Made to Feel Like a Failure

The last couple of years I found it a bit shocking to see my reflection in certain lighting. My iPhone allows me to talk to friends and family via Facetime, but when I see myself, I hurriedly turn the camera around, or prefer just to talk the old fashioned way, via the mouthpiece without any visuals. Where did those wrinkles come from? Somewhere between the rushing time of when I was a mother with young children, babies really, to now, where my children are adults, something happened: I got old. And somehow, I'm made to feel as if that alone is the failure. Yes, I got old. No, not old enough yet to apply for Social Security or even retire -- after all, I'm on the cusp of starting a new business, but something has definitely shifted.

No one has yet discovered the Fountain of Youth, but society is spinning its wheels to do everything to hide that fact. There's Botox, plastic surgery, tummy tucks, etc. For some, those seem like a natural, necessary action in order to look as though time stopped -- at least for them. Yet, I cannot help but think it goes beyond "looking" younger. Those wrinkles are a reminder that I am coming close to no longer mattering, that my opinions, feelings, thoughts were from yesterday and now have little worth.

We reach a phase where we won't admit our age, waving off anyone who has the audacity to ask. We make jokes about how many candles are on the birthday cake. And according to the comedian Jack Benny, he never got beyond 39 years old, even though he died at 80. We tend to revere the young while wisdom has become lost in today's technologically-- dominated world. It is clear that I'll be pushed aside for new opinions, more important feelings and thoughts that are allowed a voice much louder than mine from those who think baby boomers are a generation to be forgotten -- sooner than later.

We look at celebrity photos and shake our heads as the images go from wow to oh my god, what the hell did they do to themselves? I don't envy anyone in the limelight due to their career because it must be exhausting to keep looking vibrant and valuable, in spite of that ticking clock. I recently saw a female rock star who is one year older than me being interviewed and thought, good for her, she hasn't had any work done, followed up by another thought, she really did age, though. Rock stars and movie stars aren't supposed to age. But when they do, we cannot help but think that they've somehow let us down. After all, if they cannot stop time, how are we supposed to?

I'm reminded of an episode from "The Waltons" when Grandma, played by Ellen Corby, was trying to help around the house after recovering from a stroke, which occurred in real life to her. No one would let her lend a hand and when she finally took her frustration out on Olivia by sputtering something in desperation, it took her daughter-in-law some time to finally grasp what she was stressing: "Need me."

I was a very young mother when that episode aired and, at the time, found it charming, while not having a clue then that I would one day understand that grandmother's pain. That day now seems to be bearing down on me, and I don't need a debilitating stroke as a reminder, but just those obvious wrinkles, to attempt to make me feel like I've somehow failed.