They say sixty is the new forty. Who are they? I mumble as I hoist gravity-prone mammary glands into a utility holster. They say that orange is the new black. Who are they? I ask as I pull latex stretch pants over my ample thighs.
‘THEY’ is the collective voice of a population that is heavily weighted down by baby boomers. Never has there been a time before when so many people are stepping over the threshold into retirement. This group is now market focus for manufacturers and retailers, a fact that may explain the number of commercials for Viagara and Depends.
Being fit, healthy and invested in life is a relatively new concept for the sixty plus generation. Until this post-war crowd began to age, it was widely accepted that time ran out when a person hit retirement age. At best, it was time to repent for a lifetime of over-indulgence and suffer the consequences with monthly admonishments from the family physician—who, by the way, is younger than my grandchild.
Of course, the alternative is to curl up and die. And that, in fact, is what previous generations did; take on a role based on an image in the mirror. Somewhere in our genetic make-up, this directive to make room for youth was cranked up to ear-splitting volume. Find your own space, kids. I’m not done yet!
The advantage of old age is that after a lifetime of doing what we thought we were supposed to do, we now have a chance to decide what we want. But we must always remember; no decision is also a decision. In the land of clichés, we reap what we sow.
Regrets don’t partner well with second chances. I’ll never be a ballerina—a given fact. But as for being a centre-fold in Playboy, that option may still exist, given changing tastes. The wait-and-see choice doesn’t have a lot of appeal, given the time option. Passive longings belong in a medicine chest, not on my daily agenda.
Betty White has become an icon, entirely in her old age. Had she decided that Hollywood belonged to nubile starlets, she might be what’s-her-name from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. But she’s not a poster girl for the geriatric crowd, she’s an envied woman who did what she loved all her life, and it shows.
Most of us were not so lucky. We fell into professions, married the safe guy instead of the right one, and settled, counting our blessings, and occasionally pacifying that niggling feeling of reproach from our conscience by telling ourselves it could have been worse. And now we are left with this expanse of time, a blank canvas, and a zillion choices beyond the life we are currently living.
I choose to write. What are you doing with your time?
Fred Waiss is a former high school teacher and coach who writes poetry, articles, short stories, novellas, and novels as the muse attacks; as an author he considers himself a work in progress.