On Birthdays

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Roland and Laura making a cake for my 30th birthday.

My birthday is tomorrow and I will be 56 years old. I am more than halfway (just) through my 6th decade on this planet. Many women (and men) my age would never reveal that kind of information. They are at least hip-deep in the latest anti-aging cream, desperate to slow the hands of time.

But what is the alternative to not having birthdays? You’re just dead. Not moving forward, not getting any older, but literally forever 32? No, thank you very much.

I don’t hate birthdays. Hating birthdays does seem to be the cultural norm here in the western world though, at least once you are an adult. We don’t just want to look younger. In our hearts we want to be younger. Sometimes we lie about our ages (gasp!). Never about our weight, only about our ages. OK, well we do lie about our weight, too. One day I will weigh what the number on my driver’s license says I weigh.

On our birthdays, we would rather not see a cake on fire, so we don’t want cake. Or a party. Or any other marker that says we are getting older. We may acquiesce to having one candle for every decade. Or maybe we will agree to having those big number candles. Seriously, though, who wants to celebrate this getting older thing? Just move along and let it be a regular day.

Admittedly, there are some things about aging that can be irritating if not downright traumatic. The vision gets blurry, everyone mumbles, and just getting out of bed can be an adventure in anatomy as you determine what hurts and what doesn’t. And you get out of bed much more often. Your bladder shrinks as the rest of you gets bigger and squishier. Let’s not talk about the wrinkles or the neck.

Oh, the neck. If you are thin, you have a scrawny, bird neck. If you are not so thin, you have the pleasure of extra chins.

Those are just the superficial things. Friends and family members die, life can be hard, people you know and love get sick. You get sick.

This is all so negative! If the alternative to birthdays is death, and we don’t want that, let’s change our attitudes, people!

Let’s accept the wisdom that comes with age. Haven’t you ever said, “if I only knew then what I know now”? Be honest. Do you really want to be 19 again? Or 29? (I might want to do 35 over.) Let’s be more accepting and less judgmental of everyone, including ourselves. I’m giving that attitude a shot and I am much happier.

I’ve handled the vision thing with contacts, but glasses are growing on me. (If you’ve worn glasses since you were a kid you will never understand the “what do you mean I have to wear glasses” thing.) I try to ignore things I can’t really hear and it’s working for me, so far. I’m accepting the “A” word (arthritis) with a tiny bit more grace and less complaining, and looking for ways to work around it instead of fighting it. But if someone was holding a big sale on neck lifts …? Can’t lie there. I might just take them up on it.

Did you youngsters know that seniors get discounts? Live long enough and actually join AARP instead of throwing away the membership signups every month and you will get hotel discounts, or so I’ve heard. Shop on Wednesdays (or whichever day your local store deems “senior” day) and get discounts. Admission to events may have a senior rate. My husband and I were recently given the senior rate at a movie theater (which we, ahem, did not qualify for), and we didn’t even notice until we glanced at our ticket stubs. We just thought that theater was a good deal, because, you know, in the old days, movie tickets were cheaper.

I’m going to be a grandmother in April and what could be more fun than that. I’ll be able to impart wisdom and advice, and then leave, not totally caring that my wisdom and advice was scoffed at. My daughter and her husband are smart. They’ll figure it out, and my husband and I will enjoy watching them. They are going to be great parents.

Don’t just act your age, accept your age. If it has to happen (and I hope that you all have many, many birthdays), have the fire extinguisher nearby and set that cake on fire light the candles! Celebrate with laughter and joy!

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6 thoughts on “On Birthdays

  1. I just turned 55 so this is a timely and sympathetic essay for me! I have to admit, the neck thing bothers me the most. Thanks for sharing and participating in yeah write. I love your sense of humor. Happy birthday, Ellen!

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  2. It does get to a point where you start to need a kitchen blow torch to light the candles. LOL
    I am finding that one of my favorite aspects of getting older is that I don’t give a bird about a lot of things. 🙂 I’m not so pleased about the weight that seems to stick to me when it used to fall off nor am I happy about the chin whisker 🙂

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  3. Happy Birthday and thanks for all of your well thought out and well written comments. I will keep this link at hand to re-read in a month when mine comes. I am a wee bit older than you. I am told each year at my physical exam that I cannot get a Shingles shot yet – if I want it to be paid by insurance. In 13 months it will be covere; I’m praying I do not get shingles before then! I do not dislike wearing glasses – I dislike that the ones I need to read obscure my vision for everything else so I take them off and then they are always in the wrong place and I dislike that frozen food companies have 6 sides of a box and the smallest print on the box is how long to microwave = impossible with out my reading glasses. Oh well. I DO like the getting older as it does beat the alternative and you are lucky in that you have a grandchild to look forward to sharing in the year of your 56th birthday!

    Some of the movie theaters here give you discount at 55 and Hancocks fabrics has a two tier structure for the monthly senior discount daywith 15% at age 50 to 54 then 20% at 55!

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