I’m not sure which of those three words perturbs me most ‘growing old gracefully’; growing provokes a neutral response until something else is added. So it is ‘old’ or ‘gracefully’? Given that I would suggest that I am neither old nor graceful I don’t know what unnerves me about the phrase.
This week I bumped into a former work colleague with her partner and she did a double take (in part because she was checking her mobile at the point of impact). As she looked up I walked in front of her and caught her eye. The two of them were emerging from one of the Arcades as I walked down the Hayes. Not known for her diplomatic skills she said ‘I didn’t recognise you, your hair?’ (patting her own head as she spoke), ‘it’s different, less of it’. Her partner’s observational powers a little sharper as he noted ‘it’s a different colour’.
Had I seen them first I confess I probably wouldn’t have stopped as I was on my way to the car with the parting shot of the person I had previously encountered still ringing head. Occasionally I worry that I’m a little oversensitive; I have a heightened ability to forgive the most unforgivable behaviour which means I allow people to remain oblivious to the impact they have. British politeness on prescription strength steroids can lead to paranoia if not kept in check.
So we chatted briefly and my former colleague took my number so we could catch up. She had suggested the old team meet up for amusement (hers) rather than for ‘old times sake’. The old times were quite horrific and she is the only one left. She has texted me and I have not yet responded. My current plan is to mull it over until the time has passed!
When I got back to the car I spent rather too long scrutinising myself in the rear view mirror. Giving myself a piercing stare didn’t help to change the image reflected back at me. I looked tired (I haven’t been sleeping recently) and my skin is sore and blotchy. I resemble a ‘before’ picture for a vitality advert.
Paranoia comes easily to me these days and the feeling of invisibility returns. I ponder on the point that women, it is said, begin to dissolve; when one becomes beige. Surely 42 is a little premature or perhaps not. Is it linked biologically to the hormone shortage that marks the beginning of the menopause? No longer fertile the need to allure a mate into the messy business of procreation is passed over.
Professionally the equivalent is leaving a position of influence where one is at the centre of the hive. Colleagues and partners too busy to chat without the promise of juicy gossip. Your views are just that without a regular infusion of intelligence! The glazed eye of the politely busy and bored isn’t exactly inviting an insightful conversation; it does, of course, cut both ways.
Yesterday I answered the door to find a man in a woolly hat and a puffer jacket. The clip board and briefcase didn’t fit with the outfit. And then he opened his mouth saying he was from Sky and was I happy with my broadband and TV package. Holding a lighted cigarette behind my back I said ‘Thank you I am perfectly happy with my current arrangements’. ‘Who do you get it from?’ he asks and throws a range of potential supplier at me weakly trying to engage me. Again I stare fiercely back at him again saying ‘I am perfectly happy with my current arrangements’. I think I may have frightened him as he did stop and look at me before turning and walking through the gate
I don’t like cold callers or even warm unannounced ones. I know people have to make a living but why badger people vulnerable because they happen t work from home? Perhaps I should put a notice on the door ‘Unless you are delivering a parcel or I am expected you please do not be offended if I fail to answer the door’? Unplugging the doorbell works just as well I find!
Pondering on the matter of invisibility I wonder if we are complicit in this process as we get older; we have less to prove and I tend to be more willing to ignore things that would have irritated my younger self. Or do we need to find new ways to be visible; ones we define as meeting our needs rather than being invisible against the backdrop of a media image of youth and perfection?
Believe if you add in being disabled then if you don’t develop the hide of a rhino you would periodically explode and people physically i.e. literally ignore you as if you were invisible! Once you are in a heap on the pavement you do suddenly appear as the self same people walk around you to avoid tripping over your feet. Embarrassment stops us helping in such cases; afraid to offend or get a barrage of abuse. When did we stop being instinctively compassionate with considering the consequences (that may never happen)?