On with the old and off, off, off with the new

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I’m 35.  Maybe it’s the humidity, or the grandmultiparidity, but boy, do I feel old.

When I was younger, I used to be able to lose weight by cutting out condiments.  No kidding:  skip butter or mayo for a week, and that was enough to dramatically improve my bathing suit shopping experience.  Now it takes the organization, effort, and emotional upheaval usually associated with a military operation in Bosnia just to achieve stasis on the scale.  How to actually lose weight (besides giving birth), I do not know.

When I was younger, two Tylenol and a quick stop in the confessional could easily neutralize whatever stupidity I’d indulged in the day before.*  But today, I’m finding that I pay more and more dearly even for morally neutral activities.  I get murderous sciatic pain if I commit the indiscretion of (irony alert!) crossing my legs.  Two cookies or a handful of M&M’s will give me a blinding sugar hangover in the morning.  And if I stay up too late, I will get caught up on sleep the next day, whether I’m behind the wheel or not.

On the other hand, most of getting older is a relief.  This is probably a function of how unnecessarily miserable I made myself as a child and young adult, but the fact is that life is just so much easier now.

The other night, for example,  my husband was out, so I figured I’d watch something that he would never choose on Netflix.  I went for the opposite of Bruce Willis:  some arty-looking animated short for adults.   It opened with some droning, atonal music, and then the lighting started to flicker and twitch.  A hunched woman in mismatched clothing slouched over to a toilet, where she proceeded to–well, it involved a snake, and although you couldn’t see her face, she seemed really, really sad.  So I says to myself, I says, “I don’t have time for this bullshit,” and I turned it off.

Seems obvious, right?  But fifteen years ago, I would have struggled against the good sense God gave me, and given this piece of junk the benefit of the doubt.  I would have striven to grasp what the artist was trying to convey, to rise above the conventions of my bourgeois upbringing** and pierce through to the tortured heart of this achingly arcane artistic experience.  And then I’d feel smug about it, too.  Sheesh.

More improvements that came with age:  In the last ten years or so, I’ve picked up a few social skills.  And I do mean “a few” — but even these are better than the none I used to possess.   I smile at people, for instance, rather than glowering.  They seem to like that!   When they ask how I am, I tell them (i.e., “Oh, I’m fine.”), and then–listen to this!–I ask them how they are (e.g., “How about you?”)!  Good, eh?  I also say things like, “That necklace is so pretty,” and “How is your mother?”  I have also found that that sophisticated maneuver that some people do of bringing food or wine to a party can be replicated in my own life; so, now, like, I bring food or wine to parties.

I have also gained the skill of asking stupid questions.  When I was younger, if I was uncertain about whether a steamroller were headed my way, I would sit there and be crushed to a pulp, rather than risk looking silly by asking someone.  Today, however, I am more or less impervious to feeling stupid.  I think I’ve just felt so stupid for so long that it doesn’t mean anything anymore.   If I’m not sure, I will ask the person at Home Depot, “Is this wire cutter for cutting wire?”  If I’m at the bank and have temporarily lost the ability to add two numbers together, I will just dump my papers and my little wadded up dollar bills on the counter and say, “Can you do this for me?”  And they will, because it’s their job.  I will call 911 because there is a big fat Canada goose in the road outside my house, and you know what?  I’ll tell the dispatcher my real name, because that thing was going to cause an accident.  Or maybe it wasn’t.  Who cares?

Other benefits of making it this far:

If something (say, Christmas) goes wrong one year, I have noticed that there’s always next year.

I can now stop biting my nails whenever I want.

I mostly know what to do in bed.  (This one is somewhat related to the one about not being afraid to ask stupid questions.)

On the other hand, I have learned not to ask questions if I really don’t want to know the answer.

I have learned –well, I’m still learning– that it’s okay to be misunderstood sometimes.  (Thank  you, mother internet, for teaching me this difficult lesson.)  There are times when people are going to think what they want to think, and you can kill yourself trying to show them your point of view . . . or you can just skip it.  The latter is much easier on you and on your family.  And on your nails.

