I love to watch the sitcom Grace and Frankie because of the comedic fuel normal aging provides. Yes, I like the actors and actresses (Klute? Laugh-In?), but in this season Grace can’t get up from a low couch or toilet, which launches their self-rising toilet invention.
A recent book club I attend discussed Women Rowing North, a better-than-average conversation about re-framing what one can do and what one must now give up, and using resilience to laugh. We agreed we each have this list we want to wear on a T-shirt that begins “I used to…” so people we are newly meeting will know we once followed the Grateful Dead in our tie-dye or skied down the triple diamond trails or whatever adventures lie in our past.
Just as there are hundreds of handbooks for new parents, perhaps there should be handbooks for aging. I would call mine The Handbook of Small Indignities and Comedic Relief. The Comedic Relief part is added to increase sales. You may have your own items for the list, but these are the things nobody told me.
- Hair Loss. No, it’s not just men. A friend expresses gratitude to her stylist “for making every hair count.” While I was blessed with a full head of hair, my hair brush is what has a full hair load these days. I don’t worry about the top of my head, but my mascara brush doesn’t have enough to work with and has been relegated to the back of the drawer. The less discussed about below the neck the better.
- Hair Appearance. I find myself “searching” my chin and neck during moments of boredom, say in a darkened concert or during a sermon. Since eyesight is undependable, one never knows when an amazingly long, curling hair in an unlikely place (neckline? Under the chin?) has flourished and must be tweezed at first opportunity.
- Hand Strength. Many jar lids now won’t budge with mere twisting. I have considered marriage as a possibility only if my would-be partner has jar-opening capacities. This may be a market opportunity for better tools than currently exist. I use plastic gripper-things, sharp knives and can openers. By the way, three of us geezers were recently flummoxed by a new can opener, and only one person at a recent seniors’ event knew how to use the electric wine bottle opener. Any new invention marketed to people our children’s age should be intuitive, not require a you-tube video.
- Clothing not constructed for toddler-like urgency. There is something about walking in the door of one’s destination that prompts the question “Where is the Ladies’ Room?” I recently purchased an attractive outfit that had jumpsuit-like clothing openings, which meant one essentially disrobes in order to sit down. The one or two times I wore this article of clothing were near-disasters, and it is in the Goodwill-bound bin. Unless they provide snap openings, like toddler onesies, this clothing style should be marked “Age 40 and under.”
- Street signs in the Dark. Since I moved to a new city where I can get lost without effort, reading street signs in the dark is nigh-on impossible. In parts of this city, the sun has faded the signs, so one has to be within two feet to make out the name. Some goof-ball might have twisted the sign so the streets are labelled cock-eyed. In a city with a robust tree canopy, branches obscure names. When I complained to city hall, the response was to contact the traffic department with the specific location. Of course, part of the problem is that streetlights have halos, now, and the minimum font size I’m comfortable reading is 14. Cataract surgery…
- Missing the punch line. I enjoy readings and lectures on topics of interest, a free indulgence. When I found myself leaning forward, or had to ask the person next to me about the laugh line everybody else heard, I realized that there is some low baritone range that has gone missing. I took a free on-line hearing test, and get hearing aid advertisements popping up continuously.
- Low furniture. Grace’s adventures on the couch in Grace and Frankie are all too relatable. I have frequent conversations with my knees, like, “OK, we’re in this together, right?” I have learned to look for hard seats and avoid seats that will position my center of gravity lower than my knees.
- Advertising. It’s scary how our demographics follow us in junk mail and on-line. I get ads for walk-in bath tubs and crematoriums. Of course, I read them.