Robin Yousef: Oh dear - it isn't easy getting old gracefully

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Sylvia* felt there was a little frisson - subtle sexual chemistry - with the young man at the bookshop. Okay, he was a good 20 years (well, perhaps we'd better make that 30 years) younger than her, but she still enjoyed harbouring little romantic fantasies. Then he massacred the moment completely. He said: "Thank you, dear."

It immediately made Sylvia feel all of her 63 years and much older.

This ageing process is such a bitch. In your mind you're still a rampant teenager, but your flesh expands, then folds and drops, pieces dry out and random people start addressing you as "dear".

"OMG, a woman about our age who was injured in a car accident was described as elderly on the news," my sister wailed down the phone line. "Are we there yet?" Well, I guess at 61 and 59, respectively, we're certainly getting there.

It's ironic how growing older changes our perspective on age. Growing up I remember how I just couldn't wait to be a teenager and loved to be taken for older than I was.

Then I loved the illicit excitement of going to the pub when I was 18 or 19, pretending to be 20 - the legal age for entry back then. In our teens, we thought it was super cool to be with "an older man" (then meaning an age difference of as little as two years) and now in our 60s have a secret admiration for the cougars among us who manage to nab a "toy boy".

And of course with Botox and trips on offer to Asia for bargain facelifts, all the rules of the game have changed so much. It's definitely not an even playing field any longer.

I met an American woman at a party with whom I felt an immediate rapport. But suddenly times and dates of her personal history just didn't seem to fit and she must have noticed I looked puzzled. I'd commented earlier how great she looked after the long flight from the East Coast of the US and just assumed she was at least the same vintage as me or maybe a decade younger.

"I must point out that I am well into my 80s," she said with a twinkling, wrinkle-free smile. She'd found plastic surgery more affordable down here and made regular trips for a "tighten-up" and recovery period.

Imagine a birthday party where the hostess can't blow out her candles as the face has been pulled too tight by surgery? While Botox can be a wonderful tool if used well, we've all seen the victims of injection overkill with seamless, expressionless faces.

But, life is so much easier for mature women today. Our mothers were trussed into corsets and often into a strict dress code - when they "went to town" most went (no matter the weather) with the discomfort of stockings, hats and gloves. Here in New Zealand, we don't have those social constraints now - we can still dress like a hippie of the 60s or a punk rocker of the 80s right into our retirement home days if we choose.

Sometimes it's difficult not to be wistful with all these beautiful young unlined faces, firm necks and taut bums around us. The aching bones, crepe-like necks and ever-forgetful minds are daunting, but this growing old business can also be very positive. Many of us finally have the freedom to live just the way we want to without the restrictions of employment and the joy of being indulgent grandparents or regular travellers.

I'm glad to have made it this far and really do want to enjoy the coming years. But, please call me Mate, call me Old Gal or Sheila, just don't call me dear.

*Name changed to protect her identity.

Robyn Yousef is an Auckland writer.

- NZ Herald

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