At age 79, I’ve become acutely aware of ageism. Ageism is generally perpetrated by someone decades younger than the target. It’s a form of generally accepted ridicule. Usually by smug men. It makes me angry and it needs to be called out more frequently than it is.
We older adults have to be careful not to “buy in” to the media’s assessment. I’m as guilty as anyone. I am always thrilled if someone tells me I don’t look my age. If someone seems unimpressed with my age, I am always disappointed.
A few days ago, as I was watching three different channels for news, each news reporter talked at some length of Trump’s difficulty in descending a stage after the West Point graduation. I could identify with DT. He had a long ramp to walk down, with no hand rail. He proceeded very cautiously, not alternating legs. As much as I dislike him, I did not like him being called out for his cautiousness walking down a ramp.
Hey, guess what? As an aging adult, you might lose some balance, your knees might become arthritic, and the last thing you want is to fall a break a hip! Is it really necessary to have a tv camera and commentator focused on the president as he exits the stage? It’s mean spirited to highlight physical disabilities. We all recognize the fact that Trump is no longer young. Some physical frailty generally comes with the territory.
A few months ago when I was in Japan, we had dinner around a table sunken into the floor. Arising from dinner was no easy feat (unless you were Japanese). I made a few sad attempts to joist myself up, ending in failure. Finally, I turned to a friend and had to ask for help in getting out of the hole. I was embarrassed and humiliated, but no one in our group pointed a finger or a camera at me! When I got home, I learned that some of that difficulty can be reversed. I worked with a physical trainer for a few weeks and quickly recovered my ability to stand up from a seated position on the floor. YAY!
Where has kindness and decency gone in the political arena? Do we all agree ageism should be unacceptable?
A part of me, my less mature self, says that our nasty leader just gets what he deserves. But my mother taught me well that two wrongs don’t make a right. Pointing out or ridiculing aging characteristics in people is not going to improve their health. Nor will it improve the well being or karma of the shamers!
The WHO (World health Organization) began a campaign against ageism in 2016 after recognizing it as a serious problem. At a minimum, I think each of us needs to call it out when we see it or experience. Awareness first.
Can I talk for a moment about covid hair fatigue? Unable to get a haircut since the beginning of the covid crisis, I could easily decide that my self interest is best served by remaining hidden. Recently, a small voice inside me tells me I’d better get out of the house for a while. This desire must always be explained to my family who seem in agreement with each other that the moment I leave our premises, I am at risk of losing my life. Ultimately, after promising and re-promising, I’ll be careful, I am released.
I thought I could make things better by adding a pretty scarf tied jauntily around my head. The scarf was a beautiful water blue silk and I tied it in a floppy bow at the top of my head. Other than highlighting the bluish circles under my eyes, it just looked ridiculous. My own ageist biases quickly told me I was too old to try such pranks with any hope of fooling the eye. Better to look honestly and painfully as if I were suffering from the covid seclusion. Perhaps that’s too Victorian a slant on my current non-condition? ” “I’m getting my hair cut next week,” I tell myself. The bobby pins, purchased on another covid infused outing, failed to help as well.
I just remembered that I have an old red haired wig stuck in the back of a closet somewhere. I had fun wearing it occasionally about a decade ago. As long as mice haven’t taken up residence, I might give that a whirl.
Stay safe, friends. Sane too!
From out of nowhere, an old friend emailed me an old photo he had from 1955 of the two of us making out together. I easily remembered the drill. A group of us would meet up at a friend’s house, gathering on an early summer’s evening. My friend’s parents were always expecting us and ushered us past their living room, right into their den. There was no need to linger for chit chat. The group of friends shifted regularly and we were never sure who was coming, but somehow enough of us would get together so that the making out always managed to happen. Not immediately, but in due time. The parents didn’t seem concerned that we’d go too far. After all, this was an all Jewish group.
Much was discussed among the girls earlier on in the day, particularly about what to wear. It might have been the occasion to try a new shade of lipstick.The most urgent requirement was that clothing should be sexy. Once the expected guests had arrived, the doors of the den would be closed and the music cranked up. There was always an air of anticipation and mild excitement. The same routine could be counted on at each make out party.
