Why I'm looking forward to joining the grey brigade
The latest of our entries in an Irish Independent student journalist competition, in association with Campus.ie
AT swing music set in a pub last Sunday, I witnessed something truly remarkable. Men and women, the age of 70 and up, were dis-locating and re-locating their pelvis in a rhythmic fashion, while listening to the classics of their generation.
A six-piece band played an incredible swing set, complete with a lead singer who gave a pitch perfect Sinatra impression, including un-gentlemanly glares towards other men’s wives, the predominantly older audience fox-trotted and twisted and jived with each other, and as the beat developed, the dancing reached an almost animalistic fever pitch.
When the sax solo came in, it was hysteria.
Elderly men embraced their wives; at least I think it was their wives, for the whole pub to see. None of the typical conservative, “what would the neighbors’ think” mentality, simply dancing with reckless abandon, switching partners and back again, as the walls began to sweat.
I had all but concluded that I had stumbled upon some type of pre-swing party warm up, when the music stopped, a slower groove came on, and the daughters joined fathers to share a dance. It couldn't believe it, these weren’t social deviants or mind addled nursing home refugees; these were real people.
While watching all of this, what Oprah would call an A-Ha! moment occurred. These people were living proof of how fun getting old can be. Sure, your vision starts to fade, and your back starts to go, and your nose hair starts to grow longer as your head hair disappears, but there are so many implicit advantages with reaching the age of retirement and up. Where have these people been? Why aren’t they educating my generation on how fantastic getting old can be?
Ageism is running rampant; as soon as a certain age is reached you are discarded as being societally obsolete. But I say the elderly associations should find these men and women of this pub and parade them as their mascots. Never mind the antiquated image of the elderly couple who goes to Florida to fish in khaki’s and polo’s, show the ones who drop it like it’s hot while fly me to the moon plays in the background! Elderly generation, please, allow me to act as you’re public relations advisor and life coach for the next while.
First, let’s address and discard the antiquated, “why it’s great to get older” clichés.
Enjoying Grandchildren without having to be a disciplinarian. Meh. Free bus journeys. Doesn’t grab me. Sit on a bench with your wife, as you reminisce on years gone by, with the sun setting ahead of you. Please.
Now, with those addressed and appropriately discarded, lets explore the real benefits of growing old.
If you’ve done it in any way right, you’ve managed to save up a little nest egg, what do you do? Hint; don’t a buy a ticket to Lourdes. Your kid are raised, you’ve been breaking your back your whole life, so hit some strip clubs in Vegas and let the missus play the slots. Let’s face it; if you’ve made it this far you and her are pretty rock solid.
What else? Buy that ridiculous car you always wanted but felt was too impractical. You have the double veil of senility and post-mid life crises to avail of, who can tell you not to?
Which brings me to my next point; why fight against this misconception of feebleness and universal Alzheimer’s that is attached to you? Exploit it! If some activist manages to swing the public perception between now and me getting my dentures fitted we’re going to have words, that’s for sure.
Am I advocating criminal activities? Of course not. Am I advocating morally ambiguous activities? Most Definitely. Come on! You’ve been playing by societies rules for long enough - live a little! Want to experiment with illicit substances? You’ve paid your dues I say, just be sure and distinguish what dope meant to your generation and what it means to ours and you’re golden. If caught, ask if the Allies have taken Berlin yet and no court in the country could find you guilty.
So, while the rest of my generation worries and swims futilely against the tides of age, I will be patiently waiting on the shore, until I have joined your revered ranks, and then the fun begins!
Order me a whiskey for when I get there, and make it a double.
* Michael Joyce is a Journalism masters student at NUIG
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