These are the kinds of things that more than make up for realizing that I’m well on my way down that road to The End, and that the days when I feel droopy, achy, and encumbered are probably not going to go away.  I know, I know, I’m only 35.  You’re probably laughing at me for acting like I’m ancient.  But seriously.  I can’t even cross my legs anymore? That is old.

Still waiting for that precipitous drop-off in fertility, though.  In my family, 48 is the new 35–so maybe I still have more to learn.

But how about you?  Whatever age you’re at, what’s your favorite part about getting older?

*Dear protestants:  this is a joke.  I don’t know any Catholics who actually believe that it’s fine to sin, because you can just go to confession and X it out.  Also, if you have any questions about why we confess to a priest instead of straight to God, I can answer them, I guess; but I warn you, we Catholics read the Bible, too, and can play  Gospel Quote Gotcha® with the best of you.

**which I didn’t actually experience.

  • Renee

    My only question is: Do you dare to eat a peach?

    And my only answer is (to your question, that is), I too like not feeling like I have to finish rubbishy books and films because life is too darn short and sleep is much harder to come by these days.

  • http://www.the-mother-load.blogspot.com Aimee

    Love this, mostly because I feel exactly the same way :). We are almost the same age, and my Embarrassment Threshhold**, which used to be insanely high, has been dramatically lowered ever since the first baby came along. Kids will do that to a person.

    ** My ET for asking stupid questions was at one time so high that I refused to call any business on the phone and ask them what their hours were. As if I should just have some sort of clairvoyant skill regarding hours of operations for the local pizza place. Sheesh.

  • Sarah

    I think i’m still too stupid to even realise my actual age and what it might mean (does it mean much?), but the “ageing” experiences of marriage and childbearing have certainly growed me up.

    Natural and unstoppable bodily functions trump discretion and embarrassment. babies certainly know this, why do we forget it?

    vainglorious pride is not better than learning to graciously accept help from anyone who offers it. and also, people readily assist very pregnant women wen asked. who woulda thunk it?

    it’s ok to let people do their job– like banktellers can add better than i can, and really, the restaurant table is not my kitchen and i don’t have to try and wash the dishes with a moist towelette.

    as we become less pretentious and egotistical, we make the world a better place. thank you, severe pregnancy flatulence.

  • Devra

    Boy, that was a good one! I also have a lot more fun now that my ability to feel embarrassed has just about disappeared. Actually, it hasn’t so much disappeared as been transferred to the psyche of my 12-year-old daughter. Not only is she as easily embarrassed as the next 12-year-old girl, which is quite a lot, but she has more to be embarrassed about, having a mother who’s immune.

  • Pam

    My favorite part about growing older is the heart-bendingly sweet and funny things the kids say. Like last week, little Petey said- wait. Maybe it was Gracie. Well anyway, whoever it was, we were all snuggled up in bed and… now that I think about it, maybe we were at the bank drive-thru. Anyway, it was so sweet, he , uh, SHE goes, “Mommy..” Well I forget what he, um, SHE, anyway I can’t remember what was said, but it’s moments like these that make it all worthwhile.

    I think.

    Pam

  • http://stmonicasbridge.wordpress.com Kristen

    I’m almost 31 and my knees and hips are giving out. My knees as a result of me just not caring enough to take care of them. My hips as a result of child-bearing and birth.

    My patience for the sweetness of children remains unchanged and high. My patience for petty adult BS, is at an all time low. How un-Christian I know, but frankly, any adult who chooses to create the drama of 12-year-olds don’t deserve my patience.

    And no, no Catholics I have known in my 31 years of being Catholic use Confession as a get out of jail free card. Except Madonna. And she’s not Catholic anymore, so that makes sense.

  • justine

    Where’s the “like” option? Oh, I’ll never get used to this newfangled WordPress.

  • http://bronzedshoe.wordpress.com Laura

    Your blog has quickly become one of my favorites. Thank you for writing!

  • http://mydailyround.blogspot.com/ Barb@My Daily Round

    I can’t cross my legs for long anymore and I’m much older than you, much older – like 42. I also can’t sit cross-legged on the floor. So much for the daily stretching I do.

    However, since I’ve turned 40, and I wish my younger self had known this, I’ve learned that I don’t have to be right all the time.

