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What’s Age Got to Do with It?

By the time you reach 70, you probably are aware of your various predilections. For example in California I do yoga and Pilates. My dear neighbour goes to a gym where she does a half hour of elliptical training. Which made my hips even more uneven and messes with my back. She also does a half hour of rowing. This seems to make sense to me and I imagine her in a jaunty striped sailor suit on the little rivers all over Holland where she is from. Another friend likes the jump, twist, moves of NIA where the exercisers dance away to the selection of tunes chosen by the instructor, most recently Hamilton. And often too, I observe at the community centre the hardcore circuit masters as they become part steely machine, their arms attached to pulleys , their feet pumping madly. I think of myself as the little girl in Grade 3 walking the sidewalk curbs, attempting to precariously balance like a circus performer but inevitably tripping and arriving home to my mother with knees gashed and bleeding for my efforts.

In my classes, we attempt, at least I do, to manage tree poses , standing on one leg, toes tucked into knees to form a triangle in yoga; or in Pilates, posed to keep one extended leg in opposition to one arm while precariously mounted on a box on a reformer. We’re advised in yoga to keep the four points or the tripod of the foot in contact with the floor but it’s not easy although many I can attest do perform these feats neatly and smoothly, their limbs not trembling like my jellylike parts to locate where the right and left will coalesce in peace. Makes me think of the Ralph Waldo Emerson line from eons ago of finding the middle path. But I was always more an excess person .

At a certain age after years of experimenting, we come to a point that we believe what works or is good for us. I try not to scoff at the young salespeople in Sephora who preaches the products that will make me wrinklefree in just two days. Others seriously maintain that a full month or longer is necessary to see results. There’s no use imploring them that is not the case, or wearing vitamin C in the sun will attract age spots. Usually it’s the smell, texture, familiarity of a product that keeps me coming back, or the illusion that I will return to a thirtysomething appearance. Silly me. So I’ve found ’tis better to listen to a diatribe( based on their studies???), than to vent my own experience. At worst they proselytize, at best they nod, no doubt thinking, “ whatever you say, old lady. “ So it is with how you like to present yourself to the world. In spite of its quirkiness, one fellow I knew only wore bow ties, even sending to Italy for the choosiest of silk fabrics. Did he imagine himself at a dinner party dining with royalty or the ironic clown commentator ?

And yet in my head I don’t feel like an old lady, even if I joke about my age as if it means something. In deed today I will try a “Silver Pilates for 50 Plus”, hoping it will work with my regime at home, constructed for me and my parts that have been worn away through years of living, in my particular group of misaligned body quadrants. Later I will survey the faces and bodies in this particular group, measuring myself against their agility, sags and smiles, eventually relaxing into a fabric where I, like they are the strands that curl and stretch to our instructor’s commands. But honestly 50?Does anyone today believe that 55 marks one as a senior, ready to laze on a couch and drift into the sunset?


For my birthday celebration party,I spied a white cotton lace dress by Chloe at Holts. Showing a picture of it to daughter number two, she queried why I would want something that looked like paper doilies? But worse yet loomed my mother’s voice in my head as I imagined her responding to the frills at the sides,” Pat, act your age”: a comment thrown at me once before when I had chosen a white lacy thing and yes, with modified batwing frills. As if lace and frills belonged only to the young! And yet too I am scrupulous of clothes that will hug the tummy indicating that time has softened its folds and bulges, or patterns so bright that they seem more appropriate to the schoolyard than a romantic dining spot.

In my mother’s mind, there was a certain age requirement for presently oneself to the outside world in good taste: when one should emerge from their boudoir appropriately, elegantly, nixing the extravagances of clothing the body, no doubt using Queen Elizabeth’s knee length sensible skirts as a guide. No point in pretending the tummy wasn’t as flat as it once was or the carriage as upright. I’d heard stories from her of the appearance of Easter bonnets in the Beaches in Toronto and when white gloves might appear- and disappear. I like to recall the Grace and Frankie episodes where the stunning Grace, Jane Fonda refuses to allow her young lover see her in bed before she primps. And I now know why Blanche only received her gentleman caller at night when the light was kinder to the landscape of her face.

So each time I tried on that birthday dress, I queried the salesperson to be honest, demanding an objective opinion, “Was it too young for me?” The answers were consistent: it’s fashion, not age, I was told. And in the end when the price was sufficiently reduced and I banished my mother’s voice, I bought it, no longer hearing her wise words in my head regarding the foolishlessness of my choice. And truthfully, I enjoyed wearing it, even forgetting the dress, and focusing on the surge of joy at my dinner party.

We arrive at a certain point and we are our own art product: of ourselves in terms of how we have crafted or recreated ourselves, bow ties, ruffles aside. Back in university psychology, the debate between heredity and environment had the newbies arrogantly aligning with environment as if every choice and context could inspire a new you, not dependent on granny’s genes. The bud only needed good food fresh water, vitamins and sunlight to not just bloom but shine. Only through the realization of all the self help books, the wisest of gurus, and the attempts to realign your body parts in the most positive of climes , but ignoring your own children’s similarities to their relatives, did we finally acknowledge that heredity undermines and holds one fast in its grip, as one is part of a clan, holding sorry secrets or wonderful surprises in the body. With resignation but acceptance, we comprehend that middle ground that marries the interplay of context, and understand that luck too can turn the sourest situation of family genetics sweet. I had to laugh at my sister who recently told me that those DNA tests advertised on television are able to reveal from which Biblical matriarch you are descended. Perhaps that is why some of us continue to enjoy watering camels. I responded with, quite incredulous, “Don’t you believe in evolution?” “ Of course, “she a student of science, responded.

