Some years ago, one of my friends asked my dad how it felt to be 90. I smiled when he said, “I wouldn’t know. I don’t feel 90.” Today as I approach a ridiculous, impossible-to-believe milestone, I understand exactly what he meant. Since often I don’t know what I think until I write it down, I am writing this a few months before my birthday to desensitize myself…to cushion the shock…and more importantly to reassure all of you that turning 70 won’t morph you into an inflexible, narrow minded old biddy with a face like the map of Texas.
Natalie Portman once said she felt “there was a thing about people who were young in the 60s that made them cooler than anyone else who came after. They were irreverent and would make bawdy jokes, have a laugh, have a smoke, have a drink, eat delicious food, tell the best stories.” I agree with her. I’m proud to be one of those cool baby boomers. It’s been fifty years since Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band and The Graduate and The Rolling Stones Let’s Spend the Night Together and Bonnie and Clyde and while I had nothing to do with their creation, I share credit for what the kids my age added….and are still adding… to our culture.
Yes there’s the memory thing and the upper arm thing and the neck thing…and I don’t know who the musical guest on SNL is…and I still say I’m going to tape a show to watch later…but until I got here, blessedly healthy, I was unaware there were any perks involved. I’ll happily trade decades of insecurity for the knowledge that after falling down thousands of times through the years, I am resilient enough, when it inevitably happens next, to get myself up again. I will gladly turn in my stilettos for the liberating comfort of predictability. With wisdom comes a clear sighted realization that I will (try hard to) no longer add to the hundreds of hours I empowered that damn mirror/scale to dictate my mood.
I’ve always believed in the theory of “more so,” that whoever you are at 40, you are a more concentrated version of at 80. It’s a mind blowing kind of a secret fact that our body changes but we don’t. My friends are as open-minded, creative, irreverent and playful as we were in our twenties. As what we look like becomes a bit less center stage, who we are, undiluted, wise and appreciative, can come up big. Facing down this consequential decade birthday, I’m still teaching and spinning and writing and putting three more things on my daily to-do list than I can cross off…but I pay much more attention to the “extraordinary in the ordinary,” the small lovely moments whose sweetness went unnoticed till now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Pollyanna about growing older. Denial is my defense mechanism of choice and I employ it whenever melancholy strikes and I think of some invisible all powerful count down clock. Does time flying have the same sunny ring to it it once did, nah. But I feel 70 about as much as my father felt 90 so it’s easy not to dwell. I’m taking note of the growing number of “superagers,” those who remain mentally nimble, swimming and playing bridge well into their 90s.
In a recent article The Times suggested to attain that status we have to push ourselves to work hard, mentally and physically, till it hurts. Vigorously and strenuously and intensely, like a Marine. Glenn Close is starring on Broadway…Elton John is still belting it out…and Hillary, well you know what she should be doing…all share a birthday with me this year.
What’s normal bends. Mohammed Ali said, “I am America. Get used to me.” I’d like to amend that, to inspire you and me both, to say, “We are 70. Get used to us.”