about that whole “getting old” thing

November 12, 2010 |  Category:   life me rambling

It’s weird, you know? Because in a lot of ways I still feel like my younger self. An indeterminate age, but not my age, not 40. No, just my generically vague numbered younger self. Do you know what I mean when I say I feel “ageless”? All evidence points to the fact that I am, indeed, an adult. I have kids, a mortgage, I go to parent-teacher school conferences, I sign report cards, I pay my life insurance bills, I get my HVAC maintained twice a year. These are things adults do. And yet, in my mind, I’m not any different than I was 20 years ago – ok, scratch that, there are some differences, like I don’t think I can hitchhike my way through New England on 20 dollars anymore – but I basically feel like the same person. Tastes and trends and clothes may have shifted slightly over the years, but I still wear a lot of black and a lot of stripes, and I still can’t resist making a beeline towards anything shiny, beaded, studded, or sequined hanging on a rack (was I a drag queen in a former life? Step away from the sequins!). I don’t hold up an item of clothing and ask the saleswoman if this is age-appropriate. I have enough common sense judgment to know what I should and shouldn’t be wearing, but I don’t at all think about whether something is age appropriate.

So how does one wake up one day and find yourself old? I feel like most times we’re just too busy living life and trying to get through the day to really notice that time is passing. Days, months, years. It’s not until you look at the mirror one day that you start noticing stuff. Things like dark under eye circles. Or skin that’s not as clear looking as it once was. And gray hair. Oh my, the gray hair. It’s like I never knew how bad it was until I pulled my hair away from my face the other day and saw lots and lots and LOTS of gray hair that I never knew was there before. I’ve been dyeing my hair different colors since I was in my teens, so it’s a bit of a shock to see the roots come in so gray. It makes me wonder how much of my hair is gray if I let it go. It also reminds me to go to the drug store immediately to get that box of hair dye (and don’t even talk to me about letting my hair gray naturally – it’s not happening).

But aside from all that vanity stuff and how I feel inside, there is the body and this is where I can no longer deny that I’m fumbling towards middle age. It’s painful to stand on my feet all day. I feel it at night when I need to resort to laying on the couch to recover from back pain. Also walking? Yeah, I feel it in my lower back and the sciatic pain down my legs if I’ve walked too much. My mom always say that mentally she still feels really young, but it’s her body that’s getting old and is starting to fail her, that her mind doesn’t match her body. I know what she means. I have a few friends my age who are pregnant or who have just had babies and man! I know I’m done with kids, but seeing these tiny little baby faces and these tiny baby bodies (I’m looking at you, Annie from Seattle) just kills my heart. I love the whole baby phase so much. “So, why don’t you have another?”, they say. “Women have babies at 40 all the time now, it’s not too late”. Sure, that may be true, but I know that being pregnant and carrying another baby would be too hard on my back and my body. I knew this in my early 30s, which is why I wanted to be done having kids by my mid-30s. I know that I can’t survive pushing another stroller with a 25 pound baby all around the neighborhood – I have problems now if I carry anything more than 7 pounds. This is why Claudine walks her long walks to school everyday. I recognize that my body has limits now.

Ironically the thing that’s making me feel old these days is the fact that I have an almost 7 year old kid. It’s one thing to be a mom to a newborn or even a toddler, but when you sit there and watch your 1st grader doing her homework or accessorizing her outfit or talking about the things her friends gabbed about at recess, I don’t know. Something about that makes me snap back from my little bubble of “oh hey, I’m not old! I don’t have mom hair and I don’t wear mom jeans, and look! I’m listening to the Pixies and the Beastie Boys and they’re not old…oh wait.” The truth is, I don’t want to be that older person desperate to hang on to their youth trying to be relevant and hip either. That’s tragic. There’s a reason why I don’t really know or care about new bands that are popular today or why I get insanely and giddily nostalgic about old TV show sitcoms and music that is 20 or 30 years old. I don’t know at what point you stop caring about popular culture and you end up being that guy. You know, the one who still listens to music from their youth (for my generation, that would be that guy who gets all hazy eyed with a far away look, listening to the Eagles or Free Bird or something). I remember thinking at age 16 that I would never be that uncool when I got old. I have to laugh. I guess it just happens whether we know it or not.

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  • Tim McMurdo November 12, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Jenna,

    I faced the same sort of struggles that you are now facing when I first entered my forties. Now that I am on the brink of my fifties, I can look back and tell you that this has been the best decade of my life. I am creative in a way that I had not thought possible. I am comfortable in my own skin and no longer feel the need to prove myself. Yes, my body has its aches and pains, but they pale by comparison to being happy and productive as never before.

