Excerpt: 'Tales of Graceful Aging from the Planet Denial'
If 60 is the new 40 when will I be 30?
The sixties are your most creative years
I'm with the girlfriends. I am all abuzz with my news. I say, "The sixties are the most creative time in our lives. Women get a second wind in their sixties, they conquer new worlds, make change happen, reinvent themselves, make a contribution."
"Uh-huh," says Audrey. "Who told you that?" "It's everywhere," I say. "The sixties are the new forties. You can't pick up a magazine, a Sunday supplement, a book, without being told that this is your time. Now! Don't lie around like a slug. Make it happen."
"Well," says Audrey, struggling to get up from the couch, "I guess we better start. As I recall we are all in our mid–sixties and if we don't get busy, we will have missed the moment and will suddenly find ourselves in our seventies with nothing to show for it."
"I have some suggestions," I say shyly.
"Well, of course you do. It's too much to expect that in your sixties you would suddenly notice the need for silence and for contemplation, for being by yourself and leaving others alone to think their own thoughts," says Audrey.
"Please," I snarl. "I've spent too much time in silent meditation. I say it's time for action."
"That silent meditation," asks Audrey, "was that, like, for five minutes sometime in 1976, during the Carter administration?"
"Okay. I'm for making waves," says Bitsy. "Let's march for peace, for getting out of Iraq... for an immigration plan that is compassionate, for health insurance, just like the French."
"Oh, you mean, protesting for stuff like rescuing our democracy," I say wistfully. "Civil liberties, all that ACLU stuff... Or fighting for education or public television, making the word feminism okay to say out loud again. And the environment and global warming and cars that guzzle gas?"
"Yes," says Audrey. "I could get behind any one of those things."
"Well forget it," I say. "That's not really the kind of thing I had in mind. Let those in their thirties take up the mantle of the big action, crowds of thousands, marching in the snow. I will chug Baileys and hot chocolate while I watch them on TV. I will criticize their signs, their organization, their choice of celebrities, all from in front of the fire, while I crochet baby clothes for imaginary grandchildren. That was not really what I had in mind when I suggested that we contribute. I was thinking of becoming litigious... in a small way. Or of making a nuisance of ourselves in the cause of helping others by pointing out their shortcomings. Now is the time to go to Trader Joe's and say, 'You have fabulous food on the whole, your prices are fair, but your sushi is dry and unappetizing and your cooked chicken and turkey, both bland disasters.' This is the time to bring a class action suit against the airports where men can get a shoe shine and women can't have a manicure or a little touch–up on their roots to save their lives."
"Wow," says Audrey. "You sure you can fit that into your tight schedule?"
"Yes," I say, ignoring the sarcasm. "I am sixty-seven, I have the time, and I have the energy. I can even interfere in friends' lives in a more consistently persistent way than I ever have before. I can stand, firm, combative, yet loving, and say: 'Audrey, get rid of that ugly couch before the termites carry it off and there are other colors besides white to paint a room.' " I look around. "Sally!" Sally has been looking out the window while I've been helping Audrey.
"Sally," I say, taking her face in my hands. "No more instant coffee. I can't take drinking brown water anymore. I will not stand for it. I want you to go out and buy an espresso machine, something that runs about three thousand dollars. It'll be worth it. You've got a few good years on your car yet, you don't need to buy a new Mini Cooper in ivory and black."
They are both in tears. I've done my work, time to watch my TiVoed Grey's Anatomy. Yes, I have TiVo and a satellite dish and I am certainly eyeing those phone/online/e-mail doohickeys to carry with me all the time, in case someone asks, "Do you know when the train for Lake Forest stops here and when it arrives in Lake Forest?" And I can quickly look it up on my BlackBerry-like thing.
The next day Sally calls with a question. "What happens when we are like ninety and no longer in our 'creative years'... ?" she whispers. "What happens when we are truly old?" I haven't the heart to tell her about assisted-living facilities. I tell her we will arrange to have her eaten by tigers.
Okay, what about assisted living, which are by all accounts dreary places filled with old people moving slowly about with walkers, looking for their next craft project?
I am sure that by the time I'm ready for assisted living, we will have a more enlightened attitude toward dying and Craigslist will offer heroin for barter or sale. A pal of mine said his mother lived with him the last year of her life and preferred Tylenol 3 to all else. He said, "Ma, you're blasted." She reminded him she was ninety.
Really, I should plan ahead; cultivate high school students, the ones with knowing looks, the scary-looking kids. Give them my business card; tell them to have their cells on all the time. I'll be in touch very soon with a business proposition.
Excerpted from Tales of Graceful Aging from the Planet Denial by Nicole Hollander Copyright © 2007 by Nicole Hollander. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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