With all due respect, I am fucking scared of getting old

I have been wanting to write about this fear of mine, irrational or not, for a long time but refrained because I did not want to offend anybody. But I can’t ignore it any longer. It depresses the shit out of me on bad days. I am just going to come right out and say it:

With all due respect, I think the saying “Life begins at 40” is a crock of bullshit. It’s like saying the lottery winners are unhappy because now they have the trouble that comes with extreme wealth. Are we not supposed to be admitting to ourselves and the world that aging is scary and depressing? I don’t feel “Rah Rah Yeah Look at me I am a middle-aged woman” at all. I feel like shit, and now I also feel guilty for feeling like shit.

I am watching this aging thing in horror the way I watch a glass vase fall. In s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n. I freeze. Eyes wide open. Wishing I could somehow turn back time to before the moment when the vase was knocked over. There is nothing I can do but to watch the vase hit the ground and break into pieces.

 

The trailers for “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” reminded me how peculiar it is that in many of these tales, fear of aging drives people to the extremes in order to forestall the inevitable. And inevitable it is. On more and more occasions men would greet me with “Young lady!”, sometimes with a wink even because they knew they’re doing me a favor. It’s a secret handshake that firmly positions me in the category “women who have past their prime”. I hate this because, yes, it does make my steps lighter and lift my spirit. How pathetic it is that I now live for evidences of the residue of my youth?

 

Maybe I’d feel better about this whole aging thing if I felt I’d lived a life well-lived. For myself. As myself.

I spent 23 years of my life in school. The kids came. I had lived in a fog ever since. All of a sudden the fog cleared because the kids are old enough to spare me some free time, I opened my eyes and screamed when I looked at myself in the mirror.

What the fuck happened?

I feel cheated. I was put in cryogenic sleep but I did not wake up like Captain America. I demand a do-over! All the unfulfilled promises from my youth make me want to lie on my back and throw a big, giant tantrum.

“But I don’t wanna. NO! You can’t make me! It’s not fair!”

Waving my arms frantically to bat away the minutes. Covering my ears singing “LalalalalaIcan’thearyou” and shielding my eyes from the glaring tick-tock of time.

If I cry hard enough, scream loud enough, someone will relent and let me have my way right?

 

I noticed a varicose vein on my face today. I’m shell-shocked I guess. Watching Vivien Leigh who was 43 in “My Week with Marilyn” crumble under the frightening prospect of the march of time did not help either.

I hope you could see this as an acceptable excuse for my irrational outburst.

Just don’t call me “Young lady”.

And definitely don’t say “When I grow up, I want to be like you.”

 

ETA: Came across this cartoon… Yup.

Article by Absence Alternatives

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{ 48 comments… add one }
  • Nicole, the queen of this life April 1, 2012, 8:29 am

    It’s funny, I don’t know a single woman who has been this honest. I am turning 30 in a few months and I have some of these same emotions. I can never choose the correct word to describe my angst about hitting this “milestone”. I’m glad to be turning another year older, sure, because consider the alternative. But…really?….30?…already? When did that happen? I know, it’s not 40, and you’d probably like to change places with me. Or maybe not. But I know what you mean. It’s a little scary that time can go by this fast without us really realizing the affect it has.
    Nicole, the queen of this life´s last blog post…My skin won’t fit you, so please stop trying to wear it.

    • Absence Alternatives April 1, 2012, 9:23 pm

      I guess I just panicked. I am waiting for the kids to go to college. That’s 10 years. So I am thinking: I have to do 10 more years of this?!

  • Elly Lou April 1, 2012, 10:38 am

    I just try to remind myself it beats the alternative. And then I watch a Helen Mirren movie.
    Elly Lou´s last blog post…This Week’s Tweets

    • Absence Alternatives April 1, 2012, 9:24 pm

      Watching Helen Mirren only makes me more depressed because I know it is rare that one ages so gracefully as she does. Thanks for listening to my whining though. xo

  • The Sweetest April 1, 2012, 11:22 am

    I wish I could say I feel differently than you do. I looked at my ass the other day in the mirror and gasped. Advice to all women over 35: Never, never look at your ass. Pretend it is all good. And the thing is, I work hard. Running and yoga and special facial products and all that shit, but it just doesn’t work anymore. Just last week I was at the dermo for facial angiomas. I find grey hairs all over my car. Ugh.
    I think we have no choice but to redefine ourselves and then live accordingly. The longer we stay in this rut of wishing we are the people we were fifteen years ago, the more depressed we will become. If you figure out how to do this, let me now.
    The Sweetest´s last blog post…Preparing For My Career As a Foley Artist

  • dufmanno April 1, 2012, 1:06 pm

    The other day I found a black hair sprouting from underneath my chin. Just like my nana had except not as curly. I have started wearing slippers with my housedress while watching Murderer She Wrote because I’m at a complete loss.