    Hang in there, life get’s better with age.

    Tim

  • Sandra November 12, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Beautifully written. I feel the same way, too. Except that I just had a tattoo made. Desperation striking in? Maybe. LOL

  • michelle November 12, 2010 at 11:57 am

    jenna,

    i’m feeling the whole “what is this getting old thing?!”

    i have an almost 7 year old 1st grade daughter, too (and she’s the baby!)
    maybe in another decade or so you’ll say “it’s one thing to be a mom to a 7 year old, but when you sit there and watch your 11th grader prepare for the SAT or tell her she’s wearing too much eyeliner, i don’t know!”

    the sad thing is, i can say this now! i’ve got a sixteen year old junior (a 14 year old freshman, a 5th grader, & 2nd grader, but i digress) man! now look who’s feeling old! and (ironically) if it makes you feel any younger, i am not quite 40.

    a year or two ago, i thought i would embrace any physical changes that came with time. but after my birthday last month i’d be lying if i said i welcome any more crow’s feet near my eyes. when did i go from shopping in the “preventative signs of aging” skin care aisle to the “anti-aging/anti-wrinkle” aisle?

    i’m with you on loving the whole baby phase, too. i can say with confidence that i was good at it. i’m still trying to get a hang of this teenage phase, that and everything in between. 🙂 at least your baby is still 4!

    you are so not “old”. i believe it’s not so much our actual age that matters, but remaining true to who we are…listening to music we really like (i could care less about what’s on the radio these days) and wearing what makes us feel like us. maybe it’s really a matter of owning a real sense of self that keeps us “young”.

    i’m not worried about becoming that old person trying to remain cool, but mom jeans & mini vans be damned!

    michelle

  • Jen Laceda November 12, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Hi Jenna,
    I’m 37 now with 2 daughters (a 3-y.o. and a 7-month-old). I don’t feel old (maybe it’s the so-called Asian genes), but at times, I feel like time is passing me by! I’m not as quick keeping up when I play Ultimate Frisbee; I feel that I need to go see my massage therapist every month because of back pain (which I think is residual from my 2 pregnancies); I don’t lose weight as fast as I did when I was younger; and I may be going through a midlife crisis right now – I hate the boring hospital admin job I have and I long to do long-term, round-the-world travel, because, god forbid, I may keel over tomorrow and not have the chance to see more of the world!!
    My husband is Asian also, and he’s 41 and blessed with that so-called “young-looking” Asian gene. He’s still pretty skinny and fit and his bum is not yet sagging (hahaha). I, on the other hand, feel so “used” and I know I look tired. Really, the only thing that keeps me going is seeing my girls’ faces and thinking how beautiful they are (all kids are!). I hope they live a life full of beauty, grace, and love!
    Oh yeah, and I’m “that guy” who listens to songs from my generation. My husband and I laugh sometimes at the younger gen when they don’t realize they’re new fave song is a remake or has been sampled from an oldie. Haha. Years ago, when Gwen Stefani sang “It’s My Life”, the kids thought it was her own. We had to point out that it was originally Talk Talk. Talk who?!?

  • cvjn November 12, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    i think it’s great that you listened to your instincts, because i had my second at 40, and my standard joke is that i’ve been aging in dog years since she was born, which makes my juliet adjusted age somewhere around 64. she is pure sunshine and joy, but the sleep deprivation, and plain physicality, it takes to be a mother are grueling. and i had no physical problems to begin with.
    i feel you on the music front, too. when i look at my itunes library, it seems frozen in time around 2003, when my first child was born. i’ve added, like 3 albums since then! and i made the same pledge to stay relevant that you did.
    thanks as always for your wonderful blog. it is so reassuring to hear others are having the same thoughts and struggles i’m having.

  • Lauren November 12, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    I completely related to your post, Jenna. I’m 37 with a 2 1/2 year-old and although we only ever planned on having one child, I’m feeling the window of opportunity getting smaller by the month and it’s freaking me out, trying to decide whether to “go for it”, and have #2, or be happy with the beautiful boy I have? I have always looked and felt younger than my chronological age, but lately I’m noticing fine lines, a permanent scowl mark between my eyes (my mother was right!) and my body is just not what it was, pre-pregnancy, no matter how hard I work out, or restrict my food intake. And music? I can’t even turn the radio on anymore… today’s pop is crap. I’m just really happy to hear I’m not the only woman dealing with this unsettling feeling… thanks.

