The other day a nurse told me a story about an 88 year-old woman who had come into the doctor’s office with a concern. The patient and her boyfriend were having sex every day. She worried if it might cause a health problem. Surprised, the nurse laughed and told the older woman to “go for it.”
I smiled the obligatory smile but at heart, I wasn’t amused. Jokes about the elderly abound as if being old was an affront to Nature. Apparently, in the minds of some, when the outward shine has dulled, love is no longer touching but funny.
In her essay, Peggy Orenstein asks if there is ever a time when “you’ve earned the right to be yourself.” (“Beauty”, More Magazine, March 2014, pg. 87.) I think old age is that time. Having survived the worst of life’s vicissitudes, the elderly know what matters most is not the outward show. They emerge from the chrysalis of youth with a new perspective. They understand that what’s important in life is the love and admiration they see mirrored in the eyes of those dear to them. If they have lived well, shown generosity and kindness to others, they will bask in the rewards of their good deeds. If not, well… while there is breath, there is time to make amends.
To have lived long is an accomplishment. The 88 year-old woman who has a lover isn’t funny. She is to be celebrated. When we perpetuate the idea that old age is a joke, we are obliged to remember that if we are lucky enough to reach our advanced years, one day that joke will be us.
(Originally posted 4/14/14)
(Courtesy of www.poetrysoup.com)