“Me write an article about orgasms? You must be kidding,” you might have heard me exclaim incredulously some years ago, “No, not me! I’m not an expert and I don’t have the nerve!”
But things change as you grow older. In the past year, I have written an article not only about orgasms, but also one on the vulva and another on the bowels. On none of them am I an expert, but I realised I had relevant things to say.
And on none of them do I feel any embarrassment at having done so.
I have said it many times and I will say it again. I like being old. I like it so much that I even wrote a book about it.
There are many things I like about this life stage, but there is one jewel in the crown. For those of us who weren’t clever enough to discover it earlier – it is the wonderful sense of freedom from all the unspoken rules by which we otherwise lived.
I don’t know why it takes until you are in your later years to come to this conclusion, but I note that it does.
Many people say so. Especially women.
The common cliché is that we want to grow old disgracefully. Well, yes and no. A few people actually do – they take to drink or drugs or rock and roll.
But most of us simply make little changes to the way we lead our lives that give us pleasure or reduce the pain. We feel freer. We do what we want.
What a relief!
These changes are not disgraceful, at least to my mind, in any meaningful sense. They just mean we express ourselves more truthfully. Some friends or acquaintances may be embarrassed, but in most cases, they wouldn’t even notice.
Let me give a few examples.
The social rules by which we tend to live are not stated anywhere at all, but we tend to follow them almost as if they were.
You may have always felt uncomfortable at parties, but nonetheless, when your good friend invited you to her party, you went. Not only that, you may have bought a special dress, perhaps even shoes, that you didn’t really want.
And you turned up at the allotted time with a smile. Even worse, you stayed until it was a suitable time to leave.
Older people increasingly say, “The heck with that!” My friend will perfectly well understand that I don’t like parties and, while she may miss my presence, she will accept that I am uncomfortable there.
Your partner may go or not, as he (or she) wishes. You stay home with a glass of wine and a good book. You are free.
Or perhaps you never liked the same sort of movies as your spouse but went along to be sociable – and vice versa. As you grow older, you are more likely to say you will go to what movie you like by yourself, and he/she can choose his own.
What does it matter if you don’t go as a pair? You both get what you like and go when you want. You are free.
The same is true for how we present ourselves. People want to look ‘smart’ or ‘casual’ or whatever the occasion calls for.
Some go to a lot of trouble. I am told that mothers even think about what to wear at the school gates, although I must admit the thought never crossed my mind.
Now is the time to do what you like. Buy that supposedly unsuitable leather jacket. Or take to wearing a hat if you always wanted to. Or short skirts.
It’s completely up to you.
Personally, I belong to the blue jeans and tee-shirt brigade. I haven’t touched a lipstick in 50 or so years. If anything, I have probably grown more shabby.
That’s me – it doesn’t have to be you.
Many of us are told from day one not to talk to anyone we don’t know and, although important advice for small children, it remains the social norm in many places.
I am a sociable sort wherever I am – and I increasingly talk to complete strangers – at the bus stop, in the supermarket queue or even in the street. Unfortunately, much less during the Covid period, if only because it was hard to make personal contact through two masks.
I even used to sell the occasional book to complete strangers in the street, to the utter embarrassment of my family. But what does it matter? No one had to buy.
None of these particular examples are of any great importance in themselves, but they are indicators of a broader state of mind.
At some point, we older people feel a sense of liberty to say what we think and do what we wish. Some younger people do, too, but the tendency grows with age.
Often, our decisions are perfectly normal within anyone’s set of unwritten rules, but sometimes they are not.
This freedom is nothing dramatic. We have not been let out of jail or suddenly found ourselves with enough to eat when we lacked it before.
But small unspoken changes are nonetheless important to us.
They offer a wonderful new lease on life.
Have you found your freedom in your 60s? Do you find yourself making decisions you would never have done before? Do you say what you think more often than before? If so, how does it feel to you?
Tags Getting Older