"You look cold, grandmother. Would you like to sit in my warm car while you wait for your ride?" These were the words I thought, but never said, to the thin old woman shivering against the concrete retaining wall a few blocks from my home. Who knows whether it was race memory, my having read too much Russian history, or my sense of melodrama which prompted me to call her grandmother. But I do know that, no matter how cold she was, she wasnt going to get into a strangers car and wait for her son (or whoever) to come pick her up. Not in this brave new world in which we live.
I dont know why, but Ive thought a lot about that old woman since I drove past her. Shes become a catalyst for thoughts on a number of topics related to aging: love, sex, how people perceive us as we age, how we perceive ourselves, how we adapt to change, how the world around us responds to how we adapt... stuff like that.
I was raised to think that anyone past their mid-thirties was sexless. The world of Ward and June Cleaver forced-innocence (and ignorance) was battling ideas of free love and the womans movement... but they all had something in common: they de-sexed anyone you wouldnt card at a liquor store. Now those self-same hippie chicks and groovy dudes who wouldn't trust anyone over 30 are staring the big 5-0 in the face and coming to some realizations. Their bodies may be slowing down but their minds (and libidos) are still active.
Last year Parade Magazine ran an article about aging and sex. I was encouraged to learn that most people continue to enjoy a varied sex life as they age. In fact, many said that although they made love less often, they enjoyed it far more, scheduled more time, and included a variety of techniques. I was happy to know these things... but a little sad that they had to come as such a surprise. The conspiracy of silence has worked too well.
I was born during the last few years of the Baby Boom. I didnt inherit the great economic opportunities of the front end Boomers, nor was I indulged as many Generation X-ers were. But, Im starting to realize that there are some benefits to being a `Tweener. As Boomers refuse to be depersonalized like their parents and grandparents... and Gen X-ers refuse to let labels or conventions interfere with the pursuit of their ambitions (when they actually have ambitions)... Im hoping to surf the wake between these two waves and reap the benefit of them both.
Neither Boomers nor Gen X-ers are very good at keeping their opinions to themselves and Ive inherited the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) of both groups. I dont want to have to hide my sexuality when I hit menopause. I dont plan on living in a magazine fantasy world because people my age cant do that. I dont want to stand quietly on the sidelines watching all the yummy bits go to people half my age. I grab onto life with both hands now and I dont see any point in relaxing my grip just because my hair gets a little gray and my breasts point a bit more south... and I dont think anyone else should, either.
Life is a process, a journey. We may walk the last few miles more slowly, but that doesnt mean we cant enjoy the trip while were doing it. Just because our grandparents may have done it is no reason for us to go softly into that good night.
Maybe that shivering old woman wasnt waiting for a ride from her son, after all... maybe she was waiting for a ride from her lover. Maybe she wasnt even shivering from the cold, but from anticipation. I much prefer the sound of that.