Ok, in between years I tend to be a little melancholic. It’s a fact. Yet another year over. What will the new year bring? What will it hold in stock? It struck me that today we do have way more possibilities than say our predecessors in Shakespeare’s day, or in classic times in Ancient Rome or Greece or as a child laborer growing up in Mumbai or a child being born in the slums of some metropolis even today. And yet, what do we make of our time?

Shakespeare’s monologue in “As you like it” presents us with the seven ages of man:

infancy

childhood

the lover

the soldier

the justice

old age

the pantaloon

To me, that does not feel quite right… Not just because I have turned 42 recently. 😉

I believe that especially in today’s world we have to revisit Shakespeare’s data since they don’t seem to match with what we’re faced with today.

Shakespeare spoke of 7-year-steps that would lead up to reaching the next level. Up until age 21 this might still be applicable but afterwards we are different today, aren’t we?

Some of us, at least. I don’t know if I am so happy with chosing particular years to really mark an incision, a deep cutting change in one’s life. It may be one or two years later sometimes, or earlier for that matter. Often, our life is marked by one particular event but that does not have to match the categories as shown in the chart above that is derived from Shakespeare.

The thought of categorizing certain age groups might help in some ways, but it does not really feel applicable to modern society.

Today, biographies tend to differ a lot. We learn, we study, we work, we study again, we choose a new career, we choose to live elsewhere. Marriages happen, sometimes, they fall apart after a couple of years. New marriages begin. In many ways, think of the age of women today. It changed so much in the past fifty years: the age when they get married, when they tend to fall pregnant and when people might still go out and have a career. Also think of the people who studied. If you told them, hey, at 56 you are past it, watch closely what happens… Or better run and hide. There are folks by far older than that and they are still in their mental prime and they will be at least another twenty years if you allow them stay alive, healthy and happy. 

Personally, age is one the topics I find highly interesting. It is something to me that identifies it as the last taboo in our post-modern society. Everybody is concerned with it, and funnily enough, nobody wants to talk about it. It seems to be one of those things that is very volatile in terms of how it is viewed in society. Yep. Age is a changeling in that way.

Just like death itself. There will be time for a different article of death avoidance in our society (something I wrote about as early as 1991).

I am not a gerontologist. I am just wondering how this spiral of searching for methods of attaining eternal youth might end. Especially when we are all getting older, and older, and older. Not just personally, but also our society. The age pyramid already seems to have turned upside down. Crises and wars, terrorist attacks and unemployment haven’t really helped to make things better. Having another baby? Only fools seem to say yes to that question.

Remember those days when age was viewed quite differently? It was not merely old bones and forgetfulness. It used to be a symbol of an achievement: of a full life, ripe, mature, full of grace, and wisdom? When old age used to be something people would look forward to? Today, they seem to rather fear it.

Remember how we were brought up to stand up in the bus or in the waiting room when an elderly person entered and there was no seat left. Today, try that and get the dirty looks of a seventy-year-old who is still trying to pass for 55 or something. It really seems to be not such a good thing to do anymore. I still consider it the right thing (well, if they are frail) but then, that’s just me. When I see someone frail, it is something I will always do.

But what other misconceptions are there about age?

I remember that when I was a child of six or seven, my almost grown up cousin from Greece who was 17 (ten or eleven years my senior), age was something to look forward to. He looked so strong, acted so wisely, and he seemed so mature to me. To his parents, he was just a teenager and someone to watch over his little cousin. Right, like I said, it is a matter of perspective basically.

I used to always be very fond of reaching another birthday and even one whole month before I could not sleep and would be preparing myself for the next step in the long path to adulthood.

As an adult, this wonderful inspiration and childish happiness is no longer there. Mind you, I still look forward to my birthday, but basically, my perspective has changed. Naturally, you will say. As you are getting older, you learn that life is not an endless journey but that it does have an end to it. And that somehow puts a crimp in our style. Simple as that.

Ok, being still young enough to enjoy birthdays means that old age is still far away. There! See? Even myself. I do it. And I should know better. I push old age far away from me because it is something that gives me the creeps. It is not something we – the modern men/women of today – would aspire. It rather seems to be something to steer clear of, something to be avoided. And why is that?

There are plenty of reasons why old age is good:

– you no longer need to form part of the workforce

– you have fond memories of your full life

– you are fully aware of who you are

– the hormones are no longer in the way, thus making you their slave

– your wisdom is at its height

Well, who am I kidding? The above was surely right some thirty years ago. But it is no longer the case. Things have changed. Things in our society. Things as they are now. It is so obvious. Old age is today associated with a lot of things – but as it happens these things are not really so inspirational. Old age spells loss and failure:

– the negation of youth

– not be able to demonstrate the image of vitality that is so sought after

– function failure like eyesight, hearing, virility etc.

