I came across this piece about getting old, inspired, obviously by “When I am old I shall wear purple.”
Once you get to a “certain age” you can do what you want, behave more or less how you like. And it’s lovely! I don’t have to answer to anyone. Like the poem I can “wear purple with a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me” and do all sorts of things I wanted to do when I was younger but didn’t dare to.
Old ladies are either sweet little old dears or indomitable feisty old women, the sort who can get away with anything. I don’t quite know which category I belong to. A bit of both, probably. I read somewhere about an old lady who travelled round eastern Europe in the days of the USSR with only her bus pass as identification, No one dared to challenge her. Either they thought she was someone very important that they ought to recognise and they’d get into trouble if they said anything or more likely they thought she’s just a silly harmless old woman why not let her alone. Surprising what silly harmless old women can get up to.
There was that woman – a retired headmistress I think – can’t remember her name – who just decided one day that she was going to cycle round the world. I don’t think she’d even done much cycling. She only had an ordinary sort of bike, nothing special and I doubt if she was able to maintain it. I bet she couldn’t even mend a puncture. But that’s one of the joys of being a little old lady: people do things for you. I don’t just mean giving up their seats on the bus, other things too. They help you, pick you up if you fall over and escort you across the road. If a young lad falls off his bike, people just think “what a daft beggar, he should look where he’s going”. If an old lady does the same they help her, offer to take her home or give her a cup of tea.
Old ladies – or rather old women – can get away with wearing what they like. What I like is something I feel comfortable in. Something that has a bit of give in it, like Lycra. One of the best things about Lycra is that it dries easily and you don’t have to iron it. I’ve done with ironing now. I did my share when the kids were little and we had five of us going out to work and school and all having to look reasonably smart, so there was always a pile of shirts and blouses to be ironed. It wasn’t that I hated ironing, I mean if I had the radio on it could be pleasant enough, but someone always came in half way through a play and I’d not get to hear the end. Very frustrating that. And of course that was before we had this “listen again” thingy where you can hear a radio or television program on the computer at a time to suit yourself. That was in the old days, B.C. before computers. Hard to imagine it now. No PCs, no mobile phones, no i-pads or i-pods and no Kindles. If you wanted to read in the train or in the park or even in bed you had to cart around a big thick book. I remember at school the kids had enormous bags of books to lug around. I’m sure it wasn’t good for posture.
Now I am old and can wear Lycra, am I an old lady or an old woman? To call someone an “old woman” used to be an insult – especially if you said it to a bloke. “Don’t be such an old woman, Bill, fussing about getting the cards posted in time for Christmas”. Now “old lady” goes with adjectives like “little” – the late queen mother would qualify as a “little old lady” I don’t think Maggie Thatcher would.
Little old ladies get addressed as “dear” or in this part of the world as “luv”. I don’t mind. In English we haven’t got a suitable form of address for an adult person whose name you don’t know. Yes, for a man you can use “Sir” but there isn’t really any equivalent for a woman. “Madam” is either too formal or taking the piss. “Mrs” isn’t really suitable either. About Lycra – it’s stretchy. It doesn’t matter how floppy or bulgy you get it will usually stretch to fit and if it does make you look a bit like an elephant, does it really matter? Warm too and you can have several layers one on top of another and as it gets warmer or colder you can add to them or take some off and of course, the best thing of all it dries quickly, you can wash it, hang it up and wear it the next day, or even later the same day if you’re not too fussy about being a bit damp. Also since it is more or less universal. You can wear it anywhere and it doesn’t look any more out of place at a formal gathering than at a casual party. I suppose what I really mean is that it looks equally inappropriate wherever you go. So what? I am old and I can do what I want and I rejoice in my freedom.
All sorts of eccentricities are allowable for old women. I can address people I don’t know without seeming threatening or as though I am making a pass at them. Despite some of the stories in the papers old women are almost immune from physical attacks. I mean what’s the point of attacking someone who hasn’t got anything worth stealing? What’s the point of making sexual advances to someone not particularly sexually alluring any more? So if there are any attackers of old women you can be sure that they are mad and they will be objects of disgust and dislike by the general public. If two young men – or nowadays even two young women – get into a fight onlookers will hesitate to interfere; if a man attacks an old woman they will rush to her rescue – at least I would hope so! Yes there are some definite advantages to being old.