“Let’s feel good about being 50, 60, 70 and beyond” advises The New York Times. “Let’s even brag about it.”
Brag about getting older? Yeah, right.
This weekend I went to visit a friend and quickly realized that the other guests were not my age. As I settled into the wrinkle-hiding shadows with a drink, their topic of discussion turned to 40th birthdays. Which they all had yet to celebrate.
The perfect opportunity for me to brag about being two decades older? My New Old Self thought not.
This exhortation to brag about your age takes me back to a conversation about stigma around HIV and AIDS. My HIV-positive friend assured me that if there was anything to be gained from disclosing your positive status people would do so. But there is little to gain and lots to lose so most choose not to disclose. And certainly wouldn’t brag about it.
I doubt that many believe that bragging about your 50, 60 or 70+ status will make you like the superhero in the illustration for “Embrace Your Age and Conquer the World”. Writer Peggy Klaus does, but then she would, as an executive coach with a specialization in bragging and the author of a book called Brag!
The problem, from my new old perspective, lies not in encouraging the embracing of our aging. Any embrace of who we really are is good. But surely along with embracing aging comes accepting the fact that if you were going to conquer the world it would have happened by now. (Then again the article appeared in a newspaper nicknamed The Old Gray Lady, said to be “edited for those who think they should run the world”.)
The reality of embracing aging is that it’s something you do in spite of, not because of, how others may react. So if you want to brag about it, brag away – just don’t expect it to make you popular.
Think of your personal experience of age discrimination. Think back to your youth and the things you once thought and said about people older than you. Like all prejudice it was born of ignorance. Hopefully we are wiser now.
Another point about embracing aging is that it isn’t about public image. It can mean private indulging the nostalgia we tend to enjoy later in life. So when 40th birthday plans are discussed you can zone out and think back to what how you felt when turning 40 was making you feel old.