No More Premature Aging: Just Add Attitude
I love this portait of a serene old woman and the way her life shines through her eyes.Â Taken by Ron Aldaman and provided under a creative commons license.
Since I’ve been reconnecting with people from my past via social networking–as in, from my childhood, teen, and college years–I’ve been astonished to see what’s become of other people within a year of my age. A few have gone the plastic surgery route–some look good as a result and some look like their faces froze while pulling a few G’s in some kind of prototype for a new military aircraft. I won’t say that I won’t try cosmetic surgery one day, but I’m not quite ready yet. (My doctor actually advised, “If you ever decide to have work done, you should always go for bigger boobs because men won’t really notice a little crease on your face for more than 5 seconds.”)
There are others whom I’ve mistaken for their mothers. Not their mothers when we were kids but their mothers NOW. As in, they look like their 65-year-old parents.
And it is entirely in the way they dress and in their attitudes. This is not aging gracefully–it’s more a sense of giving up on opportunities, on life. And yes, these are the same people who say everyday, “I must be getting old” or “I’m not young anymore.” They focus so heavily on getting older, specifically on the negatives of it rather than the positives–and there are many, many positives.
Part of it has to do with where they live and the expectations of their environment. They’ve certainly succumbed to it. I first noticed this when I was 23 and living in my hometown temporarily. I ran into a former schoolmate and was shocked at her appearance. She’d just married and, true to hometown expectations, had taken to wearing dowdy dresses and a matronly hairstyle. Why? Because “I’m old and married and settled now.” Her face was still young, but I remember thinking at the time that she looked 42, not 22. Her posture had changed, her facial expressions, the way she carried herself, the constant sigh in her voice. It was as if she’d just resigned herself to a death sentence and decided to stop living, stop trying, stop enjoying.
I don’t ever want to be like that. I insist on being age-inappropriate. I dress how I want. I go barefoot whether I’m in my own house or taking a walk through the neighborhood. I fly kites and car-dance and go braless. I sit on the floor in the family room rather than in a comfy chair. I might make out with my lover in a semi-public place.
I picture myself in my 90’s as one of those old women with long white hair, wearing purple and red, going barefoot in the grass still at every opportunity, and probably dating men half my age. Whatever I’m doing then, I don’t want to have given up on life or given in to anyone else’s expectations of what I should be doing, or how I should be dressing and acting. I want to take advantage of every opportunity when it presents itself, at any age.
In Thailand and in SE Asia the elderly are respected and well taken care of by the family. One of the worse hells imaginable for Buddhists is for having rejected one’s own elders.
I remember this woman so well. It was a few years ago during a yearly celebration and she was sitting opposite a canal. Often people first laugh when I take photos of the elderly because they think it is a joke. After all, so many pretty girls and temples and….etceteras to photograph.
I often spend some time with the people I encounter and soon they discover that I actually find the elderly beautiful in their way and when you come across a face with so much integrity, it deserves more attention than the bikini clad statuesque wonder parading on the beach.
So beautifully said!