A few months back, in one of her Wishful Thinking posts, Rene asked us to think about what we were most looking forward to about growing older. Then, while surfing the Internet the other morning, I came across an article called 5 Great Things About Growing Old. I finally decided to weigh in—albeit a little late; I must be getting old—namely because I’m excited about getting older and I know this makes me a relative anomaly at the ripe ol’ age of late-thirty-something.
That’s right. I’m looking forward to aging. Youth (at least my youth) was riddled with insecurities and fears, coming to terms with my limitations, sleepless nights with newborns, juggling the demands of high-maintenance toddlers, and trying to blindly establish my roles as wife, mother, teacher, writer. I’d never choose to go back in time and relive my days in counseling, years of teenage angst when everything was cause for drama, or the worries I had in my mid twenties that I’d never get married and have kids. (Although I kick myself for that last one. What was I thinking?)
Not everyone around my age feels the same. I think of the thirty-turning-forty era as the “middle place” where you start realizing that you are moving into the upper years and leaving ignorant youth behind you. In an effort to trick time, many friends are getting breast implants, nips and tucks, leaving their spouses for someone younger, working out fastidiously to hold onto firm thighs and six-pack abs a little longer. And don’t get me wrong. Reinventing who you are is a great thing. As long as you do it for yourself, not because society mandates that young and firm is the new perfection.
So here are my top five reasons I’m looking forward to growing older, in no particular order:
MY KIDS WILL EVENTUALLY HAVE LIVES OF THEIR OWN: This one is (sometimes) difficult to imagine because most days I feel like the only life they have is mine. There are days when they can suck the very marrow from my bones simply by touching my arm or hanging onto my sleeves, and in those moments I look forward to the day when they drive to my house in their own car, visit, and leave. Yes, yes, of course I am relishing in their every childhood moment. But I secretly look forward to the day when we can meet for lunch, laugh and catch up about their lives, and then they leave me sitting there in a café to go hang out with their friends because their friends are so much cooler and can drink more than me. They will leave that café on their own, not because I dragged them out due to the fit they were throwing. They will leave me sitting there all by myself, enjoying a slice of triple chocolate cake that I don’t have to share.
I CAN WEAR WHAT I DAMN WELL PLEASE AND NOT BE LABELED “MARMY”: I remember being fitted for my wedding dress and telling the seamstress, “I need a little more room in the waist so I can breathe and eat dinner.” While most women want to live the fantasy-princess-dream-image in their bridal gowns, I wanted to breathe. I’m pragmatic like that. I detest clothing that prevents oxygen from reaching my lungs, pinches my crotch, or has scratchy seams or uncomfortable fabric. I like pants with drawstrings or elastic waists, oversized shirts, and anything in flannel or polar fleece. When purchasing clothes my thoughts are 1) Is it comfortable; 2) Is it reasonably priced; and 3) Do I like it? I don’t consider if it’s in style or not. My two sisters, young, lithe, and trendy, are horrified when I walk off with clothes from my mother’s castoffs for Salvation Army. “You aren’t going to take that, are you?” they ask. “We wouldn’t even let mom wear it.” Our society expects older people to wear comfy, antiquated, clothes. During my old age, I’ll finally “fit in” for the first time. That’s going to be exciting.
SOCIETY FINALLY GIVES YOU PERMISSION TO BE YOURSELF: I’ve always liked to defy convention, speak my mind, and challenge the status quo. I’m looking forward to the day when my motives aren’t questioned and instead of labels like, “rule breaker,” and “black sheep,” people will call me “quirky” and “eccentric.” I’d even take “kooky.” Old people can speak their mind and tell it like it is. For example, at lunch with my grandmother one afternoon she said to me, “So, now that your husband is working so close to home, you guys’ll have time for a nooner, eh?” That’s the kind of vocal freedom I’m talking about. My 92-year-old grandma can ask about my afternoon sex life without batting an eye. I appreciate that kind of honesty. I’ll be able to tell my husband and children what I really think—they can chalk it up to senility if they want, but at least I said it.
THE ABILITY TO SLEEP WHEREVER AND WHENEVER I WANT: This has to be one of the biggest benefits I see of being old. How great to sit in a chair, chin resting on your neck, mouth agape, blaring TV on, and be completely asleep! Sound sleep always eludes me, even with four pillows, a feather comforter, a lavender eye mask and a Tylenol PM. I am such a light sleeper I wake up to water dripping, creaking loft ladders, and whimpering children. I deal with a snoring husband, an alarm clock that is too bright, and blinking phone lights. I cannot wait to be older and be able to fall asleep sitting up, or better yet, in mid sentence. It will also be okay to pretend you are sleeping if you don’t like what someone is saying, or your new daughter or son-in-law makes your skin crawl. Slipping into sleep wherever you are is going to be so liberating. (Except of course if you are driving. You’ll want to avoid this, even in old age.)
MENOPAUSE: You knew I had to mention it. In fact, if I could catalog-order menopause, I would have done it yesterday. How great not to have to worry and fret over birth control! No more periods! No more marks on the calendar! Gone is the apprehension that you’ll be caught off-guard without a panty liner to your name. I will be able to wear white pants (gasp!) anytime I want and can head to the beach without an arsenal of tampons. I can finally have one set of underwear, not “period underwear” and “decent underwear.” (You know what I’m talking about.) Oh sure, I know there are side effects and problems associated with menopause. But I figure it can’t be any worse than my current mood swings, migraine marathons, and general bitchy-ness, right? Just ask my husband. He’s campaigning for my menopausal age too.
The way I see it, there are so many more benefits to growing older than people think. They focus on the potential joint pain, loss of flexibility, and forgetfulness. They think their best years are behind them. For me? I’m happy to give up the perky boobs of my twenties and the stress of my thirties for freedom to be comfortable in my own skin (and in flannel).
Have any of you given this more thought? Any other great things about growing older that I missed? What are the things you are looking forward to as you age?
Rachel Vidoni is a professional writer and blogger and former classroom teacher. She is a mediocre mother to three pretty neat kids. You can follow her humor and family blog at www.eastcoastmusings.blogspot.com. You might not be a better parent after reading her blog, but you will feel like one.