  • Ry Sal April 1, 2012, 2:35 pm

    I just had a hairdresser exclaim – WOW YOU HAVE A LOT OF WHITES. Unfortunately, my glare in the mirror left her voiceless and she is now a wandering mute. I’m just worried about getting jowls because it seems to run in the family.

  • Libby April 1, 2012, 3:12 pm

    I feel the same way. Like I turned around and all of a sudden was 37. What the hell have I been doing with my time? And when can I have my jawline back?
    Libby´s last blog post…Women Are NOT Stupid

  • Jill April 1, 2012, 3:44 pm

    Completely the opposite . . . I turned 40 and felt liberated. Maybe it was having a set of twins at 21, but it was a relief turning 40. And when I cut my hair super-short a year ago and realized that the upkeep on the dying-o-the-greys would be quite pricey, I stopped that, too. For me, life began at 40 . . . just a different one than I had before.
    Jill´s last blog post…Hungry Like the Wolf

    • Absence Alternatives April 1, 2012, 9:28 pm

      See? This is what I have been telling people: The smart women either had kids when they were really young or when they’re past 40. this way you’ve got your “golden years” (relatively) free for doing “things” (I have no clear idea what they are but THINGS I don’t get to do. I guess) There’s a lot of whining in my post and therefore I appreciate y’all for playing along. I normally don’t whine on my blog. I think. Hm. Now I am not so sure any more…

  • Alexandra April 1, 2012, 11:15 pm

    Just stay out of the sun, honey.

    Stay OUT of the sun.
    Alexandra´s last blog post…The Grunting You Hear Is A Dead Giveaway

  • Unknown Mami April 1, 2012, 11:32 pm

    Aging has always been terrifying for me. In a way it is helping that I had my kids so late because now is the time that I’m really starting to show my age and I am too friggin’ busy and tired to notice most of the time.
    Unknown Mami´s last blog post…Sundays In My City

    • Absence Alternatives April 2, 2012, 8:12 am

      See? That’s what I said: either have kids late or early! 🙂

    • Lorraine April 8, 2012, 2:41 pm

      I had my first and only kid at 40. It was 5 years before I looked in the mirror–you know what having a kid does to a lady person–and I nearly fainted. But then I realized that my kid is really only going to have one mother, no matter how old she might look/feel/be–and I owed it to both of us to get out there and show ’em how it’s done. There are many days during which I show ’em how hiding in a darkened bungalow is done, but those days when I go to the library to check out “A Boys Book of Farts” so I can rule the play date, or win the Cartwheel (waaaaay) Over 30 contest at the playground (despite nearly suffocating on my own breasts/chins, gut, etc.), or let the Grade 3 girls braid my loooong grey hair (it’s like something out of Logan’s Run): those are the days that make us both glad that I am as old as I am and not a day younger. Because I wouldn’t have the chutzpah, patience or humor to do any of this when I was young enough to care about appearances and good manners. Rock on, ladies. Aging is what you make of it.

      • Absence Alternatives April 10, 2012, 12:05 pm

        Cartwheels. I knew it! It is important to know cartwheels. You can always wow people with those. *Sigh* Too late for me…

        I love your comment. Thank you.

  • Life in the Boomer Lane April 2, 2012, 2:26 am

    Your honesty is liberating and terrifying. I will turn 65 in May. I could write a book about all this. Oh wait, I’ve already written two. I had a epic meltdown on my 41st birthday, followed the next year by my best friend being diagnosed with breast cancer. Miki died five years later. That was my frying pan over the head moment. I made a committment when she died that I would live for both of us. I would be the best of both of us as I aged. Do I hate what the years are doing to me physically and mentally? Yes. Do I give a shit that I hate it? No. Have the years since 50 been my best? Absolutely. Do I care that what I am writing may make no sense to you? No. But I hope it will in time.

    • Absence Alternatives April 2, 2012, 8:18 am

      I am very sorry for your loss. Thank you for this comment because yes, everything you said makes perfect sense.I now what I’m feeling is irrational and childish even. However I can’t stop it. What I’m frightened about I think is the sense of freedom being in some dire contrast to the physical deterioration. I sound like such a whiner. Really I know the solution is simple: exercise exercise exercise. also, it will probably help if I try harder on fixing my M.

