Friday, March 27, 2015


Getting old sucks, there is no question about it. I am never one to mince words here, and so I'm telling this to you today in the spirit of 100 percent honesty.

One of the biggest problems is that older Americans are less relevant, in general, than ever before. I don't know how it is for other middle-aged folks but for me it's the single hardest thing to deal with about growing older.  Our culture is not one that venerates the wise elders as leaders and advice-givers. Instead, we smile indulgently at them and talk about how nice they are. Seniors, have, truly, becomes a second type of child in our society.

I can see it in how my best friend and I talk about our 80-something mothers. At their age, they are often opinionated without knowledge, stubborn without reason, and difficult because they will not listen to modern ideas that could make their lives better.  They can be hard to manage, and hard to help. In many ways, they remind us of our children when they were little.  And so the idea that they are really just big children emerges, not without reason.

But if you're in middle age, eventually you come to the realization that, like it or not, you are on the same road that your parents are.  And your ultimate destiny is either to be a pain the ass or become cute.  Maybe both.

For instance, there was an older gentleman (probably late seventies/early eighties) in the winery the other day, dropping off a product he was selling.  He had his own, homemade receipts, and kind of fumbled around trying to get his materials and invoice together. We were very busy, and so while he was poking around in his box looking for his paperwork, I was glancing anxiously back to the bar and the customers seated outside.

And after he left, we were talking about him behind the bar. "Did you see that old man today, dropping off his stuff and giving us his little invoice?  He was just so sweet."

"I know," the other gal behind the bar with me said, "so cute."

Yes, the older you get, the more you get relegated to The Cute Zone, along with toddlers, kittens and internet videos of goats climbing on stuff. A lifetime of bruising experience, real world crisis management and raising the next generation to responsible adulthood, and the result is becoming just ... darling!

It's maddening, except of course that to some extent, it is absolutely appropriate and correct.  

And here's why it makes sense: When you are in your 30's, you are absolutely essential to your children's lives, and probably equally as essential in the workplace.  Were you to depart at this time, the ripples in your part of the world would be significant and long-lasting. There are many people who would, literally, never get over it. Should you die before your parents or while your children are little, that is absolutely 1000 percent true.

That kind of importance declines on a kind of slow, sliding scale until, let's say, you are 70.  At age 70 our children may love us, but odds are we are no longer essential in their lives.  We are probably no longer essential in the workplace either, having either already retired or getting ready to.  So our true career days are over. Our grandchildren probably love us, but they don't really need us the way they need their parents.

And this is exactly the way Mother Nature designed it.  About the time you are at an age to sign out and move on to Whatever's Next, your presence is no longer essential here. It kind of works.

And so from now (sometime between 50 and 70, depending on your stage of life) until the time they call your name to cross the river between the worlds, well, now you are in the process of becoming cute. And sweet, and stubborn, in the same way a toddler can be sometimes. And a little behind the times, but charmingly so.  In short, irrelevant.

I guess what I never knew when I was younger is that the people in the process of becoming irrelevant are acutely aware of it.  I'm 53 and I can see it quite clearly. Not all of us can.  There's a guy (quite a bit older than me) in our local paper, who writes a weekly opinion column that usually has something to do with "the way things were," never realizing that the next generation tires of this kind of talk quite easily. Oh sure, we might enjoy hearing about the heyday of Hollywood or the price of gas in 1955 -- for about five minutes.  But what was an interesting, fascinating and memorable era in his life is just a story for us. The past is a place we like to take a quick peek at, but have no interest in hearing a play-by-play repeat of (unlike, often, the person telling the story).

I used to lament that my generation had little access to our great-grandmother's homesteading skills, but I was wrong.  With the advent of the internet, a whole new generation is becoming competent in canning, farming with horses, growing food from seeds and making medicinals from wild plants and herbs.  Those skills may not be common in society, but those skills will carry on thanks to a few young people who've mastered them. That's good news, because someday, they may all become essential skills again, and it's nice to know they will abide over time. The human race, may literally, depend on it someday if things continue along the path they are.

