Saturday, 14 June 2014

Old Plus One

Turning 65 was the impetus for starting CrowDayOne. In one of my first posts, I wrote, “Well, it’s official: I am an old woman.”  Now my age clock has gone around the circle again, and I am officially old plus one. What does old plus one look like? It depends on your perspective.

An article making the rounds on the internet lists characteristics that children attribute to grandparents. Grandparents, they say, tell stories about what they did when they were kids; it sounds like so much fun, the children wish they’d known their grannies sooner! How old is old, they’re asked. Well, not 100, because then you’d be dead. Maybe 65? Grannies are fat, but not too fat to tie your shoelaces (guilty on both counts.) Old ladies wear glasses (check) and take their teeth and gums out at night (nope!), and they wear funny underwear, too. Ha! Try telling that to the “old ladies” who visit the lingerie shop called Secret Drawers in downtown Courtenay to check out the lacey undies and push-up bras. “We have 60+ years of gravity to overcome,” they explain. I don’t speak from experience, you understand; that’s not my thong, uh, thing.

Apparently, sometimes society also has outdated ideas about what old looks like. A common complaint of seniors is being called “dearie” or “sweetie” which they consider belittling and demeaning (but when preceded by the word “resident,” it’s a term of endearment, in my opinion). Worse, sometimes old folks are ignored, as when a service worker addresses the older person’s younger companion instead of the older person herself. “What will she be having?” asks the waitress. What, we no longer exist to speak for ourselves? It’s not happening to me, yet, but I can see the handwriting on the wall (especially when I’m wearing my reading glasses.) Feeling belittled and demeaned is not good. Researchers found that those who had positive perceptions of aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer, a bigger increase than that associated with exercising or not smoking.

I don’t want to be someone’s belittled “dearie”. A friend recently suggested we'd better beware that we don't become cranky old cane-wielding biddies -- but is that all bad?
Maybe it’s a good thing to stand up for ourselves: “I’m not your sweetie, darling. Take that,” you could say, giving said service worker a sharp warning tap while blowing smoke in her face from the cigarillo clamped between your teeth. On second thought, acting like that would only feed the public’s stereotypical view of old people: cranky old biddies and grumpy old men, decked out in old folks’ underwear (bloomers and trap-door longjohns), waggling their false teeth in public, and being “impossible.” On third thought, that image makes me giggle -- maybe it's better to be cranky than compliant and docile.

So what does “old plus one” look like to me right now? It looks good – some days, anyways! Those are the days when I am dancing with my grandchildren, working in my studio or garden, enjoying long conversations with good friends, or
hanging out with the resident sweetie. And old plus one, after a sabbatical year, has given me a different perspective on life. I realize, silly me, that I am not totally utterly irreversibly responsible for everything and everyone’s happiness. As my daughter-in-law gently reminded me, “We can take care of ourselves, eh?” I am a little speck in the Creator’s eye, but, thank God, a very important one. My job is to be me, and let others be themselves. Why did it take me so long to get schmart?

And I think my truth detector is working better. Now when I feel cranky, I realize there’s something out of kilter in my life,  instead of thinking I’m the problem and I’ve got to change my feelings. If there’s something the matter that I can fix, I should do it. If not, I have to let it go. I admire an older woman who has served time on a local town council; she decided not to run again because she figures if she’s going to be shoveling manure all the time, she’d rather do it in her garden. Tell it like it is, sister!

The other side of the "old plus one" coin is that some days it's not so much fun. I’ve had to edit my bucket list because there’s just no time to do it all anymore. (But I still have a bucket list!) Sadly, I must admit that the RS is right: my hearing could use a little electronic enhancement. I don’t like my wrinkly skin and ever-sprouting chin hairs and the other physical indignities of aging which I won’t get into right now (I knew I should have been doing those Kegels more regularly). On the other hand, as they say, I’m still on the right side of the sod, and that sod is quite beautiful to my aging spectacled eyes. 

So raise a glass to old plus ??, and to all my sisters and brothers who are making up the grey brigade. Let’s dance to the end of the rainbow, eh?

Self Portrait at Age 66: No Spring Chicken, but I can Dance!


  1. Jessie! I love your piece. You are continually evolving as an artist. Great work!

  2. Your self portrait is a blast!!

  3. Love this one, Jessie! I am going over to Hornby tomorrow with a group of girlfriends....most of them I have known since grade two....and we are all turning 65 this year. Thanks for your inspiration all these past blogs. So enjoyable.