– loss of beauty

– loss of vitality

And what’s more, some old people even need to keep on working since they cannot afford not to.

However, the basic point is this:

Today’s society is so extremely youth, beauty and performance-oriented, that being old age almost seems to be a failure in itself. It is something people by all means want to avoid.

You don’t like to read this. I don’t like to write it either, but the truth is – that’s what we are dealing with today.

Argue that it is otherwise? Take a good look at reality.

Ok, let’s name five singers (female or male) who are financially successful and over the age of say 40. (and I don’t mean rock dinosaurs like the Rolling Stones)

Ok, what about actors and actresses who get lead roles? Over 50.

The youth cult is so strong today that life in its normal way is practically is impossible. If you want to be successful that means you need to look young or at least make an effort and let people see that you’re trying… Which is sad…

And that is nothing new… Just watch out for my next article on W.B. Yeats. He was literally speaking age obsessed. Only, back then, in the beginning of the last century, Yeats was a weirdo. He was the odd one out. Today, he would fit in perfectly. And that to me is pretty sad.

Today, people, rich people or let’s say people who can afford to, are trying to turn back the clock. They are trying to buy their youth back. They trust some weird would be charlatans, con men who sell some weird herbs, some hormones, DHEA, some melatonin, and what not, just for the promise of ageing slower and not losing as much of their vitality as their peers.

To me, this no longer is a science-fiction scenario. I’ve seen enough people who celebrate this cult, and it is scary. It scares the shit out of me.

I am 42 now, so what am I? Old or middle-aged. I don’t know. I don’t even care. 

For marketing people, I will only be important another seven years, and past the age of 49 you no longer matter to advertising. For my kids, I am their mother. For my husband, I am his wife. For my parents, I will be their only girl child, and quite a black sheep for that matter. For my friends, I will be Chrys. So, where does age in these relations? I guess in no way. Because it is not important to your life. What is important is within you, and the people you associate with and what is left of your existence when you leave this planet.

So, I truly and honestly can say… I don’t get the whole business of avoiding age like it was some curse or ailment. I don’t get the Botox, I don’t get the nordic walking, I don’t get the hormones and I don’t get the DHEA.

But what I do know is that I don’t want to wind up some sad pathetic creature pumping themselves up with bodybuilding, with obscure medicine, with herbs and hormones and what not. I just want to live. And to be honest, I find some wrinkles around the eyes pretty sexy because they show that you can laugh. Affording to move your facial muscles…

Oh shit, I wanted to include this huge billboard poster I found at the Ibiza roundabout a couple of weeks ago. As a matter of fact, I did not take the picture since I thought this was too weird… And I did not feel like going through the trouble of erasing the phone number “do you botox? call… ” That was this huge billboard – one sentence and only with a mobile number and a website… ” To be honest I just could not believe it. It has been there for a while now. Since I also work in advertising I can tell you this much. Such a billboard in an exposed location is pretty damn expensive. I could not believe that the Botox industry is even strong enough on such a tiny island as Ibiza. Could you think of anything more absurd? Please… Hippy island Ibiza or Botox and meds island Ibiza? You choose.

To me, this whole age rant is amusing. Well, let’s face it. We all need to age. Some of us, age well, some others just aren’t as fortunate. However, the thought of old age should encourage everyone to preparing one’s mind and not as much the outer appearance, so one could be more peaceful and less restless in order to understand that everyone will be old one day, if they live to see the day.

What we do need to change are our prejudices and preconceptions. Age is not about losing your facilities, wearing diapers and needing walking sticks, and wheelchairs. It’s not. It is just the next logical step in what happens when man gets older. And for this, there is no remedy. Well, there is but that would be suicide.

I remember one thing someone said to me when I was 16, you’re an old soul. I kind of liked that. I still don’t entirely know if I buy this though. I just fall for different things than most people. I am different.

When I was 35, someone else in a context which I won’t repeat here told me, after he had been told my age, “Ah, 35, that’s a nice age.” I just looked at him did not know what he meant. Why? Because all present is wonderful. That’s why we are human. We need to find the little clues and make our life worthwhile. Come to think of it. Had I lied to him and had I said, 31, he would have said exactly the same. And what if I had made myself older than that, 37, he would have still said the same. So, what does it matter? Right. Nothing.

I would like to conclude this article with the fact, that any age is a beautiful age. It is just the moment that you’re in. It is the present of your life. Please make it worthwhile. No matter whether you’re 13 and you think your life stinks, and is worth shit because that boy won’t look at you and you need to clean up your messy room, if you’re 22 and you’ve just been dumped by your first love and feel like killing yourself, if you’re 26 and you get the sack from your boss. If you’re 33 and pregnant, 37 and starting a new life, or even biblical 42 like myself or older than that… It simply does not matter.

Life is yours. Grab it by the short ones and live it. 

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