Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Two Score Years Ago

July 11th, 1967

My baby is having a mid life crisis. On Wednesday she will have her fortieth birthday, and in spite of the fact that she is having three cakes, she is not one bit happy about hitting the milestone. Neither was her father when he hit it, although he now says that fifty was even worse. Given that his sister and brother put fifty pink flamingos on the lawn, maybe he was right.

I have never been quite that hung up about my age, although I did take note of my sixty-fifth alright. (Not enough note; I forgot to sign up at the pharmacy for my paid-for drugs. Big oops.) Or I thought I wasn't. The other day JG referred to himself and me as 'a pair of old fogeys' and I found myself taking offence. As a matter of fact, I snarled. JG put both his hands behind him and backed away slowly. Well, no. He did apologize, though.

I surprised myself a little, because, as I said, I am not usually sensitive about my age. I wear my hair in its natural white with brown bits here and there. (I stopped dying it when I was in Africa for some months and the sun turned the hair colour I used to a sort of dirty ochre. Yick!) I am glad to be reminded that I qualify for the seniors' discount when I forget to ask for it. I cheerfully buy and wear 'grandma' clothes. But somehow 'fogey' hit me hard.

I suspect each of us has a limit. A limit of age when we have to recognize that we are no longer young. A limit on labels, epithets, pejoratives. A limit on our tolerance for undeserved criticism, on how much condescension to allow before it turns to abuse, a line beyond which we will not be pushed. I've never been particularly body conscious or self conscious (with the exception of part of high school, perhaps, like most of us). But my husband can push my buttons, oh boy!

A 'fogey' (fogy) is defined, generally as an excessively old fashioned and conservative person, usually combined with 'old' and synonymous with 'dull'. I just looked it up in the OED, Webster and Wictionary. And I have no idea why that got to me. Except that in general, being told I am dull is something that gets to me, except from teenaged offspring (who are obviously going through a phase, hmm?). I recall being told once to keep my mouth shut when the daughters were home from university on a visit and let them talk because they wouldn't want to hear what I had to say. That's over twenty years ago but I still remember it and it still hurts.

I find it sort of funny that the YD is hitting a milestone I hit a quarter century ago and she thinks she is getting old. Nope. Forty is not old. I took up sailboarding and scuba diving when I was in my forties. I went back to school and competed with kids the age of my kids and did rather well. I started a new career. The fact is that I did all of those things because I had got fired from a job that I really wanted to keep. It took me a year to dig myself out of the hole that dismissal dropped me into, but I did crawl out and I have probably had more fun and grown a lot more than I would have if it had not happened.

I adore the YD, I really do. And I expect the second half of her life to be just as adventurous as the first. Happy Birthday tomorrow, love.


  1. Aw, the sweetness of that photo!
    Happy birthday to your daughter.

  2. Oh, that photo!

    Happy birthday, YD. 40 is the new 30!

  3. Beautiful picture.

    I'm in her club: November 2, 1967.

    It's a bit disconcerting and surprising to be turning 40.

    I don't know that I'm depressed about it, more just bewildered.

  4. what a lovely post to your girl, Mary. what a lovely reminder to her that - as bewildering as finding ourselves older always is - older does not mean the end of things.

    i think that it did mean that, in society, for so long, that we are still reeling from the opening of all those post-40 opportunities that trailblazers like you created. or maybe your own mum learned to scuba dive in her forties? but so many more retired to the porch, or became - by choice or lack of options, i don't know - fogeys, that our culture is pretty confused about what aging means.

    i do know that you're no fogey.

  5. You? Dull?

    I can't even imagine you being described that way.

    But I have always hated getting older, and I am only turning 30 this year. My mother will tell you that I have been this way my whole life.

    I know that YD has an excellent example in you of how to approach this milestone.

  6. Sage,well, there's nothing you can dern well do about it -- you get a year older, come what may.
    Bon, my mother went back to university and reinvented herself as a prof. Very cool. Rather daunting for her daughter.
    SM, it is bewildering. I look in a mirror and don't recognise myself, sometimes.
    But the smile stays. What else is there to do?
    Thanks, all.

  7. Happy birthday to your daughter! And, to you--after all you did all the work those forty years ago. So, congratulations to you, too, my dear.