When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple–Jenny Joseph
Thank God I’m a woman (Pronouns: She, Her). Not for political reasons. Just for scientific ones.
I can’t imagine much worse than being a man growing old–that is to say, equivalent to me–entering the mid-range of my seventh decade on this earth, with only J. Alfred Prufrock as poetic company:
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
I grow old … I grow old …I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
Poor guy. What a sorry spectacle. Fearful. Rolling up his trousers so he doesn’t trip on them. Lonely and inauthentic. Hiding, hoping, and praying, against all hope, for youthful femininity to rescue him–especially in the eyes of his drooling sycophants–from the dreariness and dysfunction of male old age. Oblivious to the fact that such things don’t matter to the women who actually love him, and uncaring that they matter in a only monetary sense to the women who choose to use him for their own purposes. (To slightly misquote one of Eliot’s contemporaries: “Who can tell the user from the used?” Actually, I can’t. You?)
Meanwhile, perhaps such men (given their sideshow clamoring) are not even well-off enough to pay for the privilege of pretending that buying what’s merely a service somehow makes up for the loss of actual life experience and the reality of life and love among those who really do matter–family, wives, daughters, mothers, brothers, and so on.
What a shame J. Alfred didn’t have a smart, mature, age-appropriate helpmeet to assist him in sorting this out. (I expect–even if he’d had something close–he’d have thought her too old, to fat, too stupid, and too un-hip to understand his fabulousness and his intelligence. Change my mind. LOL.)
Lord. Lucky escape, me.
I’ve paid my dues (please take me on, if you think that’s not the case), and I’ll take my chances with Jenny Joseph and her version of old age. I’ll be silly. I’ll be festive. I’ll be joyous. I’ll sit on the sidewalk and munch my lunch. (As I have many times throughout the last four decades. I think my first experience with this might have been sitting in the cemetery across the road from the Wholey Fish Company in Pittsburgh sometime in the 1970s with my soon-to-be Mr. Right, and eating my lunchtime fish sandwiches.) And I’ll eat as many pounds of sausages, of no matter what ethnicity, I please and whenever I please.
Above all else, I’ll be human.
Happy upcoming birthdays my darling geezers, wherever you are. You may join with me in my celebrations anytime you like. However, I won’t allow any self-pity, grievance-mongering or victimhood-signaling. Such things are simply not permitted here, no matter how special, in whoseever eyes, you believe yourself to be.