A light-hearted but sagacious look at why the 40s and 50s are so much better than the 20s.
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Word count: 2,300
Why I Could Kill George Clooney
Anyone who doesn’t like getting older isn’t doing it right. Life gets nothing but better with every passing moment. Okay, maybe not “nothing but,” but I stick with my statement. If you don’t find that the maturity, wisdom, calm, experience, and everything else you gain as you mature doesn’t far outweigh anything you might be giving up, then you have a problem that has nothing to do with age. How can you not love being so much more comfortable in your skin than you ever were when you were young? Would you really want to go back to who you were when you were 23? Or even just 10 years ago? I mean, hey, if I could go back to 23 with the wisdom and knowledge I have now, sure, I’d do it in a minute. Not because I want to be a kid again, but because I would be able to appreciate my life in a way I couldn’t when I actually was 23, so I would get so much more out of it! I wouldn’t waste time worrying about things I couldn’t change or that don’t really matter, anyway. Once, when I was somewhere in my mid-30’s, I remember getting really pissed about something and saying to my 70-ish supervisor, “Boy, I can’t wait ‘til I’m your age, Charlie, because these things won’t freaking bother me!,” except I didn’t say “freaking.” Charlie just laughed and said, “You’re right.” I don’t remember what I was upset about -- I didn’t even remember just a couple of weeks later. That’s how insignificant it was -- but I remember that feeling.
And do you really think you were anywhere near as interesting as you are now? I know a playwright who often builds a play around a 40-50-ish female character. “You all don’t get interesting until you’re that age.”
I got a Masters’ degree a few years ago in Music Theater, when I was decades older than any of my classmates. If there is one thing I got from those 2 years and $80,000+ of debt, it was don’t do so much. Don’t work so hard. More than once, I got such effusive praise for work I had done in class that I honestly did not get it. It made no sense to me, because I wasn’t doing anything. As far as I could tell, I had just been talking to my scene partner. I would even say, “But I wasn’t doing anything.” I finally asked a classmate about it. She said, “Susan, you don’t seem to realize how compelling you are when you just stand on stage.”
A considerably younger classmate couldn’t understand how I could do that, just stand there, not do anything. She said, “I’d be afraid to do that.” Right! Exactly! I’m not trying to brag here. What I’m saying is that I couldn’t have just stood there 20 years earlier. Even as little as 10 years ago, no one would have told me I was compelling when I just stood on stage.
Experience shows on you, but not necessarily in a way that can be identified. When someone over 40 is simply present, their years of life are somehow clearly present. We tend to think we have to tell people who we are in order for them to see us clearly. But I don’t think we do. And the older we are, the less we do. I’m not saying I understand how any of this works, but I’m telling you, it’s true.
A younger person does not have enough in them yet to be interesting all on their own. I mean no offense by this at all, please believe that. There is a purpose to each phase of our lives. I don’t know yet about the phase after this one, but I think youth is the time to figure out what you are doing on the planet, how it all works, how wonderful life is. It’s fantastic! It’s glorious! It’s a magical time! But it is not the time to simply be. You haven’t earned that yet.
Once on TV, I saw an actor in her early 20’s singing Fever. That song is about sex. It’s a Peggy Lee song. ‘Nuff said? This girl was undulating her body, lowering her eyes, doing the sexy pout thing, the deep voice, the whole nine yards. It made me laugh. She was working so hard at being sexy. But then I realized she had to. She was a girl. A woman doesn’t need all the bells and whistles to be beautiful and sexy, she just is. It’s the same way with men. Folks, do you really think you were better off when you had to work so hard at being who you are?
It would seem logical that the longer you live, the more baggage you accumulate, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. From what I see, the older you get, the more baggage you get rid of along the way. Or maybe you still have it, but you don’t go parading it around. It may be sitting in some closet somewhere, but it doesn’t become part of every interaction you ever have with anyone. Like I said, you’re just more comfortable in your skin.
Part of the problem most of us have with enjoying getting older is, of course, the constant barrage of “young = good” messages from our society. When you are told over and over again that 40 is the beginning of the downhill slide and that the older you get, the worse your life is, it’s pretty easy to start believing it. But I am not on a downhill slide and people telling me I am does not put me there. What it does do is rob them of any enrichment I have to offer their lives. Not to mention the unfair burden it puts on the young. But that’s a whole other article.
You gain confidence from living longer. I don‘t know that most people are even aware of this, but I think it comes from simply having survived. By the time you reach 40, you have been through tragedy. You have nearly died at least once in some way or another. You have had at least one broken heart that you were sure you’d never get over. You have gotten through situations that a 20-something would go into a panic just hearing about. Do you really want to go back to that? Do you really want to give up everything you’ve gain just to pick up a few things you left behind to youth? Is it really worth it?