  • Nidhi November 12, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I LOVE this photo of you Jenna…you look beautiful and I also love your outfit!

  • Cynthia November 12, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Jenna, I can relate to the “feeling old” part, but I would say that you dress in such a “hip” manner, you defy the whole age thing. I really like what you are wearing in this picture and your Storm King park outfit. I think you have a knack of putting outfits together. My twin boys are almost 12, and some days feel like it’s a day out of the movie “Groundhog Day” where I feel like I keep doing the same thing over and over (this is especially true at breakfast and making school lunches), but I see my sister-in-law who is now in her early 60s whose children are now grown (ie out of college and self sufficient). And I see a woman who is happier, thinner, and doing the things she always wanted to do but didn’t have the time or money (because we all know there isn’t a lot of extra when you have new shoes to buy every six months, piano lessons, art class, etc.) That is what keeps me going and knowing that this is simply a transitional time that is pretty wonderful as I see my kids (and yours through your blog) growing up and seeing their identities shine through. Although I’m usually exhausted, I know when I look back in time it will have flashed by and I’ll be so glad I took a zillion pictures to capture all the memories. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and keeping us all connected through your experiences.

  • Justine November 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Hi Jenna,

    Ok so you’ve clearly become my daily escape from everything else and also a nice little dose of NY life.

    I totally get where you are coming from! With all the cougar stuff circulating in the media, I was actually shocked to find myself getting older at 40! And it happens like, wham! Looking great at 38. Whoa not so much at 40. I don’t mind the face so much, the worst for me is my body. I’m still thin but definitely no longer nubile. Surprising really to discover how much it effects me. So thanks, I’m glad to find I’m not the only one struggling with this a bit.

    J

  • Anna @ D16 November 12, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    As always, Jenna, wonderfully written. You have such a knack for perfectly putting into words so much of what I think about these days. Thank you.

    It’s funny — having MS has made me less conscious of aging’s effect on my body, somehow. I tend to write off so much of the pain and fatigue that I feel as being symptoms of a disease rather than part of the natural course of aging, but the truth is that it’s probably a little bit of both.

    The gray hair, though…yikes. THAT is definitely due to age, and it freaks me out so much. I’m so glad I’ve been comfortable with dying my hair for all of my adult life already, because I’m not stopping anytime soon!

    Inside, I still feel like I’m a teenager in so many ways. (Of course, when I was a teenager for real, I felt so much older!)

  • gail November 12, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Hi Jenna,

    This is the first time I’ve written because this posting really touched a nerve. I just turned 57 a couple of days ago, and actually look a lot younger (maybe more like 50) due to genetics and lifestyle. Also, because I live in a village in coastal Maine, where the mean age is probably closer to 65, it’s been easy to forget that aging is actually even happening.

    I no longer remember how I stumbled upon your blog, but love it because I, too, once had two little girls (now 26 & 31 yrs. old!) and always of course wondered what it would be like to live in the city, rather than out in the boondocks. Anyway, my younger daughter now lives in Bern, Switzerland, which in addition to being the capital is also a big university town. When we visit her I’m always so stunned to be in the midst of so many young people! Like I said, I forget–around here I’m still young, in comparison to the average. A year ago we visited for 2 weeks, and at one point I found myself facing a wave of really pure anger about aging. It somehow felt/feels important to me to acknowledge this anger–I know many ways I can deny or diminish the feeling, and it’s become very cool to do so–but at a sacrifice to my integrity. Most of the time I have plenty of composure and acceptance around aging, but another existing perceptive strand is just heavy metal pissed off, especially as a woman. At best, this anger is just like a vein of mica in the granite. So, even though I have no amazing revelation to offer you, I want to say that I appreciate your honesty and your exploration and your sharing via your blog. Thank you!

  • Tina November 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    I’m 42 and the only thing I hate about being this age is the fact that weight is so much harder to lose. When I was in my 20s and mid 30s, I ate what I want and when I want and was able to maintain my weight. Now I’m about 15lbs heavier and it won’t go away. Of oourse I could exercise a bit more and maybe watch what I eat but it’s more fun grumbling about my weight.

    And with the music, I’m with you. When I hear music from my youth, I get all excited and couldn’t be bother to know what new music is out there. Fortunately, my husband is a music freak so I’m still able to know the latest indie bands.

