“The best you can do about it is the best you can do about it,” Dorothy Parker said on the occasion of her fiftieth birthday. Middle age was an anathema, middle anything “the label of frump.” She said “People should be one of two things, young or dead,” yet she postulated about the potential, the panache, of getting old—“There is chic to seventy, elegance to eighty” she said—if you can carry it off. I want to age with grace and style, but what interests me most is watching it evolve, the alterations in body and brain that I experience as participant and observer, scientist and subject simultaneously. I’ve written about post-seventy tattoos and marathons, of declining health and dwindling opportunities, of patience and a thicker skin, a fuck ‘em attitude. I adopt Parker’s conviction that now “there are no more mistakes; you have made them all”—so what’s to fear? She said “You’re the only one who is passionately interested in your age,” and yes, here I am, antennae waving as it continues to unfold, what Virginia Woolf called “this loose drifting material of life … flowers, clouds, beetles, and the price of eggs.” And squirrels. This morning I watched two resident squirrels in my back yard, one minute nibbling sunflower seeds off the deck, the next chasing each other up and down and around a palm tree, leaping onto the ground, sauntering back to the seeds. Woolf used to address her future self—old Virginia—in her diary; days before her death she reminded herself to “observe the oncome of age.” Baby Boomers have entered their seventies, passionately interested in age, speaking and writing about it as if they discovered it, painful joints and purported joys, with interest or indignity or averted eyes as they grasp at perpetual youth, pronounce seventy to be the new fifty. But I got there first by a few years and will beat them to eighty. The deaths of Woolf at 59 and Parker at 73 and of my mother at 60 are the impetus to remain acutely aware and part of the conversation.
Alice Lowe’s flash prose has appeared this past year in Hobart, JMWW, Door Is a Jar, Sleet, Anti-Heroin Chic, and BurningWord. She’s had citations in Best American Essays and nominations for Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net. Alice writes about life and literature, food and family in San Diego, California and at www.aliceloweblogs.wordpress.com.