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Liddy Manson

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The Upside of Aging

Posted: 10/25/11 04:31 PM ET

By and large I hate aging. The wrinkles under the eyes, the graying hair, the increasingly saggy skin, the ache in the foot that I know will never really get better, being called "ma'am", looking in the rear view mirror of my car and seeing a middle aged woman rather than the person I think I am. Everyone knows the drill.

But a few weeks ago as I was walking down the street in New York on a wretchedly bad hair day, I started thinking differently. A nice looking man several years my junior came right over next to me and said, "What beautiful blue eyes! Want to come home with me, baby?" Twenty years ago, I would have spat in his face and lectured him on the evils of objectifying women, but on that day I grinned from ear to ear and thanked him heartily for the compliment. Heck, I nearly enveloped him in a big bear hug. Made my day.

And so I reflected on the other advantages that lie ahead. There is, of course, the brilliant scene in Fried Green Tomatoes where the Kathy Bates character loses her cool at some obnoxious, scantily clad girls in a WinnDixie parking lot because they call her a fat cow. She repeatedly bashes into their car with hers, smashing it to smithereens. When they ask what she's thinking she shouts over her shoulder, "I'm older and I have more insurance," and drives off. Amen, sister.

And then there's what I call the maternity bathing suit phenomenon -- the freedom that comes with being in a physical state where you no longer deem yourself in the running for any kind of superficial judgment. I adored wearing that big, baggy suit, wolfing down a burger and fries poolside while all the non-pregnant woman glanced over at me, salivating at my meal, but determined to keep their tummies pancake flat for the day. Eat your heart out, my friends; it's wonderful to be out of the competition.

I look forward ditching practical vehicles (read minivan) and re-inventing myself with a mini cooper or an electric car which carries just me, my husband, and the dog. In fact, I'll shed most of my worldly belongings -- no one will care what I'm wearing anymore -- and, like my mother's best friend's fantasy, I'll be able to fit everything I need for day-to-day life into a backpack, which I'll fill up from time to time and head off to exotic locations or to visit my dear friends whom I'm lucky to see once a year now.

I'll actually have time to read my mail and pay my bills on time. I'll file all of my papers neatly instead of scattering them around the house. I'll return all of my emails and phone calls, and I'll take a stroll to a café and enjoy a cup of coffee while the world zooms by, just because I can.
And I'll read. Endlessly. Everything from Anna Karenina to People magazine. I'll ask "young people" what they're reading and why. I'll read children's books to my grandchildren (or somebody else's) and re-learn all of those important lessons:

Angelina Ballerina: "sometimes things don't go our way, but that doesn't mean we just give up"
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse: "Today was a bad day. Tomorrow will be better."
Winnie the Pooh: "It's so much more friendly with two."

I'll rant and rave in the comments section of political blogs and I won't care if people think I'm a crazy old lady. (They'll be right.) I'll take in any rescue dog I can get my hands on (well, only the ones that are friendly to my grandchildren), and I'll serenade them nightly on the piano. I'll follow the path of my mother-in-law's dear friend, who arrives at a garage, restaurant, airport, etc., and says, "Now look; I'm old and I'm confused." She isn't, of course, but she always gets the red carpet treatment.

When I was growing up, I never understood why my grandparents were so much more patient with me than my parents were. Old people were supposed to be cranky and intolerant, right? My children feel the same way, and refuse to believe the stories we tell them about our parents being strict when we were little. I frequently ask my mother, "Who are you, and where were you when I was a kid?" And she smiles. She's in a different place:

"And by and by Christopher Robin came to an end of things, and he was silent, and he sat there, looking out over the world, just wishing it wouldn't stop."

 

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