Generations

Generations By Monica Zanet | Media & Culture Cartoon | TOONPOOL

In our home, we have had four generations under one roof: a Baby Boomer, a Gen Xer, Generation Ys (millennials) and three Generation Zs. One reckless Gen Z kamikaze-child (who shall remain anonymous, but is my 20 year-old daughter, named Shannon who lives at…) with uncharacteristically scant concern for her immediate environment, dared to say to me tonight how ‘awful’ it must be to be a boomer nowadays because ‘you have to scroll so far down when you are looking for your birth year on electronic forms.’

Sadly, she is not wrong. And that’s not all. Last night I played one of those stupid Facebook games in which you had to put in your birth year and see what was hot on the charts back then. So, I tested the fun on my own wall by putting in my birth year (1964). But damn, it made me feel old. There were all my FB friends with their disco songs appearing on their posts. Not me…

I got The Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night – in black and white. Not even a grainy, colour album! I have never even been a Beatles fan.

It made me feel old and I guess I’ve been feeling that unconsciously for a while lately. Just this week I went down a FB wormhole about what to wear, what make up to use and what hairstyles to choose to make a woman look younger. What a waste of 30 minutes of my ever-shortening life!

But today I went off to the lovely Aruna and had my hair trimmed… actually, I asked her to lob off about 15 centimetres of fading lockdown golden locks. And I love it!

I do actually look younger, but my new coiffure hasn’t magicked away the post-lockdown belly blubber or smoothed away the mid-fifties wrinkles, more’s the pity.

Truth is, my mom passed away at 56 and I have 3 short months to reach that ceiling before I have to enter unknown territory. It’s a scary thing; hence my over-focus on age.

Growing older does have its benefits though because now that I am …. um of mature years… I have the confidence to be more myself even though I realize that I only have a few more years in the workplace before I get put out to pasture. (Mind you, if my children had it their way, they’d have taken my car away and relegated me to the cottage in the garden already). But  I have reached the age that I finally like myself, warts (or should I say liver spots) and all. And actually believe I have something to offer the universe.

I wish I had had this self-belief 20 years ago, but life had kind of beaten me down into self-doubt at one stage. I used to be terrified of public speaking for example, and having all the eyes in a room on me. There have been moments when I have entered a room of my peers and heard that song from Prince of Egypt thumping in my head, ‘You’re playing with the big boys now…’ But I like to think I’ve held my own. I even once forced myself to speak at an International Conference I was invited to present at (on educational technology nogal!).

Whatever I may have done in my own life though, I have realised is the truth of that old saying, that it is your children who are your life’s work. I can certainly say that my best achievements have been my children. It is exhilarating to see how they are changing the world in their own unique fashion: in film, in commerce, in football, in art and in full-on passion.

‘Sometimes, your greatest contribution to the universe may not be something you do, but someone you raise’

Anonymous

So, you know the longer your Memory Lane, the richer it is with moments of growth and triumph. I may have been born in the year the Beatles sang about working your guts out and coming home to the joy of loved ones (I was born on a Saturday and ‘Saturday’s child works hard for a living,’ the old rhyme said too, so what chance did I have in life?), but the joy IS in the coming home. It’s in the laughter at the dinner table; the sparkle in his eye; the feelings of pride that bubble up in my chest so often when I watch my children (and I include my schoolchildren in this); and the knowledge that there is still some life left in this old ‘dog’ of which the Fab Four spake.

I have been thinking a great deal about my mother lately. I suppose because I shall soon bypass her in age. I hope she would have been proud of me. She’d not be impressed by my liberal use of Anglo Saxon words, of course, nor my still too-loud voice, but I like to think she’d love the way her grandchildren have turned out – not too many obvious tics on display, and young people with compassion and commitment.

I used to feel horribly jealous when I saw women with their mothers out and about and still wish I could have had that for longer with my beloved mother. I wish we could still discuss literature and howl with laughter until our stomachs ache. She had an amazing laugh which belied her serene facade. She was a gifted writer, who put my sister and me before everything else. She showed her love by feeding people and had an inner goodness that I permanently aspire to.

I could live to twice her age and never be the woman she was.

She used to joke that only the good die young. And then she did.

She did say I’d get my comeuppance one day, so no doubt she fell off her cloud laughing when Shannon commented on my age tonight, especially because I am almost hers!

But if only the good die young, I have many years left to live – long enough to watch Shannon get her just deserts when her daughter laughs at her. (I’m not vindictive or anything…) My mother may have been a member of the Silent Generation, but her legacy of fun lives on. Just much louder.

… and my new haircut makes me look younger. So this is 56th-anniversary-restoration-album time…

And there is so much more to come.