Just yesterday, I read of a movie , Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool , in which an aging Annette Bening assumes the role of an aging actress who wants to play Juliet -to the smirks of the producer which might consider her for Juliet’s mature( read OLD) nurse. In our heads, we are still Juliets, and maybe we should be, dismissing the mirror for the voice of the soul.

TV Stuff

Last night I watched a show called Shameless on Netflix. My sister had suggested it, saying it was based on a British prototype. In the story, a drunken father,William R. Macy, and motherless tumble of children fare for themselves, the eldest in charge. The pilot I viewed was racy , with bare bums, oral sex performed on two brothers by a fifteen year old, the father brought home by cops, the discovery of pornographic material hidden under a pillow. It conjured for me books that I adored as a girl, those tales of family in which the mother was dead or missing and the children had to find their own way.Of course, back then, there were no episodes as vivid or glaring as what I observed yesterday, but there were the perils of surviving, finding your own way without any adult direction.

Although the sex is expected, it is made contemporary as one brother has homosexual leanings with his married Muslim boss who owns the local grocery. In spite of the caring next door black neighbour lady who happens to be a nurse, her live-in boyfriend and she enjoy kinky sexual relations, and the full frontal nude of him, privates splayed is no longer taboo. Yet these lower class barely surviving characters demonstrate cooperation, caring and deep consideration, even the family of children expressing outright love for the useless father who spends his disability paycheque endlessly drinking or sleeping in the middle of the floor. Simply put, he’s a brute and I doubt I will continue to watch this series.

The story of the destitute children is the same but pushed forward generations made modern through the addition of sexual innuendo and nudity, events made so commonplace and normalized that we hardly blink at the eldest sister -ersatz mother who dancing at nightclubs in a” borrowed dress” makes love with a boyfriend of an hour or so in the messy cluttered kitchen. She works umpteen jobs and watches over her sibs. Into this mess comes her Prince Charming who noting the broken washing machine delivers a new one.

I turned to Netflix because I was bored with the offering on the regular channels and here in San Diego there are over 5144 channels, in which you can watch in Spanish, give yourself a facelift, learn about cancer, dogs, stingray Jazz Masters,Buy a Bride, Eat a Bulaga, ( whatever that may be), catch up on Oregon ladies basketball and more useless esoteric matters that I doubt anyone truly cares about. And because we do not get Outlander here I will have to wait months to follow Clare’s travails between her loves separated by 400 years.

Here we finished The Crown, now knowledgeable about Jackie Kennedy’s apologies to Queen Elizabeth regarding her thick ankles. It was thrilling to see Elizabeth working out a way to avoid Ghana’s relationship with Russia by dancing with the president. More than a mere lover of her corgis, she is portrayed as thoughtfully grappling with political issues. She is direct and not moved by her prime ministers, Harold Macmillan and Anthony Eden.She does manipulate her sister Margaret’s life to Margaret’s unending scorn and resentment of her meddling sister. The very stylish Margaret careens from one bad choice to another. Yet we do empathize with her as artist Tony Armstrong’s mummy issues are revealed and his wild lifestyle is vividly presented.Philip as well shown is a recalcitrant philander, a good ole boy, but his treatment of sensitive hapless Charles is heartbreaking, particularly in Philip’s blackmail insistence to Elizabeth that his son endure the same rigorous horrid schooling that he did in Scotland. In spite of Philip’s own harsh and tragic family background, his demeanour was all ready coarse enough to triumph over difficult situations. Sadly, poor Charles succumbed, recalling his schooling at Gordonston as “ prison” and “ hell ”: as it is well depicted.Elizabeth stands by, unable and unwilling to change Charles’ circumstance.

The wonder of some shows is the new information the audience is now privy to. In deed when I googled the Jackie-Elizabeth dinner, I observed that the cast wore exact replicas of the original designer gowns and the conversations the tv viewers witnessed were pretty much the same although “ creatively” imagined. Certainly Elizabeth is humanized in these episodes, the problems and restraints of being a royal revealed. Claire Foy does an admirable job of presenting the tangle of a job few desire. Yet times change, and with the marriage of Harry to Meaghan Markle, one would love to be a fly on the flocked wallpaper, overhearing the discussions the dead- eyed Philip must be entertaining with his wife.

My children laugh that- give me actors in period piece costumes and I am happy. I’m only happy if the story is good and something new and interesting is revealed( OK, I do love lavish brocades and fabrics and styles, fashion ). When I saw Amistad, Borghum ,John Adams( with Paul Giammati), the Burns documentary on Vietnam Nam, Genius, stories that pierce the veneers we have been fed in the news – it’s as if I have discovered a delicious secret and that information now colours, explains, deepens or changes what I thought I knew. It’s the same in books when new information is disclosed.

Now I realize networks like Netflix do play fast and loose to attract viewers, events or details unearthed through research, diaries, memos, whatnot, previously not readily known: that intensifies the narrative. And truthfully I like that.

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