I Can't Stop Thinking About Getting Old

I still struggle to accept the certainty of death.

Sep 12, 2013 at 4:00pm | Leave a comment

image

My great-grandfather nicknamed me “Old Lady Janday” after his mother. He said I was her reincarnation so I was basically destined to be a strange, old soul.  

 
By the time you read this, I will be a quarter of a century old.
 
When I told a couple of my older colleagues about my impending birthday, they delivered the usual spiel about taking advantage of one’s youth amid stories about their 25-year-old selves. One asked why so many young people assume they'll be around forever.
 
“I don’t,” I quietly interjected.
 
That ended the conversation. Too much?
 
I swear I wasn't tying to be grim or depressing, really I'm just slightly obsessed with Future Old Me, and have been for a while. I regularly muse about what I'll look like physically and emotionally in 40 plus years. I even think about how I'll cope with eventually losing the important people in my life. Though all this is more meditative than macabre, I can't decide if it's a natural coping mechanism for growing older or if it's unproductive and unhealthy.
 
Public transportation isn't helping.
 
The bus I take to work every morning is practically a car service for the elderly around my way. My early morning reveries almost always involve me examining the nearest wrinkled faces and imagining what they looked like when they were my age.
 
There's The Lady in Red, who always holds up the bus as she hobbles on with the help of a walker and her oft beleaguered aide. Her has a daily uniform of a tomato red pantsuit –- set off with a matching hat and meticulously-applied makeup. She always thinks the bus driver is taking the wrong route, and has no problem telling him so.
 
As I watch The Lady in Red every morning, I wonder if she was always this fly and cantankerous, hoping my own oddball humor will remain intact decades on decades from now. I look at her painted-on features and envision how much 50 years will dull the sharpness of my own cheekbones and bury my prized dimples. Still it's hard to imagine that I will ever not look like this: 
 
image
 
Watching the Lady in Red and the rest of her clique on the bus hack into handkerchiefs with every breath leaves me with mixed feelings. At once I'm grateful to be healthy young person and also sad over the fact that I, too, will be reduced to a withered version of myself someday. 
 
I know throwing away that bag of greasy Lay’s or running that extra mile won't give me eternal youth, but when I hear the weariness in my grandparents’ voices I'm truly frightened -- for myself. As I witness their health deteriorate from diabetes, cataracts, weight gain and a host of other issues that come with age I become even more motivated to get on my Ernestine Shepherd game. 
 
Instead of working out and eating right with swimsuit season in mind, I’m the chick taking health cues from octogenarians. 
 
I seriously daydream about immortality serums. If my boyfriend and I can't permanently remain hot and young, then I think having the option of living forever as gracefully-aged, silver foxes would be a fair trade-off. Especially since nothing lifts my spirits quite like crossing paths with an adorable elderly couple holding hands and obviously still in love. 
 
(Also, how precious is Fred Stobaugh's viral hit "Oh Sweet Lorraine" for his late wife? Don’t even get me started on the aging-obsessive rabbit hole this tune took me in. Because despite how adorable Fred's ode to love is it got me to thinking about who would die first, me or my future husband?)
 
An immortality on the go-gurt bottle would also allow me to keep my grandparents, parents, and other beloved family members and friends around forever and ever and ever. Then I wouldn't have to spend my bus ride wondering about the inevitable what ifs in life and ogling an old lady in a red suit. But since this magical potion only exists in my weirdo imagination, I'll just have to continue coping somehow. 
 
I'm still not sure whether my obsessing over the next 50 years is just a natural part of getting older, a defense mechanism or just a completely unproductive waste of time. What's your vote?