Consolations of growing old
When I turned forty I thought that the awkward young woman in me will now take departure and an experienced wise woman will take its place. After decades of waiting, I have discovered that the young woman in me has long gone but the wise woman still hasn’t made an appearance.
What has arrived instead is an old woman?
Rather than being disappointed, I like her.
I have lost fifty percent of my hair, forty percent of my memory, thirty percent of my eyesight, twenty percent of my hearing and ten percent of my height (I have shrunk at least two inches), but I can assure you that my gains still outweigh my losses.
On the surface, I have gained weight around my waist and wrinkles around my eyes. But what I gained inside makes it worthwhile.
No one can list the consolation of being an older woman any better than the comedian Andy Rooney who said, “As I grow in age, I value women who are over forty most of all. Here are just a few reasons why:
A woman over forty will never wake you in the middle of the night to ask, “What are you thinking?” She doesn’t care what you think.
If a woman over forty doesn’t want to watch the game, she doesn’t sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do. And, it’s usually something more interesting.
A woman over forty knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is, what she is, what she wants and from whom. Few women past the age of forty give a hoot what you might think about her or what she’s doing.
Women over forty are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won’t hesitate to shoot you, if they think they can get away with it.
Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it’s like to be unappreciated.
A woman over forty has the self-assurance to introduce you to her women friends. A younger woman with a man will often ignore even her best friend because she doesn’t trust the guy with other women. Women over forty couldn’t care less if you’re attracted to her friends because she knows her friends won’t betray her.
Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over forty. They always know.
A woman over forty looks good wearing bright red lipstick. This is not true of younger women. Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over forty is far sexier than her younger counterpart.
Older women are forthright and honest. They’ll tell you right off if you are a jerk if you are acting like one! You don’t ever have to wonder where you stand with her.
Yes, we praise women over forty for a multitude of reasons.
Virginia Woolf, on the other hand, highlighted a completely different benefit of old age.
As one gets older one has a greater power through reason to explain; and that this explanation blunts the sled-hammer force of the blow. I think this is true because though I still have the peculiarity that I receive these sudden shocks, they are now always welcome; after the first surprise, I always feel instantly that they are particularly valuable. And so I go on to suppose that the shock-receiving capacity is what makes me a writer.
Woolf later used this insight into a beautiful line from Mrs. Dalloway:
“The compensation of growing old…was simply this; that the passions remain as strong as ever, but one has gained – at last! – the power which adds the supreme flavor to the existence, – the power of taking hold of experience, of turning it around, slowly, in the light.”