Fifty. It seems old and grouchy like old Miss Kerchdoffer, who used to scream "SILENCE!" at us as we played kick-the-can in the early evening hours.
Fifty always seemed to me to describe someone who remembers the Depression and ice trucks and "The Romance of Helen Trent." It sounds old to me, and I've been thinking a lot about how 50 happened to one so young as myself.
I began life at an extremely early age and threw my whole being into getting older.
Old Enough to Drink
When I was 18, a friend of some photographic skills worked magic on my driver's license, changing the 1935 date of birth to 1932, thus allowing me the dubious privileges of purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
When I honestly reached the age of 21 and became a voter, I recognized that I had all of the official advantages age could offer (this was before the era of senior citizen discounts) and I actively stopped trying to get older. What I didn't count on was the passive aging process, and I didn't count on being old.
In my early 20s I developed a streak of gray hair. It was isolated in front and distinguished looking and my hair dressers (later to become stylists) admired it greatly. I did not connect it with any gradual disintegration of body or mind.
Time passed. In my 30s I reproduced for the third time, marched for peace, drove a VW Bug and was still young.
In my 40s, though, I began to notice that my face didn't fit my self-image as well as it once had. I made superficial plans to grow old gracefully.
Insight With Age
I've never thought of my adult self as particularly age-conscious or vain (which in itself is a vanity). I've delighted in the humor and insight of my aged aunts, happily anticipating a time when my life might be more like theirs: settled in at home, doing jigsaw puzzles, regaling a steady stream of visitors with stories from times past and astounding them with gems of homespun wisdom.
But alas, and oh dear (phrases that I think are more appropriate to my chronological age than the words nearer the tip of my tongue), upon scratching the surface I find that my definition of gracefully, as in how I'll grow old, encompasses such breaks with reality as "without change" and "unnoticeably."
I'm afraid I may soon throw myself into not growing older with the same intensity I once threw myself into aging, with much less success than I achieved in my earlier endeavors. Here are some signs that do not bode well for "graceful:" After an honest assessment with the help of a recently purchased, lighted, magnifying mirror, I spent two days with my face packed in ice, lying on a slant board, in the hope that I would arise wrinkle-free. Not only did it not work, the activity was deemed unworthy of sick leave reimbursement. On another occasion I became panic stricken when I saw that I was out of Vitamin E sustained-release capsules and the health food store was closed for the night.
In spite of my defeats in aging gracefully, I am pleased that The Los Angeles Times recently proclaimed me and my contemporaries to be part of the Pepsi generation. It seems we are part of a trend, behaving more youthfully than preceding oldsters. We are getting our pictures on magazine covers and some of us still have an aura of glamour about us. We are more and more being targeted by advertising as the market to reach. We spend money, thus meriting our own travel services and custom-designed cosmetics.
Vital to Economy
I'm not certain I want to be bombarded by advertising campaigns intent on reaching my pocketbook, but I do like the idea of being recognized as a vital part of the nation's economy.
Our generation has been on the wrong side of trends long enough. We grew up during a time when children should be seen and not heard and raised our families in the Dr. Spock era. Having been sat upon by our parents, we were then walked all over by our children.
We were raised to secure the future and are now being criticized for not living in the moment. We women were raised to vigilantly guard our virginity, then expected to shift modes and achieve multiple orgasms.
Our men were raised to be strong and tough, then found to be embarrassingly deficient in the realms of sensitivity and personal communication.
So, yes, I love the idea of being a member of the Pepsi generation. It is time for us to be on the plus side of a trend.
Maybe all of my efforts, to age and not to age, have finally balanced out, and I have become the right age at the right time.