The age of content

I recently tried to explain to my 8 year old why a lady might not want to reveal her age. I didn’t get very far before I got bogged down in extreme silliness.

“Um… she might not want people to think she’s getting older… not that it’s possible to hide it… but she might be embarrassed by how old she is.”

“But why?”

“Er… well she might… um… maybe she wants to… erm… it’s possible she… uh… Do you know, I’ve got absolutely no idea.”

I am about to turn 40. (Pfft! That was the sound of some of my air of mystery evaporating in a puff of smoke. Damn.) For some years now I’ve been having “I’m still not 40” parties, because the frenzy that surrounds the completely arbitrary presence of a zero at the end of one’s age in years has always seemed pretty funny to me. Many people thought I was denying my real age, so when I actually turn 40 it is probably going to be very puzzling for them.  (“What? You’re turning 40? But I thought you were denying turning 40 last year???” “well yes, that’s because I wasn’t turning 40 last year.” “But why deny it if it wasn’t true?”)

This is the time to remember
‘Cause it will not last forever
These are the days
To hold on to
‘Cause we won’t
Although we’ll want to
This is the time
But time is gonna change
You’ve given me the best of you
And now I need the rest of you

Billy Joel – This is the Time

I know that people can get very upset about the age thing, but in truth I feel a little bit vulcan in my complete inability to understand it. It seems to be another of those instances where I am not entirely in tune with the human race. It is said that you should always be a little bit foreign, to appear mysterious and attractive. This is, perhaps, the one thing I still have going for me in the air of mystery department. I am good at foreign. Pretty good at incomprehensible, too.

So… ageing. We do so love to deny it, hide from it, fight it and try with ever increasing desperation to avoid it. And yet it has upsides. You know what? I know stuff now. Oh, believe me, I have so much to learn that I can’t even begin to list it, but I know so much more than I did in my 20s. In particular I know how much I don’t know. I know about shades of grey. And I think the biggest gain has been in my emotional intelligence. Don’t get me wrong, the times when I forget to apply it are legion, but if I truly think about things, I can generally handle them in an emotionally sensible way. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back 10 years or so to when I couldn’t do that. These days when I start to drive myself right up the wall, I can eventually wrest the wheel away from myself and drive back down again. (I say emotionally intelligent, you say certifiable. Potay-to/Potah-to.)

Today I visited the computer history museum at Monash University’s Caulfield campus. I showed my students machines that looked like the museum relics they are, and said “I used one of those. Oh, and that one, too. And I worked with that guy – he was amazing.” And I didn’t feel old, although the expressions on their faces were pretty funny.

Sure, my body is getting a touch rebellious. I have more trouble with my knees than I used to, and I have to stretch after riding, or I pay for it. But in actual fact I’m probably fitter overall than I was 10 years ago, as well.

Maybe as I get older I will reach an age that I am embarrassed to admit to. Perhaps then I’ll be able to explain why age should be a burden and an embarrassment, rather than a swag of intellectual riches to look forward to. But I hope not.

5 thoughts on “The age of content

  1. Joe

    I think: The unwritten suppositions are:
    – we all want to be “attractive”, not only because we are social and competitive creatures in general but also especially as measured by the opposite sex (in as much as genetics that encourage you to care also encourage you to propagate those genetics)
    – somewhat directly “therefore” … “attractive” and “visible indications of fecundity” tend to converge
    – youth and fecundity are highly correlated for women… not just a threshold at menopause but from your early 30s your chances of successfully breeding start to decline, albeit slowly.
    – also, the aging process leads to reduced physical capacity and death. I suspect enough of us would like to tell ourselves it isn’t happening to make up a social impetus.

    But personally I’d rather make the most of the age I am than pretend to be an age I am not. (And I’d prefer my lady love did also … rather than worrying about whether she has grey hairs or skin that holds a crease when pressed, I’d prefer she spent that emotional effort maintaining her physical liveliness and her emotional well being.)

  2. Bec

    A really big part of the “big birthdays” is what you “should” have done by now! The stress is mostly because we may or may not be where society or our own expectations say we should be “by now”. I am sure the dated change from generation to generation because when we say 40 is the new 30, we are sort of saying, it’s ok you’re not really “too old” until 40 now.
    It’s really easy not to understand the stress when you miss the milestones! So many awkward conversations… and one of the reasons weddings can be so awful if you don’t have a partner to point at (“see i’m on track, there’s my squeeze”)! Below is my stab at these stupid milestones (and totally disagree that it should be so stressful, I mean in the end, if you are happy, who cares!!!):
    21 – should have lost virginity
    25 – should have had at least one relationship
    30 – should have a steady partner who is richer, taller than you and approximately your age
    35 – should have at least one kid, and a decent job
    40 – should have all the kids you are planning to have… too late now!
    50 – should have your career and finances totally sorted
    So it’s not just about feeling your “sexy” maybe slipping it’s a lot about are you happy with where you are and are you where you think you “should” be.
    What a crock! Party on sister.

    1. Joe

      I thought having “at least one kid” WAS a “decent job”

      (Wish I could have that job.)

      btw quote of the week:
      Mum: “So, what did you see at the aquarium today?”
      5yo daughter: “FISH!”
      22mo son: “PEOPLE!”

  3. Miranda

    Welcome to the ‘club’ (just became a member myself!). It is rather silly how some of us become so sensitive about our age. After all when we’re younger (such as your daughter) we’re absolutely hanging out for our birthday and all the fun, cake and presents it entails! What happens, I think, is that we can burden our birthday with all our unfilled desires, dreams, wishes… And then birthdays/ becoming older doesn’t seem so fun and we get cranky and picky and fixated on what we don’t have. I have to agree with your sentiment that you couldn’t pay me enough to go back in time… I’ve definately got myself some wisdom now! Viva embracing my age…

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