In the play “Chapter 2” by Neil Simon, which I watched at Ranga Shankara yesterday, a woman character says,” First I am called good-looking, then I am described as interesting with character, and so it goes until I am finally called, ‘interesting for my age’!”
Ah, how I can identify with that! I do not like to think of myself as “old” as I think I am physically active and mentally so too, and willing to learn all the time, and I think the end of the learning process is what turns someone old….but no matter how I look at myself, the world around me, in India, persists in thinking of me, and referring to me, as old. At the naturalist course, I felt about a hundred when I was told how it heartens people’s minds when people of MY age take up such courses…I was asked to hand out the certificates in honour of my age(not because I had done a good job of learning!)…ooh, my bones creaked, and my teeth were falling out ready to get the dentures in! It was intended as a compliment, but….! Are people my age really so rare in such courses? Do all people my age really stop the learning process? I think there must be PLENTY of people out there who are even more active than I am….
Abroad, people of 50 are NOT considered old at all, so I feel much more comfortable there. Everyone is expected to live a full life of their own, and lives are not considered finished when your children have left home. Here, I am constantly being told how good I am in various aspects, all with the rider, “for your age”….
And the perception of age varies even here. My maid said she had to rush home to take care of her mother. When asked why, she replied, “Well, she is quite old, she has already crossed 40…” Sigh!
One of the nicest compliments I got was from two young men who told me, “We can’t call you Aunty as we don’t feel you have the kind of stultified image we associate with that word, so we are going to call you by name.” So their calling me by name I don’t think of as lack of respect..I belong to a mindset which thinks of “Aunty” and “Mami” as descriptive of people with a limited outlook on life and I am very American, I think, in preferring to be called by name.
Given that, I am also now friends with many youngsters who have known me first through my child…to these people, “Aunty” comes naturally and it doesn’t stick in my craw, either. That’s why my LJ identity is Deponti…I am an Italian person who has Aunty built into her name…. de Ponti!
…But when the ancient crone that is my plumber comes along and calls me “Aunty”….#$@$##&%!!!!!!