But as I watch these friends “acting their age” I marvel at the progression of it. Suddenly they are stuck in their ways. They have lost their openness. They are unwilling to try new things. They must have what they eat and what they drink no matter where they are or whom they are with. And for the record, I am a picky eater but I don’t travel with my own tea or my own biscuits or that ilk. I like to try and go with the flow as much as I can, given the givens of my allergies and dislikes etc. But people who are old before their time seem to lose their sense of adventure. They seem to become stuck, fixed, planted, immovable.
As I listened to one of these friends on the phone the other night I thought wow, she sounds eighty years old. But she didn’t. Or at least she didn’t sound like the eighty year olds in my life. My Mom still sounds eighteen in her attitude towards life and adventure. So I realized that she wasn’t acting any particular age, but instead she was acting an attitude. A fogey attitude. She was behaving in a way she thought was befitting her number and her stature. And she is far too young to be this much of an old coot in attitude. My other friend has even affected a voice, a slow admonishing pinched voice. And seriously she is a doll and I love her. But what the hell? I felt like yelling “you are my age! What’s with the nosy neighbour demeanor?" She was all “we don’t vacation out of the country any more, it’s too dangerous. We stay fairly close to home.” She said that they travel on day trips with their own food (not because of the expense or diet) but because they are more comfortable knowing they have their own food with them. She went on to express some political opinions that so shocked me, as she was one of the instigators back in the day of many a good “sit in” for great causes. She has gone from left to right and I mean RIGHT and I realized in talking to her that it is partly out of fear and more surprising, out of embarrassment. I cannot tell you how many times in our conversation she expressed embarrassment about something she saw or something she did. It’s as if the simplest act like riding a carousel at the park would reduce her to a red faced sweating heap. Anything that she used to consider fun was now beneath her and humiliating to even think about.
I told her about a trip we were planning with friends and a website that allows you to gamble with where you stay. You put in how many stars you want your hotel to have and what area you want to be in and it places you in the best hotel. I am so excited about this concept and she would have been as well in the day. But she scoffed. She was in awe that I would even consider this radical idea I could tell I had just gone down in her estimation. She used to play a mean guitar and I asked her if she still played at family gatherings or at the local pub. She said she has not picked it up in years and that did not surprise me. After all, it happens to all of us from time to time when we drift away from something for a while. But her reason shocked me and it was the only time I responded by slightly challenging her. She said “the guitar! For heaven’s sake I am fifty-eight years old!” I was so taken aback. I told her that I drum. She asked if I was any good. I said no but that I loved it. She asked if I ever played in front of people and when I said yes, she reminded me of my age. Well that got my rebel dander up and I told her I was starting ukelele lessons this week and that I also sketch, often and badly. And then she hit the nail on the head. She actually stated exactly how she felt. I didn’t have to surmise her feelings for this post because the words flowed out.
She said she was shocked that I would do that because there were so many other pursuits that were age appropriate and when I asked her when she started down this path of least fun, she responded by saying that with each decade since high school she has felt the call of propriety. She has felt it was imperative to act her age, whatever that means. She said that when children came along she felt and still does, that her fun was over. She is a good mom but very strict. She has lost her joy. Joy is to be observed now from a distance with a disapproving frown. Joy is for others. She is a grown up lady and she is going to act the role. I got off the phone and just sat there. We have made a date for lunch in September. I am meeting her at the restaurant in her town that she and her husband eat at twice a week. She will not try other spots because ... well, because “this is the restaurant my husband and I eat at twice a week.” And I will love seeing her because I loved her so much when we were young. And we will meet and we will be the same age. She looks great for her age but does everything to make herself look older. Her clothes, her hair, her make-up is so beyond her. If you had known her young self you would be as shocked as I am. So I will go and I will be who I am: the ever-changing Deb. And I will accept her for who she is and enjoy our time together. And she will be embarrassed by me and I won’t care.
And when the lunch is over I will get in my car and when a great song comes on the radio I will make the car dance. It’s one of my favourite things.