by Jackie King
Being a woman of a certain age has its advantages, especially for a writer. Looking back on my life, each decade seems to be a series of stories filed in my head and ready to be played when needed. It’s convenient to think back to age ten or age 16 or age 33 and remember how I thought and felt and acted at that time. And of course, I use this history to form my characters and bring them to life.
The entire country is obsessed with staying young. This energy, in my opinion, could be put to better use. Improving and enjoying your situation whatever age you may be, being foremost.
“Old Age Ain’t No Place for Sissies,” said Bette Davis. Years ago, when I first read this quote, I laughed. Everyone does, I expect. I was much younger then and was very fond of older folks, but seldom considered that I might one day become one. (Here I smile and sigh.)
Recently, and all of a sudden, it occurred to me that I myself had grown old. Not overnight, of course, although it seems as if life passed very quickly. Advanced maturity creeps up on us. All of my life I’ve had friends of all ages and liked it that way, never giving thought to anyone’s age except in character developing.
After the initial shock of admitting the truth of this revelation, I decided that maybe it wasn’t so bad. Young men step up to open doors for me; I can get by with saying most anything, and can dress as eccentric as I wish. (Sometimes it’s convenient to wear your jammies to the grocery store.) Lots of perks for us old ladies. (Cats and old ladies do as they please. I hear.)
When we start falling apart it’s inconvenient to take time out for repairs. Years earlier, things started to deteriorate, and at the time I didn’t even notice. I just used this firsthand information in fleshing out people in my stories.
In my mid-forties my arms grew too short and I was forced to buy glasses. Not even Dorothy Parker’s words, “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses,” bothered me. Dorothy was just plain wrong. I had lots of friends who wore glasses and received plenty of passes. (This was in the days before everyone wore contract.
Bifocals were a pain and then a few years later my hearing started to go. I knew this because my snarky husband (now Ex) kept making an issue about it.
“Huh?” I’d say when he mumbled something at me. Then he would yell the sentence at the top of his lungs, probably damaging what hearing I had left.
So I had a stapedectomy which was supposed to improve my middle ear. The procedure didn’t work, so I had another, which worked for a while. But finally, when technology improved, I bought a hearing aid.
The wonderful thing is, for a writer, each experience, regardless of how painful or embarrassing or ridiculous it may be, can be used as grist for our writing mill.
In the next few posts, I’m going to talk of some of the degeneration that happens in aging, and how I may use each experience into a story.
I’d love to hear your opinion about the world’s fixation with staying young. Let me know if you’re comfortable with your age wherever you are in life’s journey.