Friday, 22 November 2013

I Grow Old, I Grow Old

Although online I am officially 39++, I am frank about my age in real life. St. Augustine was against any kind of lying at all, even to save Catholics hiding in your cellar from Arians or to save St. Augustine from homosexual rape (his personal worst case scenario), so it seems rather frivolous to lie about one's age.

For many, many years there was a dictum that a lady never told her age (not even to her children), as if harlots and charwomen were shouting theirs from the rooftops. I think not. If anything only the harlot has a professional interest in dialing back the years. Why a lady should care is beyond me.

Well, almost beyond me. I was at a party in which an unmarried woman mentioned being over 35, and a man over 65 looked flummoxed, giggled and made some remark about pretending not to have heard that. Now on the one hand, he may have been told his whole life that a lady never tells her age and it is a horrible non-U social solecism for a woman ever so to do. But on the other hand, he might actually think that it is a personal tragedy for a woman to be over.... What? 35? 30? 19?

The tragic (or semi-tragic) thing about female aging is that our reproductive function packs it in some time between 35 and 50, about the time modern men start thinking it's time to stop dreaming about super-models and find a real companion, age 25. What a shock for these aging Romeos when they discover that they are merely the wicked rich old suitors of the fairy tales, not the handsome princes. Women over thirty are a lot more tolerant of baldness and belly fat than our dreaming younger sisters, and it is a sensible 30-something, 40-something or 50-something man who seeks his companion among women his own age.

Of course, some men like older women. B.A. almost always dated women older than he, and now he has married one (by 1.5 years). And it turns out I was teetering on the edge of peri-menopause, not that B.A. cares. (He cares only that I care.) And it's a good thing he doesn't care because it would be so much worse if he did. It's not like he can get an annulment, the dear man. No case. Rock solid sacramental marriage, complete with tangible fruits of the Holy Spirit. And no polygamy allowed. No Hagar in the kitchen.

And this is one reason why a Single lady should be honest about her age. If you are over 35, you may have a hard time getting pregnant. If you are under 35, you may have a hard time NOT getting pregnant! Men who want children--and marriage is primarily for having children--deserve a vague idea of what side of the line the available women are on.

Dear me, how angry I would be with me right now if I weren't married. Please allow me to mollify you by saying that men who don't want children have no business whatsoever going near women of childbearing age. The 25 year old who hates kids should stick to the over-40 set, who will snap him up as a status symbol more potent than a Kelly bag, or to hardcore Malthusians with tied tubes.

Another reason to be honest about age is the natural affinity between people of the same sub-generation. I once dated a man 10 years my senior, and I could wind him up by asking questions like "Who is Morrisey?" and "Peter Gabriel was in a band?!" (I never did grasp the spiritual importance of Morrisey, whoever he is.) And yesterday in Polish class, the only woman around my age and I laughed like loons at the lyrics of a Polish song while the innocent young merely looked bemused. The lyrics were as follows:

Ona już wie, już zna tę historię
że zona go nie rozumie, że wcale ze sobą nie śpią...

(She already knows, she already recognizes this story
that his wife doesn't understand him, that they never sleep together...)

Most of the class are shacked up with partnerami, and from their expressions I have to conclude that they have never heard of the old my-wife-doesn't-understand-me-we-never-sleep-together-I'll-divorce-her-for-you clichés. They are simply of a different generation, whereas the other 35+ and I are so familiar with these lines, we almost rolled on the floor to discover they were said (and may still be said) in Poland too. Oh, and the generation older than us might not have found them so funny, for they were the last to believe them. I suspect our generation was BORN ironic.

I have just popped out the door to ask B.A. who, after all, grew up in a whole other country from me, what generational things we have in common. B.A. suggested "an affinity for cheesy 1980s pop" and "we're the John Paul II generation" and that we probably have so many other things in common we don't even notice.

"Did you get the milk ration?" I demanded, for I lived in the UK as a kid and was one of the last to profit from the post-war drive to build up British baby bones. And, lo, B.A. DID get the milk ration, so although dated, we are dated together.

Incidentally, I always enjoy it when I mention my age and people say my skin doesn't look it. When it comes from saleswomen, I take it with a grain of salt, but when it came from my 24 year old hipster Polish tutor, I felt no salt was needed. How much better such candour than hinting I am much younger than I appear and seeing doubt and pity cross youthful faces. Eeek!

Book News: Reader Jennifer wrote a kindly review of Ceremony of Innocence in Australia's Kairos magazine, so I encourage her fellow Aussies to shell out the $2 and buy the latest issue (check page 32). Excitingly Jennifer mentions this very blog, observing that the themes of Ceremony of Innocence seem rather out of character. I loved that part best. Hee, hee, hee!

The truth is, cherubim, that I think about Singles stuff for max two hours a day (three if someone sends me an email), and the rest is all theology, mass migration, terrorism, liturgy, literature, thrillers, ecclesiastical news, politics, anarchy, 20th century history, 18th century Edinburgh, friend-gossip, Polish, cooking, baking, grocery shopping and (last of all) housework. That reminds me. I am starting a NEW BLOG at Ignatius Press Novels, and it will be under my actual name. I shall write there about Catholic Literature of all kinds. So stay tuned!

1 comment:

Julia said...

Excellent! I have just read the Kairos review online. Thanks, Jennifer.

An acquaintance of mine, a woman aged 24, got married to a 47-year-old man a few days ago. They're both Christians. The age gap caused me some worry at first, but I don't think that the husband was one of the ones who spent his youth searching for a supermodel before having a middle-aged panic and chasing women in their twenties. They do seem really happy.

My mother (51) and father (60) went to the opera the other night, and they told me that they were shocked at how old other middle-aged couples looked. Then they each went to the loo, took a look in the mirror, came out, looked at each other and said, "Um, I think I might be old too." They say they don't feel old. Dad sometimes remembers indignantly that he's not 26 anymore. I think it sort of shocks him. Anyway, both of my parents look decently younger than they are.

And yeah, my dad (and probably mum) both got the post-WW2 Australian government milk programme thing.