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.”
“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.