Dearest," but I didn't get that from the book about Bette.  What I got was an ungrateful daughter whose husband didn't approve of her mother.
What did Shakespeare say in King Lear about an ungrateful child?
"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!"
That's pretty ugly.
In old age, family troubles are ugly.
Another thing that can be an ugly part of getting old is regret.
I don't trust people who say they have no regrets about how they have lived their lives.  That seems to be the height of arrogance.
Yes, it does no good to dwell on the past, but it certainly helps to have regrets, so that you don't repeat the bad stuff you did in your past or miss the opportunities you passed over the first time.
I have three main regrets and they probably are not what you would think. 
I mean, I could regret getting married young and missing my chance to live in Europe during my junior year of college.  Gee, now that I think of that, I do really regret that.
I could regret following that marriage with a few more, but then if those hadn't happened, I wouldn't have met Hubby or had my children.
No, these are my three main regrets.
I regret not flying to Sweden when my son had an eye injury.
I regret not going to help our daughter through an emotional emergency and sending Hubby instead.
(In those days, I had an irrational fear of not just flying, but of doing things alone).
But my biggest regret, and it should have been the easiest thing to do, was not getting in bed with my mother the night before we had to admit her to a nursing home after she suffered a stroke that brought on dementia.
My sister and I were at her house making arrangements, and I couldn't sleep.  I was sleeping in the basement and then went upstairs to try to sleep on the couch, then back to the basement.  It went like that all night, me wandering around, upset by my mother's condition, and wanting to slip into bed next to her and tell her I loved her.
But I couldn't do it.
I'm not sure why.
Maybe I was reacting to the fact that our family wasn't particularly cuddly.
Maybe I was afraid she wouldn't realize who I was and I would scare her.
Maybe I was afraid she would reject me.
The bottom line was - I was afraid and I missed that last, quiet opportunity to say my goodbyes to my mother because she was never the same after that.
As I've gotten older, the fears have dissipated but the regrets remain.
Regrets are an ugly part of getting old, but a natural part.
So there you have it.
Getting old has some perks.  Getting old is crap.  Getting old can be ugly.
But despite the wrinkles, the fat, the mistakes, the regrets, getting old also means you are still here. 
Because what is the alternative to NOT getting old?
What do you think is good, bad or ugly about getting old?
See you Friday
"Celebrate What's Fabulous
and The Week in Reviews"
Thanks for reading!

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