I’m confronted by the realities of getting older every day now. Take today as the perfect example. While the old man was off playing golf (*snigger*)and the kids had deserted the nest in search of their own fun lives, I was left to think about what to do with myself.
Could we have become any more stereotypical of those sad, empty-nesters, forced to embrace the next stage of their lives (but still kicking and screaming all the way) that are depicted on rom-coms about middle-age – usually with a British cast and set in India?
Anyway, I decided that rather than stay in bed all day with only the computer and the Princess for company – which is what I really wanted to do – I would take myself off to the cinema to grow intellectually, lest my children accuse me of being a complete loser.
I took my new hair cut with me. That is, the same haircut that the hairdresser assured me only yesterday was ‘edgy’, but that Kurt described as a ‘bowl-cut’ the minute I walked through the door after two hours of teasing and pulling, and that I decided when I woke up this morning, (once all the hairdresser’s magic volumisers had been eradicated by my night sweats), actually makes me look ten years older than I looked yesterday.
The afternoon movie screening was typically full of over-65s, apart from me, but I got over the stigma of going to the cinema by myself a long time ago. As I walked down the steps towards the theatre, I smiled to myself when I overheard one old woman who was watching me ask her friend if she could remember the last time she walked down steps without holding on. I didn’t mention that even I have to take them a bit more slowly these days, but was saddened to notice that as they got up from the sofa, they had to yank each other up into a standing position.
It was a poignant reminder that we all need friends in old age.
I thought that the movie I had chosen, ‘While We’re Young’, was going to be a light-hearted comedy, but in fact it was much darker and thought-provoking than Ben Stiller’s usual offerings. It (inevitably) explored the subject of getting older by comparing the lives of a middle-aged couple who are dealing with their own insecurities about ageing, with a much younger couple who are on the cusp of first successes – a couple, who on the surface look like they have the world at their feet.
Ben Stiller’s role provides for uncomfortable viewing at times. Once we surpass that huge age milestone of forty, many of us try to stay on the treadmill of youth, whether it’s in terms of how we look, how we behave or how we keep searching for new interests to find fulfilment.
For the first two-thirds of the movie, every trait that is symptomatic of ageing and middle age is ridiculed, via Ben’s character – from his new mannerisms and affectations, his intolerances and choices, to the relationship rut that he and his wife, Cornelia, have found themselves in.
My body squirmed in recognition as I watched this couple sink into an unchallenged acceptance of the limitations of middle-age and only the sugar from my Maltesers kept my spirits from flagging.
When the middle-aged couple meet Jamie and Darby, the younger couple, they become instantly energised and flattered by their interest in them and believe that by sharing experiences with them, they too will become re-infected with a vitality for life.
We’re all guilty of that – of trying to recapture our youth. Going to nightclubs seems a great idea until somewhere around midnight when you realize how tired you are, how noisy it is and how you can’t stop worrying about how many hours sleep you have left or the hangover you’ll have the next day.
By the denouement of the film, fortunately it was clear that the main message was a more positive one, though. That although we may not be able to turn back the biological clock to youth, there are positive outcomes to ageing, such as an appreciation for authenticity, the importance of true friendship and the development of a wisdom that can only come from experiences in life – whether they are good or bad.
In fact, one of the most surprising realities about ageing is that it isn’t actually all bad.