    I’ve also gotten more comfortable talking to people. I never talked to people before, but now, I have no problem chatting with strangers. My oldest isn’t keen about it, but the other ones don’t know the old me, and they think it’s fine for the most part.

  • http://www.againstallheresies.blogspot.com Mary

    I turned 44 yesterday and every year gets better. (I didn’t say *I* get better ;). But you put things into perspective. You don’t mind being bourgeousis and actually embrace it. I’ve already made such a fool of myself in so many ways, there is no longer anything to worry about on that score. My youngest is also turning 5 this Fall and there is nothing like a few years off from bearing, nursing and raising babies to make you feel young again.

    You’ll be surprised.

  • http://sweetfamilytimes.blogspot.com Lisa Sweet

    So true, so true.

    I like to think that the trade off for losing the wrinkle-free skin and taut abdominal muscles is wisdom–actually, wisdom laced with confidence and ‘savoir faire’.

    I am definitely much more comfortable in my old, saggy wrinkly skin, than I ever was before. Not much can embarrass me or intimidate me these days. It’s actually quite empowering (a word I don’t care for, but it fits).

    I’ll be celebrating my 45th birthday this weekend. Am I seriously 10 years older than you?????

    It’s OK, honestly, it doesn’t make me feel old….

    I think I have to sit down…..

  • http://annafirtree.livejournal.com Anna

    I just had my 30th birthday a couple weeks ago. Sometime leading up to that, I realized how much better my life is now than it was when I was, say, 15 or 25.

    - When someone suggests scheduling something at a particular time that is inconvenient – but not impossible – for me, I am now capable of asking for a different time instead of trying to force myself into whatever contortions would be necessary to make it.

    - That asking stupid questions thing? I probably still have room for improvement there, but I am much better at asking them now than I used to be.

    – When someone asks me a question – like if a doctor asks if I have any questions – I have learned that it is not inexcusably rude to take a moment to think through what I want to say instead of spouting off whatever gibberish first comes to mind.

    :)

  • Anne

    i think you are hilarious. can i be you when i grow up? :)

    i just turned 26 but don’t hate me cuz i’m beautiful ;) I’ve got a 3 year old and a 6 month old, so I think I’m on the front end of a lot of stuff at the moment. Though mentally most days I think of myself as 22, and operate on a college-type sleep schedule…but I’m trying to change all that. Really. When do you stop looking at your kids and wonder, “WOW. When did all these adorable people get here? When are your parents coming to pick you up……OOH. That would be me.”

    Afraid of looking stupid? What’s that? Instead of giving an actual speech at my sister’s wedding a few weeks ago, I sang “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astly to her and her groom. And I was totally sober.

    For real though I think as I’ve gotten older, and had kids, I’ve matured in the sense that I don’t get bent out of shape when people decide to do stuff that I don’t or wouldn’t do. I am starting to have the ability to shrug and move on.

  • http://www.jess-inthegarden.blogspot.com Jess G.

    This post really resonated with me, I’m about to turn 32 in a few weeks.

    I think one thing that I appreciate now that I am “older” is that I don’t care so much about what anyone else thinks about me. I can afford what I can afford, I can only do what I can fit in around my kids, and harsh judgments from others don’t sting as much as they used to especially if they are unwarranted or uninformed.

    (I found you via Conversion Diary)

  • http://suburbancorrespondent.blogspot.com/ suburbancorrespondent

    I dropped the weight right off after every baby until #6 (at age 42). I had to go to Weight Watchers to lose it after that. They were very helpful; and you get to eat more food while you’re nursing!

  • http://www.conversiondiary.com/ Jennifer (Conversion Diary)

    “I have also found that that sophisticated maneuver that some people do of bringing food or wine to a party can be replicated in my own life.”

    You’ve just shattered my worldview. Is that true?? I thought that the universal rule of etiquette was “you bring wine to Jennifer Fulwiler’s parties” / “give Jennifer spontaneous gifts when she has a new baby” / “send thank-you notes when Jennifer gives you something.” Surely people wouldn’t like it if I did the same?