So, the question becomes: What did you leave behind? Well, I really do miss being in the shape I was in my triathlon days. I know I could get back to that, but it it is true that it takes more effort now than it did 20 years ago. There are other things, but except for that whole I-can’t-read-that-without-my-glasses bit, that’s really the big one. Well, okay, and the memory gets a bit spotty sometimes, but they make these tiny little digital recorders now that you can make notes to yourself on. They’re great. Back to my point, I didn’t ever have to lose that conditioning I had 20 years ago. I let it happen, I didn’t have to.
And that’s pretty much my point. I’ve been very active in the health and fitness field for a long time and the thing I hear most people say they don’t like about aging is that their body starts falling apart. I’ve written several articles on this, but basically, you have to age but you don’t have to fall apart! That does not have to happen. Well, maybe it does at some point, but not as early as 50, and certainly not as early as 40! You can slow that way down.
Now, all this said, there is one problem I really do have with this phase of life: Dating. Dating is much harder now. For one thing, there just aren’t nearly as many of us in circulation. Everybody’s looking in their 20’s, even into the 30’s. By 40, most people are in a committed relationship. But I think it’s harder for women than it is for men. The market is smaller for us…because so many of the single men our age aren’t in it. Let’s face it: Men our age don’t want women our age. They want the same girls they’ve wanted all along, the same ones they wanted when they were 20. All this great stuff I’ve been saying about how much better we become as we get older, how much more beautiful and sexy and interesting a woman gets as she matures? It’s true, it is! But none of it seems to matter to 40-plus men.
Look, this is not a down-with-men tirade. I would never do that, I wouldn’t. That is not what I think, that is not what I feel. I’m making blanket statements here and as such, they are not going to be true in every case. But come on, guys, you’ve got to admit that in this one area, an awful of you do have a liiittle bit of a blind spot. And to be honest -- and this is going to sound patronizing even though I swear I do not mean for it to -- I kind of feel a little sorry for you. You truly do not know what you’re missing. You all want the young, pretty ones and you don’t know how much more a woman can be. Again, no offense at all intended to the young. And please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying I wouldn't choose a good looking guy with a great body over a plain, flabby guy, all else being equal. But all else never is equal. Looks are a factor, but never a deciding factor. Not for most women, anyway.
As far as us dating much younger men, most of us don’t want to. You know how it is, the newer models still have so many kinks to work out. We don’t want one that’s falling apart, but we want him to have a few miles on him. For one thing, oh, how shall I say this…? We want him to know what he’s doing. Under 30, they usually don’t yet. They still think it’s about them getting what they need. When I mention that to guys who try to get me interested in some young stud who is looking at me -- oddly, they are more likely to be interested in me than guys my age. Go figure -- the invariable response is: “You could teach him.” I don’t want to! Really, what makes you think I do? Can we get this clear right now, please? Not every middle-aged woman has a Mrs. Robinson inside of her searching for a Benjamin to pounce on. In fact, if the women I’ve encountered are any indication, most of us don’t. That’s why she’s such a memorable character, folks, because she is so unique. I’m not saying there is no learning and teaching going on in bed. Of course there is, on both sides, but we’re not talking about a tutorial. Oh, and, guys? That bit about us being more comfortable in our skin, more interesting, and dragging around less baggage...? Think about it.
And of course, that not the only reason I don’t want I young guy. It’s everything I’ve been saying about why 40 is better than 20. I love watching a young fellow as he learns to navigate life. I love seeing him figure things out, come into his own. I really do, it’s very charming. But been there, done that, don’t want to do it again. Standing by your man’s side as he makes his way in the world is very romantic when you’re 20. At 40, it’s just tedious.
So, here’s why I could kill George Clooney. Now, please understand, I think he’s astounding. It seems to me he’s one of the most admirable people in the world right now. It’s not just his talent -- there’re a lot of talented people out there. It’s who he is in the world. Just look at what he’s doing! Look at the stands he takes! He’s using his celebrity and his money to do everything he can to help the world, to put a spotlight on situations that need to be seen. And if you don’t think he’s putting himself at risk doing it, you’re living in a fool’s paradise. And he doesn’t do any of it for himself. He doesn’t need it. Nothing he’s doing in the world arena helps him personally, except in that he is a member of the world. He does it for people who can’t do it for themselves, and because he is a member of the world. It’s amazing, and it’s incredibly brave. It blows me away. I don’t know how you can look at all he does and is, and not be in awe of the man. And of course I’m glad he’s happy. Everyone deserves to be happy. But the thing is, a lot of guys look to him as a role model, they take their social cues from him. The man’s got the whole world to choose from. What? He couldn’t find someone a little closer to his own age?