      • Jan Dillon January 10, 2017, 10:32 pm

        I started feeling old when I turned seventy. I had three children in my early twenties and after the youngest turned eighteen many years after my divorce I met someone who had the same likes and was also looking for adventure. We bushwalked, climbed mountains, bought a boat together and sailed the Whitsundays and down the East coast of Australia together. There was no time to think let alone feel our age. We were making memories that we can share now. Stop worrying and go out and make YOUR memories.

  • Kathy McCullough April 2, 2012, 9:38 am

    I just turned 50 last week, and despite working out religiously, my body is shot to hell. It’s a bitch! I love Renee’s comment, however. I wrote last week that I refused to have a midlife crisis–but good God–give me a fucking break!
    Hugs,
    Kathy
    Kathy McCullough´s last blog post…Why Big Blue Madness Means No Basketball for Me

    • Absence Alternatives April 2, 2012, 10:57 pm

      I didn’t think I’d have a midlife crisis, and for a while I was fine. I think the panic escalates when one starts thinking about one’s relationship and its staying power…

  • Meg at the Members Lounge April 2, 2012, 5:21 pm

    I have to say aging is still a mystery to me at 53. Body parts break down and I’m all like “I’ve had great knees and feet my whole life, what gives doc?” They laugh, but you know, I head to the gym and go to the laser place and get the spider veins zapped and bow to the altar that is my hairdresser for keeping grey in it’s rightful place. One thing I *really* feel good about:
    I’m wiser and actually more confident. I’ll take a few grey hairs and a wonky knee to have that spirit.
    Meg at the Members Lounge´s last blog post…Ten Gallon Meg

    • Absence Alternatives April 2, 2012, 11:01 pm

      I don’t doubt it. The more I think about it, the more of your comments I read, the more I realize there is a deeper, more serious cause for my panic that I am not willing to confront because. It affects other people more than the varicose veins on my face…

  • BigLittleWolf April 4, 2012, 6:43 pm

    Panic?

    Panic when you’re getting older and you’re out of work. Panic when you’re getting older and you’re sick or injured or you don’t have health care, or all of the above. Panic when you’re getting older and you have no family. Panic when you’re getting older and your children are having problems and you have no $$, no energy, no one to turn to.

    Panic when you feel yourself losing every competitive edge you ever had – if you had any – and the face and body you see in the mirror look nothing like the image you have of yourself in your head. Better yet – if you can even put together such a thought, don’t panic, because it’s this goddamn culture that tells us that aging is a bad thing… and of course we have parts that slow or ache and our age shows, but if we’re still here, if we have families, if we have jobs, if have a roof over our heads, if we have access to health care – then panic is of the sort that plenty would like to have.

    Now about that gray hair… Grow it, put on hot lingerie, make love to your husband (or someone you find HOT), and feel how alive you are. Still.

    That doesn’t suck too bad, doe it?
    BigLittleWolf´s last blog post…An Anchor to Ground Us

    • Absence Alternatives April 6, 2012, 1:00 am

      Thank you! 🙂

      Actually, I heard about what is going on in Somali and Congo on NPR yesterday and that kind of stopped any whining I have been doing… Just once in a while, I need to let it out a bit. We are lucky we are bloggers right? or rather, THIS is kind of why I started blogging! 🙂

  • ryan April 4, 2012, 7:03 pm

    I feel that way too. Geese where did it all go. So much I still need to do..

  • Naptimewriting April 6, 2012, 2:13 am

    I’m not worried about aging, but I have *hardcore* episodes, daily, of “I went to school for 23 years, started a couple of careers, had kids, and the fog might not lift for another 20 years” panic. Where is my life? On hold. Where was my life headed? Academic hotshot brilliant world-reknowned. Any chance of that after 40? I guess. But the chances are slimmer and the retirement account is terrifyingly underfunded.

    Cute kids? So?
    First world problem? So?
    Started smart and getting dumber. By 80 I’ll be gelatinous in all manners of speaking.
    Don’t care what I look like. Care that I’m idling in park and that function is eating up productive years.

    LOVE the cartoon.
    Naptimewriting´s last blog post…Very interesting

    • Absence Alternatives April 7, 2012, 1:12 pm

      I understand your frustration. When my youngest hit two, I told my husband that I needed to get a job otherwise I would have murdered someone or killed myself. He heartily agreed – apparently I did not hide well my frustration of being stuck in a rut. Now I have a job that does not really make me wake up every day and say, “I can’t wait to go to work so I can apply myself!” I think my “panic” so to speak has something to do with: Gee, I don’t know when/how I can start all over and do it right. It all boils down to me not having enough guts and other weaknesses. So maybe this “panic” has something to do with how disappointed I am with myself.