The boy I’m kissing in the photo was considered the”best kisser.”It went downhill from there. The quality of the kissers that is. Things never got very hot and heavy because we were simply too naive and not that into each other on a sexual desire level.We also knew each other too well, so there was absolutely no mystery or hidden desire to learn more. We were just a bunch of friends exploring the landscape. The cutest one of us girls was always the same, admired and courted by each of the young men, and secretly envied by each of the girls. She was a born flirt, had two perfect dimples, and the boys ate it up. That scenario never varied either, no matter what sexy sweater I’d found to wear. The best kisser was shared as partners were rotated occasionally.
Our hostess had all her records picked out and ready to go. She had a state of the art sound system and could be counted on to have a state of the art assortment of new tunes. This era (1955) was the height of great rock n roll, so there was no problem finding music to dance to. The music set the mood, going from rock to inane Eddie Fisher ballads, as couples began to pair off. The lights were dimmed or turned off. This was the venue where I learned to kiss. Spin -the -bottle parties in 6th grade were the take off point. Now, completing junior high, it was about refining the act, and daringly on rare occasions, taking it to the step of light petting (feeling up).
The evening continued until it was time for someone to get home. Nothing of consequence happened at these gatherings, as I remember. No one lost his or her virginity or decided to go steady or to break up. No one even considered going all the way as far as I knew. That experiment was years away. Summer nights in the 1950’s were fun and uncomplicated and left warm coming-of-age memories of a very different era!
I am immediately reminded of our shared humanity when I look at the faces of the people listening to the poet Coleman Barks read a poem of Rumi’s on Bill Moyer’s website. In my mind, they share a yearning for meaning and connection. I recognize myself in their expressions.
Bill Moyers is the everyman’s sage and guru. I have listened to his words for many years. He’s almost always provided food for thought. He’s accessible. For me, he’s the epitome of integrity and wisdom and humility.
Now, as we come out of this first round of The Pandemic vs. the World, I ask myself, what do they mean, those talking heads of self satisfied prognosticators who occupy our tv screens, when they say the world has been changed forever? Will we continue to find more pleasure in the simple life? Or will our reliance on technology grow increasingly significant, altering human to human connection? Will we learn to enjoy the perks of isolation, withdrawing more often from the group? Will our polarization become more exacerbated? Or will this round wake us up to our essential need to be able to trust and rely on each other? What’s to become of the performing artists who have lost venues and livelihood for weeks on end? They walk a tightrope even in good times.
Was this round of destruction and death designed to give us a glimpse of the Beginning of the End of Civilization with more to come? Or was it just a warning shot, which may or may not go unheeded? Was it just a potent and alarming wake up call? Is it time to join a cult? The know it alls would likely provide some answers. Maybe I can go forward without answers just fine. Maybe I can learn to be comfortable not knowing. Welcome dissatisfaction, the great motivator.
I was impressed, as I looked around in recent weeks, that nature still brought us a beautiful spring. It was comforting. The blossoms paid no mind, as Neal Diamond crooned in his romantic 1970’s hit, The Grass Will Pay No Mind. I used to make dances to that music. But never mind, that was most definitely a time gone by.
I’m approaching my 80th birthday year, which is definitely not like approaching sweet 16. Right now, it’s a somber rather than celebratory time. Is sheltering in place going to be the theme for years to come when there aren’t that many years left? That would be a great loss.
I know, I know, one day at a time.
My pop musical tastes can be pretty prosaic.
John Denver sang about “Lookin’ for Something I can Believe in”, in the 70’s. Those lyrics seem to suit me pretty well these days. As well as “Lookin’ for something that I’d like to do with my life. ” That sounds pretty adolescent. I have stopped singing those words with the same passion I had in my 40’s, in fact I don’t sing them anymore, but maybe I should? It’s kind of exciting to think I can get to explore another path if I get off my ass.