    There is so much goodness in this post I don’t know where to begin to comment on it, and I’m being irresponsible by staying up too late and reading blogs, so I’ll just say: GREAT post.

  • Denise

    Amen. To everything in your post, and the comments above. I’m 42 and can so totally relate, particularly to the marked increase in social skills since my twenties. (“What? Look at people when they talk to you? Seriously?”)

    One nice trade-off is being more confident about myself while less judgemental than in my past. What do I really know about that person, anyway? Or me; it’s OK to screw up sometimes, honest. Even more advanced development has been occurring since my oldest was diagnosed on the autism spectrum; now I have a much deeper well of compassion, too. As well as an even greater tolerance of embarrassing situations, which I had thought parenthood in general had bolstered pretty high to begin with!

    Great post – I just love your style and humor. I’m glad you decided to go back to blogging.

  • http://sortacrunchy.typepad.com Megan@SortaCrunchy

    I love this post SO MUCH.

    “Today, however, I am more or less impervious to feeling stupid. I think I’ve just felt so stupid for so long that it doesn’t mean anything anymore.” Exactly.

    I just rolled over the big 3-3, and I am genuinely loving getting older. Mostly, I’m enjoying the relaxing of expectation where appearances are concerned. There is a calm that comes with being comfortable in your skin and I don’t think I could have truly appreciated it until now.

    Also – Gospel Quote Gotcha . . . love it! I was born and raised Southern Baptist so I can go a few rounds in that old game. Part of getting older for me is being too tired to play anymore.

  • Claire

    “dear Protestants…” I LoVED that. As a lapsed-Protestant-now-Catholic 31 year old whose 31 year old childless friends are oh-so-pretty-and-not-stressed-out-looking, this post is a particular favorite.

  • Laura

    I love you. I’m almost 31 and have a measly four kids. I can relete to all of this.

    You left of the bladder that suddenly stops funcationing, though.Ahem. Hel-lo depends!

  • Annette

    I am 47 and loving it- although it is very very hard to lose weight after pregnancy. I think I have finally recovered from having my now two year old.

    The best part of being older is the marvelous wealth of memories at your disposal. I love seeing how things have changed. I love that odd little catch phrases like “10-4 good buddy” “sock it to me” “béisbol been berry berry good to me” or “you bet your sweet bippy” can be summoned up at any time.

  • gb

    I have you all beat bc I’m 60 and, if I’d known how much I’d enjoy this age, I wouldn’t have dreaded it so much. What, you might ask, can there possibly be to ‘enjoy’ about being old?

    #1. My spouse of 40 yrs & I have finally realized that its useless to argue about who took the trash out last, who comes from the craziest fam or what we were doing when we met etc. That realization frees up alot of time to just enjoy each other, trust me.

    #2. Younger people take pity on me & try to help me…like the guy who installed our flatscreen TV/internet/blueray/whatever. He obviously understood he was speaking with someone who’d grown up only with pencil, paper & a chalkboard so the programming instruction I rec’d was so excellent, I was able to instruct my children!

    #3. The Church & all her teachings & the intimacy of Communion etc are more beautiful & meaningful to us every yr that goes (flying) by.

    #4. My spouse & I pray together everyday now. (see #1)

    #5. My grandchildren are daily proof that God always saves the best wine for last.

    #6. #5 fills me with anticipation for how much I have to look forward to!

  • Rosemary A.

    At 62 (and not holding), I SO appreciated this post. Toddler antics which would have sent me into a shrieking frenzy at 21 only make me chuckle now. My waist has expanded, but that just means my lap has room for one more grandchild. I have one bad knee, but the other one still works, and the mistakes of others often remind me that we are all frail humans in need of grace. It’s easier to forget the offenses of others. It’s easy to forget, period! :) The best thing for me about getting older? After coming into the Church in 2004, I have had many new adventures. I’m sure there are more of them ahead in this life — and in the next.

  • Margaret

    My niece just tuned me into your blog. It’s eerie. You write just like me. So, of course, I think you’re awesome. Keep it up.

    And if you think it’s great at 35 wait until you hit 40. You realize what people say about you is none of your business and generally doesn’t amount to a fart on a high wind.

    Looking forward to reading more.


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