Subscribe to Sharon Fraser Subscribe to Sharon Fraser's comments

On the eve of her 80th birthday, the late Doris Anderson was interviewed by CBC Radio’s Shelagh Rogers. “You don’t look eighty!” said Shelagh, predictably. And Doris, not heeding my fervent wish, replied, in that incomparable voice, “Shelagh, I don’t feel eighty.”

Why would such a small thing bother me so much? First of all, because it doesn’t make sense.

It was feminist Gloria Steinem who, on being told she didn’t look 50, famously proclaimed, “This is what fifty looks like.” With a slight variation, this could have been Doris’ answer also: This is what 80 looks like.

As for “feeling eighty” — anyone who becomes 80 has never been 80 before so it’s safe to say she/he has no idea what being 80 feels like.

It just irritates me, okay? What Shelagh is saying is, “Doris, you don’t look like what I thought eighty would look like.” Doris could have said, “Shelagh, I didn’t know eighty would feel like this.”

I can remember my late father, closer to 80 than 70, snapping at the 50-year-old driver in the car ahead who doesn’t move fast enough when the light changes, “Come on, old fellow, it’s not going to get any greener.”

In all these cases, it’s perception that’s being discussed.

I can be guilty of this as well. A few days ago, I read a short item about James Gandolfini, better known as Tony Soprano. In passing, it noted that Gandolfini’s idol, the person in his profession that he looks up to, is John Travolta.

My response to this was, what???

Gandolfini seems like the kind of guy who’s always been 48 — which he is. And Travolta … well, John Travolta will, on some level, always be Vinnie Barbarino. (He’s 55 going on 20.)

Age is arbitrary. It matters to some people; it doesn’t matter to others. Some people will always be young, others are born old. For some reason, people are supposed to be proud if they’re young, embarrassed if they’re old.

I rage against people who think this way. I am ambitious and energetic. I’m always thinking of my next big project; I’m still the kind of person who finishes something and thinks, “That’ll look good on my résumé.”

Someone had the nerve to ask me recently, “Don’t you hate aging?” I said, “I’d rather be aging than dead” — not original but satisfying.

Mostly, I look back and enjoy all I’ve been in my life and I look ahead in anticipation of all I’m yet to be — and yes, I’m a lot better at so much of it now than I was then.

4 Responses

  1. #1

    Hey Sharon , This is great . I love aging because the alternative is not a pleasant thought. I find that every year gets better ,I worry less and enjoy more . Life only gets better as we age if we go with the flow and take all it has to give ….. which is alot.

  2. #2

    Nice writing, Sharon. I turn 60 Monday, I remembered in the ’60s thinking I’d never reach 30, yet alone 50 or 60, as I was a real risk taker in those days.

  3. #3
    Gail Tedstone 

    Love your latest entry on the perceptions of aging. My grandson said to me when he was four, “you’re my G.G. but you’re not old.” I think he wanted me to give him a seat on the bus when someone offered me one but maybe he meant that G.G. was still pretty cool and energetic! I am off on another medical mission to Africa – the kind of thing one can do at my age since I have the time, the means and the experience that I did not have in my youth.

  4. #4
    Lee Morris 

    “Proud if they’re young, embarrassed if they’re old”. That’s true, isn’t it? I enjoyed your article very much. It was well written and the subject is one of my favourites. Personally … I wish I still had the body of a younger person but I’m delighted to have a mind that has gained some wisdom.

Leave a Reply

Get Adobe Flash player