I love being over seventy because of the confidence I now have to do what I want and not to think I must conform to expectations.
I can talk to anyone – or not talk at all – depending on my mood and the situation. While in Nepal I conducted a survey of white haired tourists. I wanted to uncover their reasons for visiting Nepal. It was easy to approach people I saw in shops and on the street to ask them why they were there. I suspected that most were aged hippies returning to a place they had visited in their youth. I was wrong. Among the reasons cited were: to hike; to paraglide; to be missionaries; to visit temples; to see the NGO they sponsored and to bird watch. Not a hippy in the lot. Oh and one retired US marine who was just touring.
In the morning, I choose what the weather and my activities for the day suggest I should wear. I put it on after I have showered. When my face is washed and moisturized, my hair brushed, I am ready for the day. And that is it. There is no mirror checking, no second guessing and no apologies for what I am wearing or my hair looks like. Sure I could take ten years off my appearance with make up. Is it worth it to me? No. To lots of people it is and that’s ok too. What I have is the confidence not to conform to expectations.
Strangers who get involved in conversations with me sometimes ask why I am not working and I tell the truth. I can’t get a work visa abroad: I am too old. When they express surprize at my age and say “you don’t look x years” I can’t help but wonder what image is in their head of an older person. Boomer oldies have the confidence to carve a new image for themselves and I am part of that group. And I love it.
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves,
And satin sandals,
and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my walking stick along the public railings,
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain,
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages in one go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple!
I can say what I think or feel; I have had lots of experience and know sort of what to do in a given situation; know that I am lucky rather than smart.
I think I am ready to start wearing purple- with confidence.
By Bea Toews
Bea Toews is a regular Five Good Friends contributor and full time carer for her husband Peter. “In my life I have been many things; teacher, mother, grandmother, writer, magazine editor, journeywoman. I’ve lived, worked and explored the world over. But right now, my journey sees me navigating the unchartered waters of caring for a fiercely independent loved one and all the emotional turbulence that goes with that”. Putting this into words is both cathartic and useful in helping me to process what we are both going through. I do this for Five Good Friends so that people in my husband’s and my position, expect more from the ‘help’ and ‘care’ sectors, and get a sense of what it should mean to be properly looked after”.
Poem Credit: “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple” – By Jenny Joseph