<%-- Page Title--%> Reflections <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 129 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

November 7, 2003

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The Age-Old Debate

Nadia Kabir Barb

When we are young, we just can't wait to get older anticipating the power and freedom that comes with age and would love to accelerate the whole growing up process. What we are not prepared for when we are young, is the burden of responsibility that accompanies the whole “growing up” and getting older process. Ironically once people attain the desired goal of actually being older, they then go to outrageous lengths to perpetuate their achievement, deploying a variety of tactics ranging from lying about their age to face lifts, rejuvenation creams and pills, botox injections, falsified passports and even plastic surgery (a nip here, a tuck there). It seems to me that age is a very dangerous and highly sensitive topic. Some people get extremely offended if you dare to ask them their age while others imitate a broken record and seem to be stationary at the same age for years. The worst is when someone says “guess how old I am” you could be jeopardising your career (if it is someone at work) or your social life (a new acquaintance) by making one incorrect deduction.

I always wonder why it is the case that when men grow older and start greying, people categorise them as looking “distinguished”. On the other hand if it is a woman, then the words “hair dye” seem to crop up in the conversation. The hardest part of ageing is not really the external changes but more the impact it has on your physical health. It is hard to reconcile the fact that despite your mind staying youthful and full of zest; your body may have other ideas. Activities that used to be effortless become tedious and strenuous and your reflexes slow down. However it always helps to keep your mind and body as active as possible as long as possible and not drown in a quagmire of apathy and inevitability. “You are as old as you feel”.

I have to admit that I do succumb to flattery when people comment about my age. The other day a cab driver was chatting to me on my way home and when I told him I had a 10 year old daughter, he looked at me and said that I must have been a child bride! I had to restrain myself from throwing my arms around him and thanking him profusely for his totally extravagant compliment and had to make do with giving him a larger than normal tip! I can tell you that I definitely had an added spring in my step that day. On the other end of the spectrum, there was an incident where I had driven the children in the car to my daughter's school while my husband accompanied us on his motorbike. While I went inside to drop my daughter, he stood chatting to our son who was waiting in the car. In the meantime, his bike got knocked over by another parent while he wasn't looking. Fortunately, as the damage was minor, the matter was settled in no time. But when I later met the motorbike crushing parent at school, she asked me how my son was. I was puzzled as there was nothing wrong with him in the first place. She then went on to ask if his motorbike had been fixed! For a split second I thought I must be in some science fiction horror film where people suddenly age 30 years due to some alien virus. I think I glared at her and told her that my “husband” and his motorbike were fine (no thanks to her) and walked off in a huff. However, I did check in the car mirror to see if my hair had gone prematurely white overnight or something as drastic. While I was traumatised by this incident, my husband found this to be a source of amusement to for days, in fact he still has a good laugh over it every now and then (to my great indignation).

It has not always been a way one street for me as I have not just been on the receiving end but on the delivering end of such age related comments. One particular episode that still makes me cringe is an “almost faux pas” as I like to call it. I didn't even make the blunder but just the thought of what might have happened had I opened my mouth makes me wince. A few years ago my husband and I were on holiday and were supposed to meet up with an old friend of my brother's called Mark. When we spoke on the phone he invited us to his place around seven thirty in the evening. He also mentioned that as he had a meeting at work we should forgive him if he were a few minutes late. His mother was visiting and she would let us in.

Well we were there promptly at half past seven and buzzed on the door. A lady's voice answered and said that the front door was not opening properly and she would come down and let us in. We waited for a few minutes and the owner of the voice appeared. She introduced herself as Jane and we greeted each other and went into the lift together. I have to say I was almost gawking at Jane thinking to myself that I would give my right arm to look as young as she did when I got to her age. By my calculations she would have to be at least fifty but looked a lot younger. Maybe she had resorted to a face lift or something of that nature. I was just about to ask her the secret of her youthfulness and tell her that she looked great to be a mother of a thirty year old man but thought she might find it a little impertinent of me especially as it was our first meeting so I held my tongue (still gazing admiringly at her).

When we got to the flat Jane sat us down in the living room and went away for a few minutes reappearing with a much older lady. She then introduced this lady as Mark's mother! I must have looked like a goldfish with my mouth opening and closing but not very many coherent words coming out. Luckily my husband was shaking hands and making pleasantries with both of them so I had the opportunity to thank my lucky stars that I had for some unknown reason (I believe it to be self preservation kicking in) kept my mouth shut. Of course the lady we met at the door was Mark's girlfriend Jane. She happened to be older than him by a few years and as he had not mentioned that she would be there I had just assumed she was his mother (come on you would have made the same mistake…).

I still shudder when I think of the massive blunder I would have made had I decided to pay Jane this compliment thinking she was Mark's mother. a) Mark would have been rightfully annoyed, b) Jane would probably never have forgiven me and c) I would have died of mortification. You see, they are now happily married and have been for a fair few years I even got invited to the wedding! So nowadays I think several times before I compliment anyone on their age (unless I have had the opportunity to check their birth certificates)…



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