At 58, I have reached the age where I can no longer, by any stretch of the imagination, consider myself to be young, or even “young-ish.” I am stubbornly clinging to the middle-age category, although there are plenty of people who would argue that I am too old even for that. I treat that argument with the contempt it deserves, because who knows? I may actually make it to my 116th birthday. We are making great strides in the fields of technology and medical science, and I intend to milk both for all they are worth. Still, every now and then, despite my best efforts, I come face-to-face with the reality of my age.
These unwelcome intrusions of painful reality into my fantasy life are nothing new. I remember shopping with a friend one day when I was in my late twenties, and I automatically headed for the store’s “Junior Department.” My friend refused to follow me, saying bluntly, if honestly, “Ann, we aren’t Juniors anymore.” Huh? Then I looked around for the “Fashionable Young Women Who Aren’t Juniors But Are Still Young and Hot” department, but it simply wasn’t there.
My hair’s natural color used to be a soft brown that I was actually rather happy with, and unlike many of my friends, I never even considered changing its color. Even after I started spotting the occasional grey hair I firmly believed that I was far too young to be actually turning grey. Until the day I sat down in my hairdresser’s chair and she asked me, “Have you considered doing highlights? You know, to cover up all this grey hair?” And a few years later, that was followed by the day that the highlights were replaced with a total dye-job.
Then there was the time I was accompanying my teenage son to his high school sports banquet. My children may have been in their teen years, but deep down, I still thought of myself as a young mother. But then I realized that a young mother doesn’t sit in the passenger seat of a car with a hot casserole dish on her lap while her son drives them to a banquet. It was, no matter how I looked at it, a distinctly matronly moment.
Last weekend, my husband and I attended the wedding of one of my daughter’s best friends, and we found ourselves seated at a table with three other couples we didn’t know. They looked about our age, and as we introduced ourselves, we realized that we were all parents of the bride’s good friends. Laughingly, we referred to ourselves as “the parents’ table,” and sat happily on the sidelines, watching the young people dance. I remembered when it was my parents’ generation at our weddings who were watching us dance, and marveled at the realization that I was now officially one of the “older generation” myself. Surprisingly, I found that in this case, I didn’t mind it one bit.
Which is not to say that I have completely internalized the lesson that I am no longer young. I think it is impossible, really, to always be aware of our true age, because on the inside, I’m still the same person I’ve always been. And that’s why it will be quite some time before I change the name of this blog to “Muddling Through My Old Age.” Some illusions are just too hard to give up.