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Ninety is the New Forty-five

Posted: Jun 18, 2007

I hope each of you read the newspaper article by James Lewis of Newhouse News Service published on May 26th. Lewis wrote about four ninety-plus year old women from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, who went out for an evening on the town. The women left the Country Meadows Retirement Community with their driver at 5 P.M. and they were back by 7, but in the meantime, they managed to hit several local bars, including Hooters. They might have forgotten the name of a drink (“what is that nice red drink?”), but they had not forgotten how to have a good time. The climactic sentence in the article was the quote “We might do this again in the fall, if we’re still alive.” What chutzpah!!!

When Hugh Hefner declared that eighty was the new forty, he only knew half the story. Where women are concerned, ninety is the new forty-five!! A few months ago, I watched on the Today show as a hundred year old golfer hit a hole in one, and this morning my daughter emailed me a video depicting an eighty-two year old figure skater whose grace and agility made me green with envy. Both were women.

This past weekend when I was in Austin for my colleague’s ninetieth birthday celebration, I was treated to a happy preview of what I have to look forward to. I traveled with my energetic and attractive seventy-six year old friend who couldn’t wait to show me her new jungle lingerie that she said made her feel “like a jaguar.”

At the birthday party (which I believe had been going on for two or three days), we connected with another friend from Alabama who is eighty-seven. When we were offered a glass of wine, Louise quipped “I never drink until dark—but it is dark under the stairs.” I laughed until I cried.

This same handsome and spunky woman was also stranded in the Dallas airport (see "Uneasy Rider") for eighteen hours (interrupted only by a brief excursion to the Super 8 motel)—sans luggage, sans anything. Did she ever complain? Did she miss a beat? Not on your life.

I was reminded of the time a winter storm forced me to spend the night in the airport at LaGuardia. The very young and the very old took the hardship in stride, while those of us in the mid-range of life fretted over our discomfort, whined, and generally made ourselves miserable. The young dozed in the uncomfortable seats, and the old organized card games and played contentedly until morning. I soon realized I had a lot to learn.

In an ealier blog called  "A Long, Hot Summer?" I wrote a poem about turning sixty-two. Here is the one I wrote when I thought forty-five was old!

Midlife Crisis—or Denial is not a River in Alabama

Everyone I know is thirty-five.
Donna, in my writing class, is thirty-five.
Melissa, the artist, is thirty-five.
Only I am no longer thirty-five.

Last night while I was sleeping
Someone slipped in and
Scribbled lines all over my face,
Stuck bags under my eyes,
Stuffed cellulite in my thighs.

This morning my mother’s hand
Reached to get my toothbrush.
An unfamiliar face
Stared back at me from the vanity.
Someone else’s stomach
Protruded from beneath my belt.

The kudzu of middle age has over taken me.
Cholesterol clogs my arteries
Like milfoil on the Tennessee River.
Yesterday I was thirty-five.
Today I am forty-five.

I had intended to grow old elegantly—
Lean like Louise Nevelson,
Craggy like O’Keeffe,
Not square like Gertrude Stein.

Tomorrow I am going to buy a new mirror,
Have my hair dyed,
Phone about a face lift.
Meanwhile, I am going to claim that my children
Belong to my husband from a former marriage,
And I am going to lie, shamelessly, about my age.
I am going to say, “I am only thirty-five!”

Penne J. Laubenthal

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telastar says...

Spot on poem... I've looked in that mirror. Max .=.

StorianLeigh says...

Penne, I'm reminded of how much you make me laugh in person (at the party) and in print. I love the poem, and I saw the underwear!

janna says...

The poem is fabulous!!! How much we learn from those a generation or two ahead of us. Jungle undies, indeed! I'm thinking I've been too uptight all my life. Thanks for reminding us what really matters, Penne - love, life, and friendship!

ShortenBread says...

I love it, the poem says it all. It is lovely to read your poetry again.

SouthPaw says...

Love the poem and where can I get some of those jungle undies?

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