  • Jeanie from Evergreen November 12, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Hi Jenna,
    Thank you for posting this. I hit 40 this year, and I’m feeling it, too! Of course, I think you’ve aged beautifully. You might not feel that way, but you look great. I think you look as fresh-faced as you did at Evergreen! I’ve started buying anti-aging skin cream this year. (I recommend Olay Regenerist; it really works!)

  • Dana Galatzan November 12, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    I´m 29 and I think you are totally cool Jenna, waay cool.

  • Claire November 12, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks Jenna – I say what you say. I’d add that making it to 40 has made me appreciate that fact itself; so many don’t make it this far. We’re alive – yay!

  • Laura November 12, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Jenna, I can relate, but try realizing that you’re pushing 60! I have four terrific daughter who are 29, 31, 32 and yikes!! 35! I do not know how this happened. In my head I’m , I guess, maybe 30. And will probably always be. Luckily, my kids and grandkids help keep me in touch with reality. Of course, us baby boomers are a different breed and will not go quietly, and I think that’s a good thing. Enjoy the ride!

  • Megan Champion November 12, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    This could be an essay in New York Magazine.

  • Chai Ling + Lem November 13, 2010 at 3:11 am

    You’re a gifted writer, Jenna! You write real stuff that relates to our lives. You’re so real. You sometimes get mad, sad, smile, laugh, work hard, enjoy life and holidays. I am glad I found ‘sweet fine day’ online (!) You’re my role model (!!!)

  • Ali November 13, 2010 at 4:12 am

    Understand exactly what you’re saying. My eldest just turned 10 and I realize that it’s all downhill in the body department from here on. But oddly, it has given me an urge to grasp the here and now even more firmly. Wear those sequins with pride!

  • Rachel | Fog and Thistle November 13, 2010 at 7:06 am

    Super cute photo Jenna. I have to tell you (and I know it’s a black or white issue for most people) but going to the chiropractor saved my back. I had constant aches for a few years. Walking and standing for a little while would make my lower back super achy. And forget about bathing the kids. I use to wake up in the morning feeling like I had been in a fight all night long. So I go about once a week/every other week. My posture is so much better that I gained a 1/4″ It’s not for everyone but no one should be in pain! One other note, since going 2 years ago, I haven’t had so much as a cold.

  • Natasha November 13, 2010 at 9:34 am

    How I relate to your {beautifully written} words. I’ve been popping into your blog every so often and it is always such a treat.

  • J November 13, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Jenna, what a great discussion you’ve started. Wish we could all be in one room having this same conversation. Amazing how we all feel the same at some point in our lives. I’m 35 and for the first time in my life, I’ve actually felt different. I always had people tell me I look like a 20 year old but now when I look at myself in the mirror, I can see the changes. Yes, the gray hairs I thought I’d never get, the dull complexion even from someone who’s obsessed with skincare, the permanent worry lines on my face, my energy level, and I can go on and on. And just the other day I told my hubby, as we were sitting on the couch watching our kids play, how life can just pass us by in a blink of an eye. That made me realize I need to stop fussing over my changed looks, my neck pain that doesn’t seem to subside, etc and just live life! Thanks for a great post!!

  • Lani November 13, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Your last sentence says it perfectly. It happens whether you know it or not.

    People have been telling me for decades that I look way younger than I am and I was wary about letting it go to my head. I knew that someday someone would guess I looked 50 instead of 40 and I might fall apart. And sure enough, it is kind of hard to get used to. The other day at a movie, I asked if she could please give me the senior discount. She said she already had. Oof. And a little friend of mine drew a picture of me…it looked quite nice…then she grabbed it back and added circles on my cheeks. They were my age spots. Ouch.

  • Selkie November 14, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Another Maine village baby boomer chiming in; I too wish we could all be in the same room, and yet, we are in a way. I am so glad you are writing for us to start the dialogue, Jenna. and GREAT photo of you.
    I faced cancer last year, lost alot of weight and muscle and changed my relationship with food, eating for survival rather than pleasure. My 22 yr old son’s girlfriend, painting my portrait, said “yes, you’ve changed alot in a year, but you look like you have a story to tell, that you have been through something, that makes us curious as we look at your strong face and thin body.”
    Maybe that is what it is all about. Yes, our body changes, reflecting all the glorious and inglorious travels we have made in our lives, however long, the challenges faced and miracles made, our children, our art. Our faces, our bodies, tell the stories…
    Bravo to all!

