Monday, July 6, 2009

When I grow up I want to be an old woman

“When I grow up I want to be an old woman…”

I love that song, which is featured on a Kaiser Permanente commercial encouraging women to get mammograms. Actually, I had to look that last part up, but the song by Michelle Shocked celebrating old women is just great, and the fact that it is encouraging women to “spread health,” makes it even better.

I have a friend who once said she couldn’t wait until she and her husband were senior citizens. As a person who clings tightly to her youth or, rather, perceived youth, I couldn’t believe my ears. Who would want to be old?

But the older I get, the more I wonder, just what is old, anyway? Is it an age or a state-of-mind? I have cousin who’s just a few years older than I but acts as if she’s ready for the nursing home.

On the flip side, I spent the Fourth of July with a group of woman whose very presence made me hum the “When I grow up” song. These margarita-sipping, hot wing-making women ranged in ages from 65-82, with the oldest not looking a day older than the youngest.

These are not your typical grandmas. These ladies can hit the heck out of a tennis or golf ball. They ran in the Peachtree Road Race just a few years back. They look good and know it but could care a less. They are incredibly witty and funny. They embrace their age with such grace and humor; one can only hope to grow up to be like them.

Since the other women at this particular party had very young children which rendered them unable to have a conversation without having to chase after them mid-sentence (Oh, how I remember those days), I sat on the hill with the senior set and watched the Fourth of July parade and soon found myself enjoying eavesdropping on their banter. (By the way, when you are a writer, it’s not being nosy; it’s research.)

Much of it was playful; some of it bittersweet. Here are some snipits:

“It so funny to hear one talk about the other one,” they said of an old married couple. “Each one thinks the other is slipping. When, in fact, they both are!”

“Did you hear so-and-so had a stroke?”

“No, I didn’t. This getting old is not for sissies.”

That quiet moment was quickly broken by a float with an American flag.

“America! We still believe in you!”

“About the only thing that hasn’t been taken away!” cracked one of the ladies.

The parade was a bit of a dud this year with car after car of little beauty queens, beginning at the age of 18 months.

“I think this is more for the mamas than the babies,” said one.

“Why, all you have to do to be in the parade is have a convertible and a title,” said another lady.

“Well, I’ve got the convertible,” replied the oldest.

“We’ll get some crowns and be ‘Ms. Aging America!’”

“I wanna be Ms. Congeniality,” said another. That brought a big round of laughter because apparently of all things, Ms. Congeniality she was NOT.

“Can I be runner-up?” I asked.

“Oh, honey, you’re too young!”

And for once in my life, I felt disappointed to hear those words.

To watch this priceless commercial, click the link below:

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