British writer/critic AA Gill points out that contrary to popular sloganeering, sixty is not the new anything:
A contemporary of mine, after a number of marriages, found a girlfriend less than half his age of a transcendent pneumatic beauty who hung on his every word and dumped her after a couple of months. Why, I asked she was perfect! “Too many things we didn’t have in common,” he said sadly. Like what? “Well, the Eighties.”
There’s rue for you. And here’s some for me:
Last year, for the first time, a young girl, French, offered me her seat on a crowded bus. I was surprised at how deeply I resented her. Health looms over the elderly like a threatening monsoon. No ache is innocuous. No lump or discoloured, sagging patch of body is ignorable except our toenails, which become the most sordidly repellent things in all nature. We covertly examine ourselves and our effluvia for the premonition of the dark humour that will carry us away. There is no such thing as a routine checkup. They are all life-or-death appointments.
Doctors start all their sentences with “It’s only … ” But we’re not fooled. This generation is also the one that lingers longest over its departure. Death came to our grandparents with a clutched chest and a searing pain. For us it’s a slow, humiliating series of it’s onlys. What we worry about is dementia, a condition that did not exist in the popular lexicon when I was a child. Mind you, we also thought cancer was as shaming as divorce. Now Alzheimer’s is our abiding fear, the thing we can’t forget.
I have often wondered if I am “prolific,” as they say, as the inevitable consequence of a desire to maximize my output before the time comes when I cannot put out anything.
(Via Kathy Shaidle.)