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Aging Gracefully? Stop it!

by Frank Kaiser
Aging gracefully is a myth. Perpetrated by cosmetic hucksters and megavitamin pushers, it falls into the same category of lies as no regrets, such as "I'm 80 now, and looking back, I have no regrets."

Indeed, what does aging gracefully mean?

Like military intelligence, airline cuisine, soft rock, California culture, and sanitary landfill, it's an oxymoron, born of wistful longing.

Don't you think that by the time you're 60 or so, it's time to kiss such vanity good-bye? One of the few perks of old age is not having to worry about what people think about you, your looks or your actions.

My motto: Screw 'em if they can't take a joke.

That attitude is one of the great gifts of geezerdom: Just be the person you are — without mirrors, pretext, or apology. For many seniors, now is the first time we can comfortably embrace ourselves since we turned 13 and discovered that we weren't OK the way we were. Back then, we tried on personas like tee shirts, discarding them at the first hint of other-directed criticism. If one personality or fad or fashion didn't fit, we'd try another.

Although few of our generation endured today's green hair, tattoos, and multiple skin piercings, we were no less silly in our quest to "fit in."

Then along came a spouse — or, for some of us, spouses — who further bent and compromised our personalities. Our jobs, too, demanded conformity to company ideals, often warping our souls into almost unrecognizable contortions.

What's amazing is that we could keep intact as much of ourselves as we did.

Now, suddenly senior, we can be who we really are. And damn the torpedoes.

Follow Your Bliss

Take my buddy, J.C. Spitznagel. He loves women. Always has. Just looking at an attractive lady — he still calls them dames — can make J.C.'s day. Unfortunately, his tendency to stare and gape drove his wives mad. He went through five of them. He changed jobs a lot, too. Companies frown on male employees staring openmouthed at attractive females. Especially on new-business calls. Oh, the guy tried to change, once even taking work as a waiter at a Chicago men's club where women weren't allowed.

The deprivation practically killed him.

J.C., now retired and a confirmed bachelor, is today a dirty old man of the First Order. I've noticed that beautiful young women love his attention. Remember George Burns after Gracie? That's J.C., finally being truly himself. Not bad work for an old coot. If there's a positive meaning to "aging gracefully," maybe he epitomizes it.

I do know what aging gracefully isn't.

It isn't all those women of a certain age — mine — who visit cosmetic surgeons in their relentless battle against their true selves. By 70, their skin is mummified, drawn so tight that the mouth struggles to keep position below the nose, fighting the ever-upward pull of neighboring skin, now in the hairline.

Suddenly Trivia: What's the average cost of a facelift and laser resurfacing? a) $5000, b) $7500, c) $10000

Luckily for mankind, most of us let go of such vanity years ago when it became too much trouble to look or be much different that we really are.

Which isn't that bad.

Let's face it, getting old is tough enough. Pretending we're something we're not makes aging even harder. By our age, hopefully we've found the wisdom to know who we truly are.

My suggestion: Be that person! Take advantage of this great perk of the aging and just be you. Learn to enjoy and appreciate your uniqueness, that which makes you you.

If it upsets others, what do they know? Chances are, you've been around longer than they have, you're wiser than they are, and you're far more comfortable in your own skin than they ever will be.

But if someone ever remarks that you're aging gracefully, stop it at once!

© 2001—Frank Kaiser

Suddenly Trivia Answer: b) $7500

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