Thursday, March 29, 2007

I owe my mother an apology

In the later years of her life my mother avoided all contact with anyone who had cold or flu symptoms. Her explanation was that she didn’t want to catch a cold because it took her so long to get over one. At the time I thought her attitude was a little unreasonable and her claim a bit exaggerated.

Now I understand what she was saying. I am on my tenth day of intestinal flu followed by a bout of bronchitis. I have been on a regimen of heavy duty antibiotics for several days and, although I am better, I am still feeling miserable and wondering why it is taking so long to return to health and feeling well enough to go to work and engage in my usual activities. I have had bronchitis several times in the past but it never seemed to take this long to recover.

The reason, of course, is obvious. When we are young we recover rapidly. As we grow older our response rate slows down. I feel like I owe my mother an apology.

I don’t know why I so often failed to understand what my mother was saying and I can’t afford therapy to pursue the matter. Maybe it’s just a generational thing that most people experience. My children don’t always seem to comprehend what I’m saying either. Maybe it’s a denial of the changes that are just part of the growing older process. Even with a lifestyle of healthy eating habits and exercising, most of us can’t perform physically as well as we did even ten years ago and certainly not the way we did 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

My mother is no doubt smiling and saying, “I told you so!”

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Erase 10 years?

I have never been comfortable in my own skin. As a child, I wanted to look like my mother. As I grew older, I wanted to look like whoever was the reigning beauty of the moment. I have never felt entirely O.K. looking like me or being like me (I should be ____ whatever the perceived lack is.). In the extreme that kind of discomfort is pathological. At the very least it is very sad. Our culture conditions us to feel inadequate, men as well as women. Only the criteria are different.

I thought that being older would bring comfort from a lifetime of discomfort. Age is a great leveling factor. But it seems that society keeps raising the bar. I received my AARP magazine yesterday and couldn’t believe what I read on the cover, “Look Younger, Erase 10 Years (or more).” The magazine published for the older population is now promoting looking younger! All of the models were women. When are we going to stop promoting Youth as our life goal? What is wrong with looking our age? Why would we want to erase 10 years? How is looking 62 instead of 72 going to improve my life?

We are still searching for Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth. And it is a lucrative search for those who sell the products that promise us a youthful appearance.

As far as I’m concerned, it is very unattractive to see an older person trying to look and act as if they are still young. It simply accentuates the fact that they aren’t. While watching the Academy Awards on TV last week, I noticed an obviously older woman on the Red carpet wearing the de rigueur costume of the evening, a strapless evening gown. She was not fashionably thin and her upper arms were not her most attractive feature. Had her bright red dress been a little less revealing she might actually have looked younger than she did. I felt sad as I watched her.

Why do we accept that youth has a corner on the market of determining what is fun or desirable? Every age has a special beauty. And every age has its pleasures. I am tired of the tyranny of trying to defy the odds and look younger than I am. When do we get to retire from the unrealistic demands of our culture? When can I relax in comfort?

I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that. Lauren Bacall