But this new generation's competence in the "old" ways also proves, more than anything, that the former generation is somewhat disposable, and that can life go on successfully without your grandparents, then without your parents, and eventually, without you. But before you go, if you are relatively healthy, your life does go on awhile -- in cuteness rather than importance; at a charmingly (or annoyingly) slower pace than the rest of society, and in memories more in the distant past than the recent one.

So stay tuned, folks, because in the next 20 years, I have a feeling this blog is going to damned...CUTE! But one thing I promise you ... while I may still offer tips on canning and growing food, I will try and refrain from waxing nostalgic over the price of gas in the 1970's. (Which was $.65 a gallon, in case anyone cares.  Which they really don't.)


  1. This post really hit home to me. I've always been a 'young soul'. I have a youthful appearance and spirit, but at 61, arthritis and sports injuries have really slowed me down.

    I am slowly starting to feel irrelevant. My children are grown and my 35 year career is over. I had a few good years after retirement enjoying my sport of dog agility and doing some travelling, but that came to a grinding halt last fall after multiple injuries.

    It's a really strange situation I am in. For most of my adult life I have been 'needed' whether as a mother or employee. Then when I wasn't needed, I was busy with my hobbies. Now my 'busyness' involves spending a lot of time at the aquatic therapy center with the 'old' people. (Yes, I am just about the youngest one there, although I can now be considered the 'hot babe'!)

    My first job in high school was working at a nursing home. I remember vividly how we talked 'baby talk' to the residents. Now that I'm on the other side of 60 I can see how demeaning it is to treat older adults as children.

    Anyway, your post really hit home. Especially your opening sentence, "Getting old sucks"

    Thanks always for your insights. I look forward to reading your posts.

    1. Thank you Molly. I am glad to not be the only one in this boat! I don't know why, but the realization of getting old really does seem to hit at once, and the knowledge that it's not temporary comes as something of a shock. But either way, knowing we are not alone in the experience is important. Glad you understand!

  2. I have a good friend in her 60s and she once pointed out to me that whenever we go out to lunch the server only looks at me. Honestly I thought she was making something of nothing and brushed it off. so the next time we went out she said "just watch and see". And I noticed it. This seems so crazy to me but I know it's true. This might come off sounding kind of cheap and I hope it doesn't, but I learned pretty early in my career that older customers/clients are best because they actually have money! In my business there is a saying "you attract your own". Meaning your clients are kind of a mirror onto who you are. Well I broke that rule as I built my business with a solid base of relatively conservative women in their 50s and 60s. Of course I can't put my finger on why exactly it works, but I think a lot can be attributed to the fact that I'm genuinely interested in what they have to say. I love hearing a POV so different from mine. I think so much has to do with attitude. My step-grandma (but just as much my grandma and I adore her) seems to have not aged. She is so curious, always learning something new, reading the best selling books, listening to new music, shopping in different stores. It's not that she's trying to be "young" but she says she never sees herself as complete. I've always taken that as such valuable advice. It's easy to settle into a life and check boxes off. But I think when you're always open to new things, you stay better connected to the world around you. She texts with her youngest grandkids to keep in touch with them. A lot of older people only complain that kids only text and it used to be different. She's never one to lose sleep over how things used to be and she has a happy and full life to show for it.
    Very interesting post. Sorry for my long and rambling comment!

    1. Oh, the thing about people only looking at the younger person in conversations is absolutely correct -- I notice it all the time at work! The one great advantage to being older IS having more money though, but in some ways it would have been fun to have a lot earlier in life. Attitude is a great help and I think I have a very young attitude, but when it comes to superficial appearances, people still generalize according to age. All ages. At least while the servers may not look at me, they never try and get away with seating us next to the kitchen anymore, because they know people our age will ask to be moved to a nicer table lol!

    2. HotFlash - For what it's worth, I think you look fantastic!

  3. Stephen - I love your step-grandma's attitude of never seeing herself as complete. It's a good attitude to live by. I also agree with being open to new things. Since I retired, I started losing touch with new technology. But I finally broke down and bought an iPhone. Now I don't know what I'd do without it! Especially texting.

    Thanks for your post. I really needed to hear that.