Growing old disgracefully

2010-08-27 00:00

“DO you realise,” I said to a friend of long-standing the other day, “that the hours we once spent talking about men, we now spend talking about food?”

“Mmm,” she said as she scanned the recipes in the latest foodie glossy.

“And that those boys we previously would have referred to as ‘hunks’, we now dub ‘nice young men?’”

“Would you rather be 20 again?” she asked.

“Hell, no,” I said, reaching for the wine. “This is a far, far better thing we do.”

Of course, there are women who, on entering their seventh decade, suddenly embark on a frenzied round of really scary activities. Bungee jumping, climbing the Great Wall of China, backpacking through Colombia, scuba diving off the Great Barrier Reef … the list of their activities is both exhaustive and gruelling. Just thinking about it makes me tired. Clearly, though, I am in the minority, for magazines are full of articles about enthusiastic grandmothers (it’s always a grandmother, I don’t know where the grandfathers are, nobody ever says) who are, in the words of one “finding time at last for Me”. Someone should tell her that your eyeballs can pop out while you’re bungee jumping and that Colombia is awash with drug bandits. But then, what’s a drug lord or three to such an adventurous spirit?

Then there are those others who stay at home, only to embark on an extensive personal reconstruction programme. Laser peels, liposuction, face lifts, boob jobs — once again, the list is comprehensive, frightening and very, very expensive. A friend once itemised the costs and described for me the pain and suffering involved in a face lift. Her words left me pale and silent for a week. I’ve been in denial over the actual details ever since, but I know this much — nobody is coming anywhere near my face with any kind of an instrument that could, however tenuously, be described as surgical.

I’m a coward, I wouldn’t reconstruct even if it worked. But it doesn’t. No matter what you slice, cut, inject or pleat, no one is ever going to believe that you’re 28 again. Or even 35, for that matter. Tip the lad guarding your car and the truth will out. “Siyabonga gogo,” he will say politely. You can botox to your hairline, baby, you’ll never fool the unerring eye of a young Zulu male.

Getting old means squeaky knees and stiff backs and taking three weeks to get over the ‘flu instead of five days. It means not knowing who Justin Timberlake is and wondering whether I’ll have to learn how to use e-book­s soon. It means muttering “oh, do get on with it” during lengthy lovemaking scenes in movies. But the reality, the dark side which leads some to surgery and some to bungee jumping, was summarised by my three-year-old granddaughter in a recent conversation with her older sister. “Lolly’s getting old,” she said, “I s’pose she’s dying soon.” A remark which induced mild hysteria in the family generally and almost proved prophetic in my case. “NDL” my eldest granddaughter said. “Nearly died laughing”.

Meanwhile, I have at last reached the point I’ve been waiting for all my life, when I can, without excuse or apology, sit on the veranda in the middle of the morning and read. What’s more, I can do this every day, all day, if I so choose. It’s heaven.

I might also try a couple of those designer drugs I’ve heard so much about. This is the new millennium, after all, and if old men can dream dreams, I see absolutely no reason why old women shouldn’t do the same.

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