Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Old Age Ain't No Place For Sissies" -- Bette Davis

This is one of my favorite quotes; spoken by the famous actress Bette Davis (1908-1989). Anyone who has seen a classic Davis film can certainly imagine this quip flowing off her tongue, or, more like snapping off her tongue. Certainly, she was one tough broad.
So, it’s a favorite quote, but why? A few years ago (maybe 10), I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it. Now, though; it resounds with me.

Ok, I’ll admit; I’m not really sure that 46, the age I became today, classifies any more as old. Sure, ask my 17 year old step-daughter, or any one of my nieces or nephews (could they all speak coherently); and they’d probably tell you that 46 is ANCIENT. I know at times it does feel this way to me; fleetingly. Such as a few weeks ago when I was in the nail salon getting a manicure. I was explaining to the (quite young) manicurist that my nails were in such awful condition because I’d worn acrylic nails for over 20 years; beginning in 1987. She looked at me in an odd way and said, “That’s the year I was born!” Ok, ANCIENT MOMENT!

On the other hand, there are more people than not in my life who would resoundingly assert that 46 is definitely NOT old. My parents (and thank God I have all four still in my life), for example; and, family friends, former bosses and mentors; heck, they gleefully call ME a kid! And, of course, many of my friends who are either older or are experiencing this “certain age” along with me. I would hazard a guess that my husband doesn’t find 46 old (considering I am still younger that he was when I met him) and my brothers, one of whom is approaching a big milestone next year, KNOW better to consider their sister old (although my youngest does call me “A Thorny Queen”; that’s ok, I kinda like that!)

I suppose Bette might have meant several things in her quote. Although not a conventional beauty, she was an extremely striking looking woman in her prime; with wonderfully smoldering bedroom eyes. Heck there was even a song written about her eyes in the 70s; c’mon, you know it, “She’s got Bette Davis eyes!”. Definitely a compliment, I’d say. Anyway, she got older; her looks went from striking to somewhat terrifying (sorry to say); this couldn’t have been easy on a woman with such a strong personality and (likely) ego.

So, there is that. Oh, how many woman have lamented how they wished they could retain their youthful looks and yet possess the wisdom that only comes with the passing of years that necessitates those looks cannot possibly remain the same? It’s a wise woman who comes to grips with that fact because spending a life in abject misery constantly dieting and throwing money away on surgeries (that may result in one looking like a psycho blow fish) and thus garnering more pity and ridicule than would have resulted had one just left nature well enough alone; ain’t worth it. One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen was just such a woman in Cabo San Lucas a few years ago. Mr. B and I were out by the pool, thoroughly enjoying our foo foo drinks and one another when this (seemingly) gorgeous woman came up to settle down in the lounge chair next to us. Along with her was an entourage of friends, children, and an extremely handsome young man. When she was sitting next to me, I sort of turned to look at her and saw what the sun in my eyes had previously hidden; she was hideous. Yeah, her body was ok; but her face; well, in Greek times, it would have turned people to stone. Botox gone very, very, bad. This was awful enough; worse, though, was the way she was cooing over this young man who was obviously her boy toy (and he, just as obviously, was barely tolerating it until she bought him several drinks).

That was really depressing to watch but it was also a lesson. So now, yes, I’ll admit, I do not like some of the side effects of remaining alive; eye lashes and eye brows getting sparse, an odd ache in one hip on cold mornings, eye sight that continues to get worse each year and crêpey skin (although Mr. B still asserts I am not “creepy”); I’ll take these over looking like a complete fool (and, of course, the solemn alternative of not being here, period).

Frankly, I think what Davis was REALLY getting at with her quote was something much more painful than seeing some grey hairs or a saggy bottom; and that is continuing to live whilst those nearest and dearest pass on and the life you once knew; the times, the glory, what used to make you pulse and throb; fades away into memories. What is one to do when this happens? She’d probably have said, “Put on your big girl panties and deal with it”. Too true; what’s the alternative? Sitting around boring everyone with stories of your days in the sun? Yawn.

One has to honor and cherish the memories of those who are gone; smile at the thoughts of days gone by, but, for God’s sake; find new people to fill your life with (even if it’s just one or two; or, hey, maybe 15 cats); get involved with something, anything; to keep your mind active and alert, help someone worse off than you; all that stuff.

One other positive thing about getting older is the treasure trove of life stories. Oh, I do hope that everyone who is reading this is in a position to understand what I am talking about and has had some of these memories! Ones of adventures; of events that possibly you’ve never shared with anyone, not even your best friend. Ones that still make you curl your toes in delight and satisfaction. Ones that, when you are truly old, you can sit and remember them and cackle in enjoyment at their recollection (while those around you nod and smile and think to themselves, “Poor Auntie. She’s really gone around the bend now”). Oh, if they only KNEW!

Finally; as one ages, I think it’s important to realize the older doesn’t always means wiser. In order for that to occur, you must truly know yourself.

Hopefully, I’ve got another 40 years on this planet. Really, I do hope so. And, who knows how I might change over those years? Yet, right now, at this moment, I truly believe I know myself. I could candidly, and with little modesty OR over blown ego, list out any number of both positive and negative qualities about me.

Want a few? Here goes. I am extremely organized and detail oriented yet I can be OCD. I have superior judgment and intuition and yet I can be very judgmental at times. I give a lot of myself in many ways but I can also be bitingly cruel and a bit vindictive. I can be extremely impatient yet I am hardest on myself. I don’t make friends easily (I can be somewhat off putting, I guess); but, once I make a friend, they’re usually a friend for life.

And one other thing.


Mrs. B


Mr. B said...

Please not 15 cats! 5 is enough for now. At least wait until I'm senile and won't notice.

Happy birthday!


Analee said...

i like your self description, it was like you were describing me.

i don't think you're old. i don't even think your parents are old.

my granddaddy is old. he shuffles when he walks. he has had a long life. my great grandma was old when she died. she was 102.

i do remember when i thought 25 was old, though. i guess i was about that age when age stopped mattering. :)

Pamela Gal said...

Very entertaining Mrs. B. I am glad to call you a friend just wish we had met sooner. I cherish getting older too. I feel prettier now than I did 10 years ago only wish I was not as fluffy. I too have become less judgmental and far more empathetic. What remains is my inability to spell. I will visit you blog much more often. I concur with Mr. B no more cats please. Pamela