Cumberland Times-News

December 15, 2012

Another report from the frontier of aging

Maude McDaniel, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

—  It’s been awhile since my last report from the frontiers of aging, and I haven’t gotten any younger. So before I forget what they are, here are some more observations you will probably never see anywhere except here:

The older you get, the harder it is to look insouciant. We old fogeys have to keep working at it.

Of course, you also have to be pretty old to know what “insouciance” means. (For my young reader, it means nonchalant and devil-may-care.) You can look at anyone under 30 and realize that insouciance is their way of life, darn it. Actually, recently my estimate of the age of insouciance went up to 50, and within another month or two, I expect a 25-year increase. The truth is that almost anyone younger than I am now strikes me as insouciant, and I find it annoying.

Okay, how can I tell that someone is insouciant — and old folks aren’t much? It’s easy. Insouciant people walk around with their hands in their pockets. Hey, back when I was insouciant, I walked around with my hands in my pockets much of the time. But you don’t do that when you get old. Why? Because you’re afraid you might trip and fall, that’s why. You need to have your arms out there to help break the fall.

Check it out for yourself. Very few old folks that I know ever walk around with their eyes fixed straight ahead and their hands in their pockets. I stopped about 15 years ago, though very gradually, hanging on by my thumbs for the first few months.

Here’s another sign of old age that is not generally understood. If you want to yawn , you have to lean against something. Or at least hold on to a chair. Basically that’s because if you accidentally close both your eyes at the same time, you just might tip over. And I can’t think of anything more likely to make you lose your insouciance than to suddenly topple over, even when people are not around. Very hard on the dignity, or as much as you have left by now.

This can be especially inconvenient at church, where there are good reasons for closing both eyes ar the same time. I generally risk it if I have something in front of me to lean on — but I’m clueless if I’m pewless.

Other signs of old age include not being able to grasp the edge of your newspaper page to turn it. The recommended solution is to blow on the edges, but since I had the Bell’s Palsy, I blow crooked. So, when I want to turn a newspaper page, I have to lick my finger, Life is not fair.

Here’s another way to tell the old folks from the young folks — or at least old women from young women. (If that’s a problem for you. ) Old women are not afraid to wear colors. Actually, colors are the only things that keep us from looking as if we are dead already. So we go ahead and wear purple and burnt orange, while the young girls run around in various shades of khaki, charcoal and spit. That’s been going on for the last 20 years or so, but here’s good news: just last season, the teenagers began to look like they were warming up to brighter colors; camo, black, and vomit yellow. Still, it’s going to take awhile. Lots of them still look like their next job is cleaning the house.

Well, maybe not.

Most of the changes in my life for the last few years have been what you would call souciant, if there were such a word, although curiously, there is not. For example, I used to be able to throw a ball for the dog at least reasonably well, and in a direction away from us. The last time I tried, it landed right next to my foot.

On the other hand, there are advantages to getting older. Life gets so boring, when you’re old and can’t do anything much, that even little things delight. Last week on Tuesday night, I could hardly sleep for all the excitement. On Wednesday morning I was scheduled to finish my old tube of toothpaste and start a new one! The worst part of it was that it lived up to its promise!

I don’t envy the young folks everything that’s in store for them. Just the other day I caught myself thinking, “Thank heaven, I’m old! I don’t have to go through that any more,” (Applying for college; earning a living or helping someone earn a living, as it was in my day; choosing your life work, getting up with the babies two or three times a night. Among other things.)

When you get old you don’t have to save recipes any more or collect new ones. You’re ahead of the game if you can even remember what order a sandwich comes in — let’s see, bread on the outside, cold meat on the inside, right? Or is it ... ?

When you’re old, you can muster up entirely new attitudes about things — and people understand. It’s all because you’re old. For instance, lately I came across a new definition of “consciousness. “ I now like to think of it as “that annoying time between naps.”

There’s something to be said for “deep fogey” insouciance.

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.