It’s clear that “aging gracefully” means different things to different people. To some it’s “surrender to old age.” To others aging gracefully is going with the flow: “You only live so long, you are going to die anyway, so live however it makes you happy.”
To me, aging gracefully means letting go, just letting life happen. It suggests giving up goals, dreams, productivity, and challenge. It’s placidly waiting for death. A hallmark of graceful aging is subtle but rapid onset of typical signs of “oldness” that manifest in attitude, behavior, and appearance.
For example, I’ll describe how I imagine Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara might have aged gracefully, genteel characters that they were.
Picture Scarlett and Rhett in rocking chairs on the veranda of the McMansion they acquired after Tara burned to the ground. The war is over, and she’s living on royalties from her best selling book, “Gone With the Wind and Gentility: The Lost Art of Aging Gracefully.”
Scarlett’s famed 16-inch waist has ballooned into what looks like the broad side of a barn. After all, would any gracefully aging woman lift weights, or even bend and touch her toes?
Anyway, she’s rocking away in her chair, a fan in one hand, stirring the humid afternoon air, and she’s clutching a mint julep in the other. She’s heard that a couple of drinks a day is good for older women, so she’s enjoying her quota, and then some. “Aaah,” she sighs, followed by a hiccup. “Aging gracefuly — that’s living.”
Rhett Butler has also aged gracefully. He’s round as an apple around the middle, with love handles on top of love handles. He’s bald as a billiard ball, and, he’s sporting a long, white “father time” beard. Bald older men often try to compensate for a shiny pate by growing vegetation on their face. They think it makes them look younger and more virile. Yuck.
Rhett is also enjoying a mint julep, and he’s using his fan to shoo flies off his beard that houses vestiges of last year’s possum soup and barbequed chicken gizzards. Typical senile old geezer that he is, in his head he’s still a stud.
During a semi-surge of the last of his testosterone, he takes a swig of his mint julep, burps, wipes his mouth on the sleeve of the remains of a moldy confederate uniform, and whispers to Scarlet, “You know, Miz Scarlet, you are not the bodacious babe you used to be.”
Taking another sip of her mint julep, tossing back her matted salt and pepper curls, and shifting to more attractively rearrange the avoirdupois that once was a tiny waist, Scarlet rocks with a bit more determination and responds, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Get the “aging gracefully” picture? You no longer care. You just let life happen. You just don’t give a damn.