  • Me August 1, 2013, 7:32 pm

    Shit. I’m going through this now at 47. Fuck.

  • Sahan August 17, 2013, 5:06 am

    I’m a guy I’m 20. The thought of getting old always terrifies me :\

    • Absence Alternatives August 17, 2013, 12:16 pm

      I am sorry. You should be fearless now and enjoying your life ahead! But this probably also means that you are more reflective and thoughtful than your contemporary. It’s a good sign. 🙂

  • Methusaleh Jones August 27, 2013, 8:09 pm

    This is the best blog post ever written, bar none.

    I found it by googling “I am terrified of getting old.”

    I don’t want to end up senile in a nursing home like so many of my/my wife’s relatives. I don’t want to get physically feeble and start having more broken & unreliable parts than my Dodge Caravan.

    Getting old SUCKS!!!!!!

    I keep trying to get my kids to agree that if I am ever in a nursing home and esp. if I get senile they should get a big fluffy pillow and smother me with it.

    They don’t think I’m serious.

    • Absence Alternatives August 28, 2013, 11:30 am

      Thank you so much for the kind compliment. Yeah… it gets esp. tough when you are going thru your own mid-life crisis and realize all of a sudden that your parents are really, really old now, and you have to watch them age, very quickly. I am lazy and hate exercise, hopefully this fear will convince me to exercise more, and regularly. [Fat chance]. If it does indeed work, then I consider this a silver lining…

      Now, here’s to the magic pill that science promised us. They did, right?

  • Sylvia October 13, 2013, 9:04 am

    I’m 19 years old, and I’m very afraid of getting old too. I think I’m getting in my golden years, but the future gives me panic. I’m a student of Cinema, and I’m writing a script about a person with very afraid of getting old. I’ve a little bit writer’s block, so I’m searching for inspiration, and that search brought me here. Thank you, that post gave me inspiration, because it’s very important to me to see other people with this panic of aging. You said something that really touch me: “I am watching this aging thing in horror the way I watch a glass vase fall. In s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n. Eyes wide open. Wishing I could somehow turn back time to before the moment when the vase was knocked over. There is nothing I can do but to watch the vase hit the ground and break into pieces.” If you didn’t mind I’d like to use this sentence in the script, it’s beautiful and genious.
    By the way, I’m from Portugal! sorry for my bad english!

    • Absence Alternatives October 14, 2013, 2:19 am

      Dear Sylvia,

      First of all, your English is NOT bad at all. It’s great! In fact, have you seen comments people left on YouTube? Most of those people are Americans and have you seen their English? *shudder* 😉 Do not ever apologize for your English being bad. If anything, English-speaking peoples should apologize for not knowing a second language, or at least for not ever trying to learn another language, even when they are in that country as guests (tourists)!

      Thank you so much for the kind words about my post. I am glad that it resonated. Of course you could use it in your script. In fact, I am flattered. Thank you.

      Now, we need to talk about how you are 19 and you are afraid of getting old. I am feeling a bit guilty: I did not mean to scare young people by telling you that “everything is just going downhill”… I am sorry. I think my obsession and fear for aging for the most part came from my feeling that I’ve got nothing to show for. I’ve not done anything with the dreams and ambitions I had when I was your age. I was (and still am) too much a coward to follow through any of my plans. If there is one thing I would tell my younger self, it would be this: If you have to get married (not that you have to), make sure you discuss extensively, exhaustively, with the person what your plan for the future is, what your dreams and hopes are, how you will handle it if your careers require you to be in two different places, who is expected to make compromise, and how is it decided (e.g. whoever makes the most money gets to call the shot?) and how you will take turns to make compromises, and honestly, how the responsibilities for rearing children will be divided. If you sense any hesitation on a truly equal partnership, or if the person’s imagination does not align with yours, walk away.

      I am not sure this is true, but I believe that if I’d led a more fulfilled life, I’d be better equipped to handle this whole aging thing. I wish you the best.

      Lin

  • Kev December 16, 2013, 6:07 pm

    Yes! I’m feeling the same way. I never gave much thought about it before but as I got into my late 30’s it all hit me at once. I’m starting to feel my age. I feel all sorts of aches and pains now. I went to the barber and as she was cutting my hair I saw little white hairs, I thought maybe the person she cut before had gray hairs. Nope, they were mind and she didn’t mind pointing it out oblivious to how it would make me feel. I think much more about growing old, maybe if I had lived a more fulfilled life I wouldn’t mind as much. Next year I’ll be 40. I’m hoping I get to the age when I really don’t care about anything. I figure it will be easier then, it’s going through this transitional phase that seems to be the hardest.

