It feels as if nary a nanosecond passed since my girlfriends’ and mine main worries were who to sleep with. Anybody remembers the days of fatal attractions and carefree nights, heading to bed at 3 in the morning with the same excitement I now reach for the covers at 10? These days, our worries veer more towards retirement, pension funds and the Grim Reaper. The same girlfriends I used to muse with about our potential beaus and our broken hearts, now engage me in conversations about old age, ailing parents and the state of our sagging bodies.
Some of our concerns can be attributed to the doom and gloom we are surrounded by – rampant unemployment, dwindling savings accounts, uncertain future, as every single media reminds us every day. Twice a day, if all you do is listen to public radio on your commute. A lot more if you bother with newsprint, internet and tv.
The truth is, for the scattered group of my close 40-something friends (ok, maybe pushing towards the dreaded 50) the situation is not so dire. Most of us gals are in pretty phenomenal nick, none of us is sporting velour track-suits just yet and we can still distinguish (and covet, if not afford) a Olivier Theyskens from a Zac Posen. Midnight phone calls from exciting men might not abound any longer but most of us are tightly snuck in bed with our partners/husbands by that time or, if single, wholeheartedly don’t care anymore about that kind of excitement.
But we do long for carefree. Nobody warned us that what felt chaotic, panicky and at times downright doomed, was going to be the best time of our lives and that problems increase exponentially as we age, rather than dissipate. On the upside, we have reached the point where we know who we are and have stopped molding ourselves to distorted ideals or others’ expectations. I might worry about not being able to retire before 75 but I will also wear a funky hat and not care what anyone might think. It’s these small acts of liberation that make the sagging skin all worthy.
The passing years might have kidnapped our youth but haven’t robbed us of the heady sensation of feeling younger than our years. A friend recently embroiled in an inheritance battle was wondering what her 77-year-old father needed all that money for. “But I feel 22!” was his honest answer. Will that happen to me? I wonder. Are we going to underestimate how getting old really feels?
Our generation grew up without set parameters or expectations of how our lives should be. There wasn’t a time for school, a time for marriage and children and career and staying home in a pre-set order. It was a free for all to do as we saw fit and we are now debating and worrying about our past choices and our future ones. Still haven’t learnt to live in the moment. Some of us never will. And yet, that is all we are really free to choose. And, looking back, isn’t that what we used to do all those carefree years ago?