This is sixty?
I’ve been sixty for about ten weeks now, and I still don’t know what I think of it. For the past ten years, I’ve been steadfastly tossing membership invitations from the AARP in the shredder. Wouldn’t be strictly accurate for me to join. The initials, after all, originally stood for the American Association of Retired Persons. And I’m not a retired person. Not yet.
Mine is the generation whose members are mostly unable to afford to retire as soon as we might wish to. We might live for 2, 3 or even 4 more decades yet, heaven help us. We occupy the Sandwich Generation. Some of us are still helping our kids pay off college loans while looking after elderly parents who can’t live alone any longer. We tend to be over-mortgaged and under-pensioned. Some of us try to retire and then have to return to work because we have trouble making ends meet, even with Social Security. It’s not pretty. But it’s not all dire either.
After all, a lot has changed since my mother was my age. She would never, for instance, have gotten a tattoo for her 55th birthday, or for any birthday in fact. I recall that menopause seemed to hit her a lot harder than it hit me. She hated the insomnia. When I had insomnia, I’d just get up and teach myself a few more tricks in Photoshop. When her back started bothering her, my mom took yoga classes. Me, I took tango and salsa lessons. I would take three one-hour classes in a row on Friday nights, Beginning Tango followed by Beginning & Intermediate Salsa. One night, a tall, rangy lad in Salsa II was sharing a new double twirl move he’d figured out in a Salsa club. I’d been getting twirled for two-and-a-half hours by then, but I practiced the double-twirl with him till I had it down. And then suddenly had to sit down and remain very, very still for several minutes so I wouldn’t hurl. It was a fantastic evening.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that my kneecaps have started making a funny, crunchy noise when I bend them. We physical therapists have a word for this noise. We call it crepitus. The word is as hideous as the sound it makes, but it’s not necessarily the end of the world. Not yet. I can still get up from a full squat, but sometimes it does hurt a little. With an air of wry tragedy, however, I called one of the local orthopods I know and left a message for his secretary to book me an appointment. Meanwhile, I’ve given myself a physical therapy regimen — strengthening and stretching exercises. I’d like to have an X-ray so I can see if there’s anything ugly going on in there so far. Just to have a little advanced warning, you know. Forewarned is forearmed and all that.
For years, one of my bellwethers has been Rene Russo. Rene and I were born in the same year, although she turned sixty about seven weeks before I did. I’ve always liked her attitude. She was 45 when she starred with Pierce Brosnan in ‘The Thomas Crown Affair.’ I found it encouraging at the time that another middle-aged white chick with longish, reddish-brown hair could still be such a hottie. This photo of her was apparently taken when she was 59. I notice that, like me, she’s added some blond highlights to her hair coloring. Helps hide the gray roots better. She’s got those neck lines like I have, and that extra half-chin when she smiles, and crow’s feet. Still, she looks wonderful. And normal. And human. Rumor has it that she’s had a little facial plastic surgery, but that hasn’t been confirmed. Judging by the absence of vertical lines between her eyebrows, it may be true that she’s had a little botox and some laser work. No matter, though. I have no doubt that the back of Rene Russo’s arms start to look like wadded up crepe paper if she goes without moisturizer for a day. Some things are just unavoidable. I’m not likely to resort to botox, but I bleach some of my sun spots. And if I slather on enough baby oil, that crepe paper thing goes away. You do what you can.
One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve suddenly decided that I have too much stuff. Well, except maybe books and music. And since they can, if one prefers, be had in e-form, and thus don’t need extra shelf space, technically, they don’t count as ‘stuff.’ No, I mean everything else. Clothes, picture frames, gewgaws, dishes, furniture. Even power tools. I just have too much stuff. I’ve spent much of this year unloading as much of it as I can. The Big Sisters are quite fond of me these days. My neighbors look forward to what I’m going to leave at the end of my driveway.
Speaking of clothes, I have begun to hear myself asking a truly ghastly question as I sort through my drawers and closets. That question is: ‘Am I too old to wear this now?’ Dear gawd. This is applied to everything from certain hemlines to tank tops to anything that is too clingy. The bikinis got tossed decades ago. But there’s a lot of stuff that’s hung around, waiting for me to decide if a certain item makes me look extremely fortunate or like a damned idiot. I’ve kept my tight jeans and my red high heels. I’m not so sure about that paisley, halter, mini-dress.
In the meantime, to get down to what truly matters, I’m very grateful to have known so many kind, lovely, funny, intelligent, creative people over the years. And I do want to thank those of you who’ve hung in there with me through any portion of the past sixty years, especially the last five or six since the you-know-what suckage. I very much appreciate those of you who still genuinely care about me, and who don’t get on my nerves, and who employ decent grammar, and who aren’t ill-informed gits who get their health advice from people like Dr. Oz. Oh, I kept all my lipstick, by the way. So, a big mwah from me. I’ll let you know when I get around to throwing the party.