Recently I did something I often try to avoid at all costs: math. I did the math and realized I’ll be 50 when my son turns 18. This revelation all at once scared me and intrigued me. What will 50 year old me be like? I can only imagine. Will I have achieved my career goals? My family goals? Travel dreams? Will I feel good? Will I be healthy? Will I be happy? These are the questions I should be asking but still the lingering fear of “getting old” always remains at the forefront.
Our social constructs only promote the excitement and anticipation of getting older until 21 years of age. After that, as I used to joke, “it’s all downhill.” And while maybe some of the physical traits of older adults might not be as desirable as the thick hair and beautiful skin of young adults, 50 is by no means the beginning of the end. In fact, I imagine it could be the age in which one can truly meet their highest and happiest point. And beyond 50, you can still live a long and enjoyable life.
When I was a kid, around 10 and 11, I’d celebrate my mom’s birthday by making her a poster board sign and putting it in the window reading her age, which for three years was 28. I did not do the math back then.
Lying about one’s age is a common practice on both ends of the spectrum. I am guilty of acquiring and using 5 fake ids as well as taking part regularly in a chalking process to doctor my own id. We’d lie so we could drink alcohol, something this country has made into a major rite of passage while other countries have downplayed it.
On the other end, people lie about their age because we’re afraid of getting old, because it’s seen as not desirable or honored in society.
Last summer, I visited the original Fountain of Youth in our nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine, FL. The common misconception is that drinking from this fountain will keep you young – a collective hope and dream of so many. But in actuality this Fountain, way back when, as explained to my husband and me by park guides, helped people to live longer, spewing clean water at a time when the water was often contaminated and making people sick.
There was an appreciation for longevity that isn’t forgotten in our time, not completely, but the focus on youth as desirable doesn’t give justice to the natural aging process and all that you learn and grow to be and accomplish as you get older.
I want my son to have a healthy perspective on aging, as healthy as possible. While I don’t want to shield him from the harsh realities that aging leads to, I want him to appreciate the journey that a long life offers. I want to celebrate each birthday, each year with him. I want him to appreciate and respect his elders. I don’t want him to be afraid.
So when he’s 10 and asks mommy’ s age, I will be honest. I will be 42 and proud.
Look at me, doing math again.