‘Age is nothing but a number – and 70 is the new 40’

Mar 13, 2019
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When 70 is the new 40. Source: Getty Images

There’s a small paragraph in the daily Herald Sun newspaper. It’s under the ‘In Black and White Column’ and lately it’s been featuring ‘You Know You’re Old When …’ And recently was my day for that very heading.

It started off with the usual Monday morning phone call from our daughter who lives interstate. “Hi Mum, how was the weekend?” We chatted on. I mentioned the Black and White column and said I might send something into them because: “You know you’re old when you pluck the first grey hair out of your youngest child’s head”.

She was aghast! “My little brother has grey hair?!” Then she sighed. “I think I know what you mean.”

She regaled driving past her old gym and saw a board out the front advertising ‘40s mature-age classes’.

“Mum,” she yelped. “I’m 40 this year! I am not, so not, so nowhere near ‘mature age’ for crying out loud!” (You can tell by the number of ‘so’ words, that she’s not.)

“You can’t be turning 40 yet, surely.” I shook my head over the phone. “I’m way too young to have a 40-year-old daughter,” I laughed.

We did the maths. And sighed some more.

I advised her to start embracing the family adage: “I may be 65 chronologically, but I’m still 26 on the inside.” And therein lies a modern problem: you’re walking down the street, following the ubiquitous black legging-wearing skinny thing with long ash-blonde hair, ear buds firmly in while scrolling on the phone, and bugger me, she turns around and her face is almost 80 years old! Yikes! That is dead set scary.

Once upon a time, a woman got to a certain age and adopted clothing that showed the world just where her life was at. In my grandmother’s day, at home it was aprons. Floral. With frills. And cardigans. Violet-patterned handkerchiefs. Sensible leather shoes in colours like beige and navy.

When going to town, god forbid, it was corsets, stockings, gloves, hat, handkerchiefs with a lace edging, and a handbag that could be carried elegantly on the elbow. Everyone knew your age just by looking at you, obverse or reverse! Today, hmmm, not so easy.

My husband had his 69th birthday this year. He lives in cargo pants, sea-coloured t-shirts, leather boat shoes sans socks and baseballs caps. His blue eyes twinkle, he still has a full head of silver-fox hair, and a wicked sense of humour. Since he began suffering Duputryn’s contracture — a genetic syndrome that shortens tendons in the ring and little fingers, drawing them tight into the palm — he’s had to give up model boat making and playing his beloved guitar. Yet that hasn’t changed his outlook; there’s not a sensible lace up shoe or grey cardigan in sight. He’s still 26 on the inside. He looks good too!

In my opinion, cargo pants on older men are fine, but black leggings on female senior citizens is cringe-worthy. Is it just me? Should we dress to reflect a certain age?

In juxtaposition, as mentioned earlier, our youngest child did sprout his first grey hair recently. It made me unutterably sad.

He’s just about to turn 35. He is severely intellectually disabled, still in nappies, still spoon fed, walking and non-verbal. He’s my forever baby, a placid lovely man with a wacky sense of humour. Grey hair never figured in his predicted life span — all medicos said he would never live to see his 21st birthday, but he’s still here and he’s ageing.

As I plucked out that one grey hair, I looked into his big blue yes, said in mock horror “ouch” and he cracked up into such a peal of laughter that we ended up waving the one little hair around, giggling like a couple of teenagers.

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