Would Someone Please Tell Me What’s So Great About Being Young?

I’ve been reading Huffington Post 50 blogs lately and I’m starting to notice a trend.

First, there was the swan song to the passing of youth marked by the writer’s decision to retire her sexy underwear for “granny panties”. I have been wearing granny panties for as long as I can remember. Bikini underwear are way too uncomfortable, and thongs were out of the question, and besides, I always thought lingerie was a form of discrimination, if for no other reason than the fact that men wouldn’t be caught dead in the stuff.  I still think  men love lingerie because they don’t have to wear it, but that’s just me.   Wearing granny panties meant I never had a panty line.  I never had a man refuse sex with me because I was wearing them.  And since they are bigger than a shoestring, they never ended up wedged between my cheeks. Setting fire to my underpants and setting them off to sea as a symbol of my old age would be pointless in my case because I actually love wearing comfortable undergarments and I don’t care who knows it.

Then there was the homage to Meryl Streep as the oldest woman ever to appear on the cover of Vogue Magazine at the advanced age of 62.  Now, I have to admit that it never really occurred to me that magazines rarely feature anyone over forty in advertisements until I flipped through a recent copy of  Vanity Fair and realized there wasn’t one single model over the age of 20 in a magazine targeted to a demographic at least three times that age.  Lincoln has at least made a stab at marketing to baby boomers by casting Mad Men’s John Slattery as their new spokesman.   Lincoln says they chose him for his “authentic, real world appeal”, but since Slattery’s built his entire career on being a cold fish, that’s exactly how he comes cross in these ads. If you want “authentic, real world appeal” then get Meryl Streep to hawk your cars and see how fast they fly out the door.  Especially since baby boomer women are the fastest growing segment of the fastest growing segment of the population.

It seems everything about boomer blogs is about what we aren’t anymore.  We aren’t young, we aren’t beautiful, we aren’t sexual, we aren’t thin, no one markets to us, we aren’t represented on TV proportionate to our numbers, we aren’t the center of the universe anymore and we hate it.

But as far as I see it, boomers aren’t really doing anything about it either.  I work nights at a local college and the kids I work with  to love make a point of my age.  The adults in their lives are either professors or parents  who are self-conscious about aging  and these kids know it, but I don’t let their comments get to me because I’m not concerned about aging.  I’m smart enough to know that aging is ts inevitable, so why not make the most of it and besides, these kids don’t know anything.   One girl thought the Ten Commandments and the Constitution were the same thing.  She doesn’t know who the Marx Brothers are,  who Fleetwood Mac is, and she’s never seen Casablanca. Now, the world will go on if she never discovers these things, but what bothers me, is that she isn’t the least bit interested in knowing about them either.   One kid in particular likes to go on about how ancient I am on a nightly basis, until I told him not that long ago, I may be old, but I can still kick HIS ass. When he puffed up at me and said, “I don’t know about THAT” I said, “well I do, because girls fight dirty”, a sentiment I might add, that the swim team girls on work-study instantly echoed.

I don’t get what’s so great about being young and I really don’t get what’s to be gained by wringing our hands over the fact that we aren’t anymore.  The number of people over the age of 100 is expected to reach 3.8 million people within my lifetime, so at 52, I am hardly “old”.  I am just beginning to hit my stride and there isn’t enough time in all the world for me to accomplish all the things I want to.  So all you boomer bloggers; stop telling me what I am not anymore, because baby, I am just getting started.

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We’ve Got the Keys to the Kingdom, So Why Aren’t We Using Them?

It’s no secret by now that the baby boomer “generation”  is the largest population segment on the planet, and its growing by 8,000 people a day.  But no one knows what to do with that information.

Least of all the baby boomers themselves.

When I began researching the boomer phenomenon, I kept getting this image in my head of people gathered on the lawn of a large estate, where the doors are unlocked and the gates are wide open and nobody leaves!   People my age don’t want to admit they are over fifty, and while I get that most of us are a long, LONG way from “old age” , I also think that by refusing to embrace the inevitable changes coming our way – changes, I might add that are extraordinary – we are also refusing to embrace a period in our lives that is, and will be, absolutely incredible.

A few years ago, when I was going through my old photo albums to find pictures for a blog to celebrate turning fifty, I was struck by just how beautiful I really was as a young woman.  I’m not saying this to be egomaniacal.  I’m saying it, because it was the truth.  I am 5’9″ and, at the time, weighed about 135 pounds.  Still too “fat” to be a supermodel, but I filled out a bathing suit nicely.  I had chestnut hair, big green eyes and a smile that could stop you in your tracks.  I remember opening the door to a delivery man one day, and literally taking his breath away.  I am sure I did that more than once in my lifetime, and it still makes me smile to think about it now.