  • Jenna November 14, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Thank you all for your wonderful entries. I loved reading them all. I don’t have a problem with being 40, as some of you remember when my birthday passed this year. But sometimes it does catch you off guard when you start thinking about it. Yes, it’s often like…wow, I’ve made it this far.

  • Mackenzi November 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    I am so very thankful to be exactly the age I am. To never have to relive those awkward 20-something mistakes is a blessing. Great post.

  • maomau November 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    how appropriate that you blog this on my 40th bday. as i was telling some ppl, i really don’t feel like the horrid looking number that one might have envisioned. but definitely for sure, i know my metabolism & body is not the same. here’s to a new decade.

  • Jane November 16, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    My mom is my inspiration – she’s turning 60 and has never been happier. She’s stylish and chic (which she never was when I was a kid – working full-time and being a mom on a budget left little time for being stylish!), confident and happy. Sure, getting older has its drawbacks – the arthritis pain, the stiffness, the shock of real wrinkles! – but she keeps telling me she wouldn’t go back for the world!

  • Karen November 17, 2010 at 5:31 am

    funny…just talked about thisyesterday with a mom I run into at school pick-up. we’re friendly, in that neighborly kind of way, but not much more than that. our oldest kids in 8th grade this year, and next year will make that big transition to high school. it’s a feeling unlike any i’ve had before…to think how quickly time passes, how my preemie kid is now taller than i am, and how in just four and a half short years, this babe of mine will head off to college. that said, I have to say that i like getting older. I like my changing relationship with my children, the fact that we can sit together and read our own books, that we talk about girlfriends, crushes, uni-brows, sports, and each of our latest purchases from itunes. i’m ok with the fact that my oldest is my go-to guy for all things computer, that my daughter lets me know when i need a little help with ‘my face’, and that my middle son voluntarily opts to ride his bike over to see me at work and will stay all day, peeling and slicing apples, getting packaging together, and eating his way through my profits. in my opinion, it just keeps getting better.

  • lizzie November 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Hi
    I know exactly what you mean….i feel like that too only you have managed to describe it so beautifully. I always get a shock when I catch a glance at myself in the mirror and i look much older than i feel….this especially happens when i’m out with friends partying like the old days and i feel like the old me until i go to touch up my lipstick and I suddenly realise I’m still the old me on the inside, it’s just the outside is getting a bit rusty!!! xx

  • Julia November 19, 2010 at 5:02 am

    My grandma is 95 and she told me a few years ago that she can’t believe it’s her when she looks into the mirror. She said you’d think you’d feel different when you get older, but you don’t; you’re just the same person as with 16. Mind you, she hates not being able to see and hear as well as she used to, not being able to work in the kitchen anymore; and I guess she is sad that all of her old friends have died. So maybe that’s what getting old means; losing things we used to have.

  • clouds November 20, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    another thoughtful, quite wonderful post. aging really scares me, perhaps more than it should. when i can now say things like, “i remember, some 20 years ago…” and it seemed only like yesterday.

    guess it’s about living this one life we’ve got, and making everyday count.

  • Rita November 23, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Jenna,
    Have you been reading my mind? You couldn’t have better articulated my feelings and thoughts right now. The shocking part is becoming just a little less relevant to the opposite sex when you don’t think of yourself as a day older than 25. I mean, I’m happily married to a man who finds me attractive, but who wants to be invisible to everyone else? And with every physical change in (what feels like) the wrong direction, I ask myself, “So, is this how it’s going to be from now on?” So, I try to focus on the benfits of aging; being more comfortable in my skin, caring less about what others think of me and more of what I think of me, feeling free to be as creative as I like without judgement.
    Thank you for giving voice to an issue so important to so many of us!
    Rita

  • Paul November 24, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    aging gracefully seems to be a huge concern with our generation. not surprising, after growing up watching the baby boomers’ “still crazy after all these years” approach to middle age that was undignified at best, downright creepy most often. I recall the sadness of the old folks I saw as a kid in the 70’s, their disappointment in the world they once knew passing them by. to our credit, middle age is not what it used to be. as we live longer + healthier lives, it is less unseemly to be 40 and remain involved in traditionally “young people” activities. we still look good (YOU look beautiful!) and we’re usually not quite as jaded or bitter as the 40 yr olds we once knew.
    I see the 60 yr olds with their pony-tails and tie-dyes and faded jeans and feel certain we will fare better in the eyes of our kids.

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