My friend, J.C. Spitznagel, claims that just because his birth certificate says that he's 66 doesn't mean he isn't 30. "I feel the same as I did when I was 28," he says proudly, if puzzled.. I hear that a lot.
A popular jock during my high-school days, now 66, tells me, "I'm still shaken when young girls look right through me. I forget that I'm bald now." Not to mention a belly that only his wife could consider cute.
For women, the difference between the age we feel and the age we look can be even more a shocker. As my wife says, "Sometimes that old lady I see in the mirror frightens me half to death. Who is she, anyway?"
Sound familiar? I'll bet you yourself fall into that famous 30-year-lapse now and then, that "Oh-my-god-I-look-old-but-still-feel-35" syndrome.
And try explaining that feeling to a 35-year-old.
Yeah right, Pops.
That's the problem, isn't it? No one ever told us what it's like to be old. Well, older than most. Most Americans, with our cultural accent on firm thighs, toned muscles, and all things young, thin and beautiful, don't even see folks like us. We're invisible. Just as 50-somethings and older were invisible to us not that long ago.
Last week, when my smart young doctor tried to convince me that taking medication for high blood pressure was some sort of rite of passage, I rebelled. "What do you mean?" I demanded. "I'm way too young for high blood pressure. I feel too good."
But at 67 or said another way, 145 over 90 I'm not, even though I do. That was my 30-year-old inside talking. That same 30-year-old that gives me such pleasure when I look at an attractive young woman. The 30-year-old within that lets me eat more cholesterol and take more sun than my doctor advises. That 30-year-old that pushes me to physical challenges accomplished easily 25 years ago, but now demanding heavy payment.
So, what do we do with this loudmouthed youngster living within us?
Celebrate, that's what!
Honor the truth that growing old isn't so terrible. You may have to get up at night more often than you used to, but when morning comes, you value the rest of your life as never before. and try to make that day count for something. With our mortality now well in focus, we try to make every day count for something.
We still reach out, as we did when we were 30, for a more successful life. And today, we have the time to actually reinvent ourselves and fulfill unrealized dreams.
Think about it. Without that energetic youngster within us, the one with the full head of hair, good looks and great muscle tone, we'd probably be exactly that which we used to think about old people. Miserable. Crabby. Pathetic. Ready to shuffleboard right off this earthly plane.
Actually and this is a great secret kept from the young most of us grow better with age. It's true! We become more generous and attentive to the needs of others. More patient with fools. Far more compassionate and sympathetic to those around us.
And here's a bonus: We oldsters now appreciate the other sex twice as much. We remember vividly what it was like to lust after an attractive 18-year-old. But now we can appreciate the grace, intelligence, and attraction of a 70-year-old as well, something that never would have occurred to us 20 years ago.
So next time you find yourself pondering how you got so old and so fat so fast, remember how fortunate you are. If some 40-year-old whippersnapper puts it to you that anyone over 55 is nothing but a pathetic old wimp, remind her of the Rolling Stones. Or Tina Turner. Or John Glenn.
And never forget: honor that kid within you. It's home to your spunk, your spirit and your joy.
© 2003 Frank Kaiser