    • Absence Alternatives December 19, 2013, 8:24 pm

      I started having white hair sincei was a kid. Where I came from it’s considered to be a sign of intelligence. Or maybe the hairdresser was kinder than yours. 😉

  • William February 3, 2016, 12:12 am

    I’m male and I stumbled upon this also by putting in, “help I’m so scared of getting old”. It helps to know there are others out there that have these feelings. I also agree that most of mine comes from feeling like I wasted so many years and I’ll never be able to get them back. It’s ironic because I partied etc when I was younger with the mentality of “you only live once”, not knowing that I was wasting away precious time. I waited to have kids later in life and it does help, but then I think of how old I will be when they graduate high school and I refuse to even add the numbers to this day to see how old I’ll actually be when this happens, although I kind of know. My kids don’t seem to mind at all, but sometimes I find myself feeling guilty for being so old. One day when I visited my son for lunch at school one of the kids asked if I was his grandfather, honest mistake I suppose, but it felt like a kick in the gut, I felt absolutely humiliated, for both myself and my son. I’m not sure what this age should feel like but I definitely know I don’t feel this age and looking in the mirror, I’m also like “what the hell happened I’m supposed to be the young cute one”. I wish I could find a silver lining to getting older, but unfortunately the fear sometimes literally takes my breathe away. Thanks for allowing me to share and I’m glad I found this, it sort of helped. And now you know there are men out there too that have these feelings. Hopefully we can all work it out and have a great remainder of our lives. Good luck everybody! Oh and btw I’ll be 51 in a couple of weeks, I was about to deliberately leave that part out and my boys are… 8 and 12, yea go ahead and say it, I probably do look more like their grandpa. Peace love and happiness, but dang it this getting old thing sucks!!

    • Absence Alternatives February 19, 2016, 6:36 pm

      Happy birthday!!! 🙂 At work, I often overhear young colleagues discussing the “20 somethings” as “those young people” and I don’t know whether I should cry or laugh. All the media want you to think that you’re over the hill as soon as you hit 40. WTF, right? I think I’d feel better about this whole “half way into the grave” thing if this country does not have such an obsession on youth and physical beauty.

  • Joseph Dabon May 14, 2016, 9:04 pm

    As a child I was deathly afraid of the water until my uncle threw me into the sea. After struggling a few secs to stay afloat, I found out how great it was.

    Same feeling when you’re young, and thinking about getting old. I was scared once, too, until I got old and discovered the hidden wonders of old age.
    Joseph Dabon´s last blog post…7 Proven Ways to Make You Look Young and Sensual

  • Chrissy June 19, 2016, 3:04 pm

    I am 37, soon to be 38, never really thought about being old until someone pointed out my baby clock was nearly up. From that time I froze and panicked and compared myself to every other woman walking past age wise, turning into a bit of an obsession. I have two lovely children but getting old has consumed me and I am so scared, yet cannot mention to anyone as appears to be self absorbed. I am looking for a solution to make me feel better, but the more I look the more I’m convinced nothing will. I feel so afraid

  • Macy July 19, 2016, 5:14 pm

    I am here for the obvious reason that I extremely fear getting old. I am so afraid of many things to the point of being so overwhelmed and stuck on a rut for many years now. Back in my early teen years I told myself that my life will end by 25. The deeply rooted sadness since my childhood brought me to think about suicide. Moments that I want to end it all with obsessive thoughts about how will I do it but my being coward keeps me from actually doing something about it and perhaps others will consider it as a blessing in disguise. Now I fear sickness, losing loved ones (which by the way triggered a much deeper sense of sadness when my fiancé died 15 years ago), being alone, looking old, insanity, loneliness and death. Sometimes I experienced panic attacks that sent me to ER. I admit I have irrational fears and I feel so helpless. I am now in mid 40s and very conscious of my appearance that sometimes I don’t want to look at a mirror. With aging and the reality that I am single, with no kids, financially unstable, alone (but taking care of my mom and responsible for my nieces- a task that I am forced to take), with a depressing love story (that could be a good material for a depressing movie) and with so many regrets in life got me in situation that I can no longer hope and dream- I am completely paralyzed from living my life. I just watch each day slipping by like grains of sand in my hands. I am slowly drifting away from life. Oh..sorry for this rant, this is the first time I talked about my inner fears- not even with close friends.
    Macy´s last blog post…Bella La Peau: Don’t Shave Just Wax for Your Beauty’s Sake!

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