I’m confronted by the realities of getting older each day now. Take today, for 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 alone, with time to think.
And it dawned on me that we’ve become those sad, empty-nesters, forced to embrace the next stage of our lives – albeit kicking and screaming all the way – that you see in those rom-coms with an elderly British cast, 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 for some intellectual growth, and to prevent my children accusing me of being a complete loser.
I wore my new hair cut with pride. Yes, the same haircut that the hairdresser assured me was ‘edgy’, but Kurt described as a ‘bowl-cut’ as I walked through the door, exhausted from two hours of teasing and pulling, and I decided when I woke up this morning (and all the hairdresser’s magic volumisers had been eradicated by my night sweats) does make me look ten years older than I looked yesterday.
The demographic of the afternoon screening was an over-65, white, predominantly female audience, 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. But it was sad to see them yank each other up into a standing position when it was time to leave.
It was a poignant reminder that we all need friends in old age.
I thought the movie I had chose, ‘While We’re Young’, was a light-hearted comedy. But in fact, it was much darker and thought-provoking than Ben Stiller’s usual offerings that explored the subject of ageing by comparing the lives of a middle-aged couple coping with their insecurities about ageing, with a younger couple on the cusp of their first successes – a couple, who on the surface looked like they had the world at their feet.
Ben Stiller’s role made uncomfortable viewing at times. Because once we surpass that huge milestone of turning forty, many of us try to stay on the treadmill of youth – whether that’s in terms of our looks, our lifestyle choices, or our search for new interests to find purpose and fulfilment.
For the first half of the movie, ageing and middle age are ridiculed through Ben’s character – from his mannerisms, affectations, and intolerances to the rut in his relationship rut with his wife Cornelia.
I did squirm as I watched the couple sink into an unchallenged acceptance of the limitations of middle-age and only the sugar from my Maltesers kept my spirits from flagging.
However, once the middle-aged couple meet Jamie and Darby, the younger couple, they become instantly energised and flattered by their interest in them. They believe that by sharing experiences with them, they will somehow re-infect them with a new vitality for life.
That resonated with me – that desire to recapture our youth. Late-night drinking and even nightclubs seem a great idea until somewhere around 10pm when the tiredness sets in, the noise starts to jar, and you start to worry about how many hours sleep you have left until morning or how heavy your hangover will be.
Fortunately, by the end of the film, it was clear that the main message from the movie was positive. The acceptance that although we cannot turn back the biological clock to our youth, there are positive changes that come with ageing – an appreciation of authenticity, the importance of true friendship, and the development of wisdom that comes from our experiences in life – whether good or bad.
Maybe ageing isn’t really all that bad.