Over the weekend I had a conversation with a friend.
“I want Botox for my birthday,” she said. “For the wrinkles on my forehead. I don’t like this getting older business.”
I thought about it for a minute, then shrugged and said, “I’m okay with getting older.”
A few weeks ago I was sitting in a nail salon getting a pedicure when I overheard a woman say to a younger girl, “Getting old sucks. Don’t do it.” As if aging were optional.
I look at celebrities who do things to their faces and bodies in a constant quest for that twenty one year old physique. I hear about things like the Kylie Jenner effect and I’m glad I’m not a celebrity.
Let me give you a slightly different perspective on getting older: I don’t fear aging. After breast cancer, I hope to age.
I’m thirty five and while my friends are all giving forty an uneasy side-eye, I look forward to my next birthday and I hope for many to come.
After breast cancer, instead of looking at magazine covers and wishing I could look younger, I look at senior women and think jealously, “You made it to that age. I want to make it there, too.”
I’m okay with needing stronger glasses and having gray hair and seeing those fine lines just starting to appear around my eyes.
Americans want to ‘stop the clock’ on aging, to live forever in an interminably young state.
Folks, that’s not how life works.
Trust that the aging clock will stop all on its own. It doesn’t need our help.
We know the end of the aging clock means the end of our lives, but we look at death in only the most academic sense. As if death, like cancer, is something that only happens to other people.
The thought of your own death is (at the very least) uncomfortable. Your mind skitters over it and when it becomes too much we push the thought into a back corner of our minds like a trunk full of nasty, rotten rags to be forgotten until some unknown future date.
Except some of us have to pull out that trunk and open it sooner than we expected. And after that trunk has been opened, we have to find a way to live through each day knowing its contents.
I’ve seen inside that trunk.
Am I afraid of dying? Without a doubt.
Am I afraid of getting older? No. Not even a little.
That’s not to say I won’t someday dye my hair again or put sunscreen on my face to prevent skin damage.
But am I going to sweat the ever deepening vertical line between my eyebrows or the stretch marks on my stomach?
Around this time every year there are a lot of speeches made to graduates about having an undue sense of entitlement. Those talks usually surround material possessions, but how about a speech to my generation (the parents of those children) regarding our undue sense of age entitlement?
We assume we’ll get to travel the world in retirement. We assume we’ll get to meet our grandchildren and maybe great-grandchildren. We assume we’ll live to the ripe old age of ninety because advances in medicine are helping us live longer lives.
And instead of being grateful for the time we’ve been given through God or medical science we bitch about the wrinkles we got along the way.
Is that not the very definition of entitlement?
Take it from someone who knows: Growing older isn’t a punishment. It’s a gift.
Please treat it accordingly.
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