For a few weeks I had the satisfaction of thinking I’d done everything I needed to do in this life. That frame of mind didn’t last long. Not that it’s been replaced by new things, it’s just that I realize it’s not an interesting way to go through life, no matter the age. It puts an end to growth.
I’m feeling patient, which is good. Que sera, sera, if you remember perky Doris Day.
Disclosure: I’ve gotten more inclined to laziness. It’s not so bad once you get your mother’s voice out of your head.
How about YOU? Have you changed, or are you wanting to change? What’s brought you comfort? if anything? How do you see the future now?How has this pandemic affected you?
The hills surrounding Santa Barbara rose to meet us as we headed North on the 101, our first escape from sheltering in place. To my surprise, the grasses on the hills are now golden, the deep emerald green just a memory, vanishing quickly once the rainy season ended about the same time as the covid season began in CA. I could feel my spirits lifting. The blue Pacific, just to the left of the freeway was relatively calm. I reaffirmed to myself that California is indeed beautiful. This undisturbed landscape felt just right today, the antidote to being cooped up.
We’d originally planned to drive to Morro Bay for the day until my daughter convinced us that we would not be happy with all the development that has taken place since we were last there, may be twenty years ago. We reluctantly changed our minds and opted for a shorter drive to an isolated county park at Jalama, to have a (world famous) Jalama burger for lunch. I sat back and enjoyed the last of the spring wildflowers gracing the hillsides, hoping that this outing might be the beginning of a reasonable non covid obsessed summer.
Native, undeveloped California has a soul – expanding landscape. Development has encroached on too much of it, but much remains. When I find it, I’m always overwhelmed by its grandeur, rawness and power. The area near Vandenberg AFB just off the 101 is a so – far- so- good- part of the state. It’s made up of old ranch holdings unchanged for generations. That means many acres of grassland, a few farms, a few wineries, with a few derelict buildings remaining here and there. I can almost picture Native Americans gathering fish and shells along the shoreline while the cowboys do their thing across what is now a very busy freeway, as a stagecoach rumbles over a hill. The marine fog bank, an ever present sight in June, hovers expectantly off shore. For now, the sun is shining brightly.
Leaving the coastline, the 101 jogs to the north. We find the road to Jalama. As we approach the campground, we discover that we’re only one of dozens who have decided Jalama is their destination today. We have to line up to wait to find parking. Eventually we are able to park. It’s so windy and chilly here that I have no desire to take the long walk I’d planned on. My husband joins the line to order the Jalama burger and invites me to wait in the parked car. Here, it’s as if there is no pandemic. Strangely, no one is social distancing and no one wears a mask. I do not protest and wait somewhat patiently in the car. Within 45 more minutes the huge overstuffed patty is in our hungry hands.
We’ve been spotted by dozens of resident seagulls who seem to survive by staring down and wheeling over hungry visitors as they plead for food. The sandwich is really too big for me anyway, and I contribute the remains of it to the birds who snap it up immediately. Without saying thank you.
It’s still too windy to walk, so we decide to head for home. I am refreshed. It’s a beautiful world.
I went all out for Mother’s Day when I was a child. I took it very seriously. I had a ritual that I repeated for many years.
On the Saturday before THE SUNDAY, I would ride my bike to an old vacant lot surrounded by hedges of lilacs that were about two stories high. There was a mix of varieties, including what I called French Lilacs, deep purple, white lilacs which were incredibly fragrant, and double lilacs, with double the number of usual petals. I was in heaven and snapped the branches of as many as I could carry, often going back for more.
Happy with myself, I rode home, stuffed every vase I could find with lilacs, then carried them down to the cellar, waiting for their appearance on the Big Day. I also knew where to find stashes of violets, so those were captured as well. Delicate and fragile, they filled my mom’s antique cups. I’d be sure to get up early on Sunday, an accomplishment for me, to carry up the flowers from the darkness of the cellar, to the daylight of the living room and dining room. Their scent would fill the house. It was glorious, as I remember, and my Mom always acted thrilled.
If I could return to any part of my childhood, Mothers Day celebration, would be tops on my list. With my Mom by my side, of course!