A Hard Day’s Night

The Beatles

It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog
It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you I’ll find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright

You know I work all day to get you money to buy you things
And it’s worth it just to hear you say you’re going to give me everything
So why on earth should I moan, ’cause when I get you alone
You know I feel ok

When I’m home everything seems to be right
When I’m home feeling you holding me tight, tight, yeah

It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog
It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you I’ll find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright, oww

So why on earth should I…

Source: LyricFind
A Hard Day's Night Lyrics

On Being Fifty

Ok so I am nearing 51 now, but who’s counting. My sister is muuuch older: she’s nearly 53.

But here’s the thing – everyone thinks I’m the older one because I have children. And I cannot pretend anymore that it is because I am the serene, mature one, while she is the wild and irresponsible, single one. Nor can I honestly say I look older than I am because I have kids, no matter the temptation to blame them for this ailing body. Sometimes it helps, mind you, to have had a herd of younguns. There are nine years between Sean and Liam, but the mothers  of Liam’s friends assume I am their age, a good ten years younger than I am.

I have had about ten months to consider how I feel about having reached this ‘middle-aged’ milestone (Of course I’m old enough to know what an actual milestone is). Ten months is the usual human gestation period. (Don’t believe the ‘nine months’ myth they tell you) so my fully grown thought is… I am rather bemused by it all.

Not that ambivalence about growing old stops the aging process. And it is inexorable. And undignified. There are weird things that happen to one’s body which tales of the ‘sagging’ shape of one’s fifties do not adequately prepare you for: Like that moment when you look in the mirror at your naked form (not recommended unless you are a fifty-something like Iman or Sharon Stone) and quite pleased with yourself that you have that ‘thigh gap’ thing going that all the magazines speak about, you wonder what it is you can see at the top of your legs. You’re not wearing your glasses naturally because any mirror-gazing after fifty should be done without 20-20 vision. Then it dawns on you – that’s your butt hanging down. The lesson: avoid all reflective surfaces. No, gentle reader, gym is not an option: Far too many looking glasses there.

Then there is your friend to whom you confide that you have decided that short skirts are for younger women, because you can no longer hide the varicose veins (yes, dear offspring, the scars of 50 months of pregnancy). And she speaks about her salami-skinned calves – and you know what she means!

It’s not just the legs though. I remember grabbing my mother’s hand once, upon glimpsing a liver spot on her beautiful pale hand: ‘No, you’ve got old!’ I wailed. Gee that must have made her feel good! I cannot believe I did that. But Karma is a sly bitch and she has come a-visiting to my anatomy now. It doesn’t help that one develops what another pal calls ‘old lady skin,’ that thin, papery and fragile epidermis, which bleeds at the slightest bump. And the grazes look like more liver spots.

And then there are the wrinkles. I always said that I wouldn’t mind such lines (as long as they were laughter lines), not realising that it is really difficult to put on lipstick around your mouth when you must navigate the crevices, not filled by putty-like foundation. But I draw the line (get it?) at wrinkles on my toes. Seriously?! I did not anticipate that.

Coping with the question of whether to colour or embrace the grey is not one I considered in my feckless youth. I assumed that as a redhead, I would simply fade delicately with the advancing years. And fade I have – so much that folk have begun to apologise to me about telling blonde jokes. To make it worse, I have noticed lately that there are far too many grey hairs in my fringe to pull out, lest I go bald. I’m simply ignoring them and pretending they are blonde.

There are other signs of aging that are not about the old fuselage needing panel beating though. I have noticed that a question I am asking at job interviews is whether there is a mandatory retirement age. Such questions never entered my head before. And job-hunting at fifty is no mean feat either. I was born in 1964. That is Baby Boomer territory. I remember the first moon landing for heaven’s sake! Since young teachers entering the profession were born after I graduated I can imagine what some HR suit may think about a dinosaur like me. My solution: I stuck a soft focus photograph on my CV which was just grainy enough to hide the age, but not quite a poorly focussed shot.

And yet I do not want to be younger, because that would negate who I have become and the victories I have won in recent years. I like my life and if that means I have to ask my daughters to do the ‘mutton or lamb’ colosseum gesture from time to time, that’s okay. There is a liberation which comes with knowing and liking yourself as you are, and a sense of adventure in realising that as the children grow up and bring home love interests, the heart of the home is expanding and there are so many more years of family ahead. They do not even notice what I look like… unless I bought something new and snuck it inside without telling them, or nicked it from their cupboards, which sadly I can’t do anymore (the mutton-lamb thing again).

So I’m good. And I try very hard not to remember that Shirley Valentine was 42. But I don’t want a Greek lover. I’m clever – I married a younger man. And I am not fifty-one yet. I am only 50 and 5/6ths.