I also thought I was as plain as the day was long.  I never wore sexy clothes because I didn’t think I had the body for it, I hated to be photographed because I was convinced I didn’t photograph well.  My hair wasn’t straight, my nose wasn’t right. And when I look at those pictures now, I realize that because I didn’t embrace who I was at the time, for better or worse, I lost out on how much bigger my life could have been at the time.  I regret limiting myself when I was young, because I didn’t want to be who I was.  I am seeing that same phenomenon now in a HUGE segment of the baby boomer population.  Someone posted a comment on facebook after I wrote my first blog, asking why I wanted to focus a new business on “old people” . I wrote back and said, “this, from the most active and engaging man over fifty I know?”.

What is so wrong with being over fifty?  My uncle is 62 and he’s about to debut his first rock and roll CD.  He’s wanted to be a musician all of his life but it wasn’t until his kids moved out of the house and got married that he had the time to pursue his first passion.  He’s also a painter, which is an avocation he set aside  to raise his family as well.   He sold two out of three paintings at a museum in Vermont recently, and now he spends his days working on new oil paintings when he isn’t in the studio, recording new songs.

We’ve got the keys to the kingdom and we need to use them to embrace who we are. We have the power, but most of us are so afraid to admit we are  over fifty that we are like those folks who have the freedom to leave the estate, and the fear of what might be out there if we do.

I don’t want to spend my “middle years” like a woman I know, who built her entire life around the fact that she was both pretty and petite.  She LOATHES being “old”, but aging is as inevitable as the fact that she will never be any taller, and she doesn’t wring her hands about that.  She’s made her life small because she doesn’t want to be who she is.

I don’t get the chance to do this again, so I want every moment of  it to count.  I didn’t do that when I was young, and since I am going to die someday whether I like it or not, I am taking the keys to my kingdom and walking out the gates into an amazing new day…..

And So It Begins……

When I was twenty years old, and a junior in college at Oregon State University, I thought I knew everything.  My history professor James, who was all of forty at the time, told me over drinks one night, that the assumption was thoroughly appropriate for my age.  “After all”, he said, “the only time in my life that I ever knew anything was when I was twenty.  It was only when I got older than I realized, I didn’t know anything at all”.  I remember feeling rather smug at the time, which really only proved his point, because I felt as if I DID know everything, and with the certainty of someone who is too young to have the sort of life experience to realize just how little I actually knew, about anything, really.   When I was 20 I couldn’t imagine being 52, and now that I am 52 I can’t imagine what was so great about being 20.  Oh sure, I don’t stop traffic anymore the way I used to, and there are parts of my body that have gravitated to new locations, but when the host of THE AMAZING RACE openly marvels that a farm couple in their fifties made it more than halfway through last seasons show without an oxygen tank and a wheelchair, I figured it was time to make a stand in favor of getting older.

EVERYTHING about being older is better than I could have ever imagined it would be.  Because it finally occurred to me….I didn’t have forever to do this anymore.

I didn’t have time to judge people.  I didn’t have time to waste.  I didn’t need to be self conscious about my body anymore.  It was my body and I needed to learn to love it, because I was never going to look like a supermodel. Even though I may never be a gourmet cook or learn how to speak Mandarin Chinese like a native, who cares?  As long as I am willing to try,  then what possible reason do I have NOT to do whatever I damned well please?

I am 52 years old, and my signficant other is 58.  We find ourselves marvelling at the youth culture, if for no other reason than the fact that we find it incredible that ANYONE under the age of forty thinks anyone over the age of forty is boring.  Michael has been a dive master, a jump master, a motivational speaker, an artist, a whitewater raft guide, a welder, a carpenter, a contractor, a rough neck, a bartender, a restaurant manager, a ski instructor, a marathon runner and a commercial photographer.  At 56 he was the Rookie of the Year and at 57, the Raft Guide of the Year, at two different raft companies between 2010 and 2011.

I worked in the film industry for twelve years before becoming a gourd artist, a painter, a handbag designer, and, when the economy went in the toilet, an inbound sales agent, a telemarketing recruiter AND a virtual assistant for a cookbook author.  Against all odds we managed to land a permanent home loan modification from one of the most intractable mortgage companies on the planet, and even though we aren’t where we thought we would be at this point in our lives, we  still spend our weekends roaming the North Carolina countryside on the back of Michael’s 1988 Heritage Softtail when we aren’t rafting the class three and four rapids on the French Broad River.

In the past two years, we’ve sent in audition tapes for the Amazing Race, Survivor, Expedition Impossible and Project Accessory, and even though we still believe reality TV stardom is in the cards for both of us, the idea that, at 52 and 58 we are obsolete members of this society makes us both laugh.  Because if 50 is the new 30, then people, you all need to get the hell out of our way.  Cause we plan on passing all you suckers, straight on by…..