“Growing Down,” A Useful Concept?

by Kevin Burton

   Working title for my book on aging:  “I’m Not Growing Old, I’m Just Growing, and other lies we tell ourselves as we age.”

   Sigh.

   I always love waking up and getting a day older. What I don’t love is waking up on my birthday and getting a year older.

   But a Page 7 investigation has revealed that the one is inextricably linked to the other. So no wiggle room or loopholes there.

   I forgot to say thanks to all my Facebook friends who wished me a happy birthday back in August, possibly because I don’t want to think about it.

   Getting old is getting old. But then, there is that alternative….

   When we are young we can’t wait to be older.  Being able to ride the fun rides at amusement parks is just the beginning of it.  Adulting feels like so much fun as we begin to get a taste of it. It is all the more alluring because at first you don’t have the crushing responsibilities adults have.

   You have the car keys without the car payment.

   That kind of life imbalance is what the underrated Nick Lowe was singing about in his song “Half A Boy and Half a Man.”

   Sample lyric: “You’d better run, you’d better hide, you’d better lock you house
and keep the kids inside. Here come the twentieth century’s latest scam, he’s a half a boy and half a man.”

   Later he adds, “They never made no provision in the original plan for half a boy and half a man.”

   He got that right!

   So I lived through all that. That stage doesn’t last long ether.

   Here’s a lyric from the Doris Day song “Toyland,”:  “Childhood’s joy land Mystic merry Toyland
Once you pass its borders you can ne’er return again.”

   “I always tell my kids “don’t be in too much of a hurry to grow up” my hair stylist said during my most recent visit. “Once you start growing up there’s no growing down.”

   So at what point do we, at least try to apply the brakes, to slow down the aging process, to be young at heart or whatever phrase you would care to use? 

   And this “growing down.” Could that be more than just a throwaway line? Is that something we can actually do?   Have we hit on something here? What would that look like?

   “Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever,” said animator and writer Walt Disney.

   “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing,” said George Bernard Shaw, quoted on www.seniorplanet.org.

   Laughing, playing, dreaming. Surely those would be part of growing down.

   We can also consign the command to “act your age” to the trash bin of ubiquitous but stupid sayings, alongside “big boys don’t cry.”

   “The older you get the more important it is to not act your age,” said the improbably named British cartoonist Ashleigh Brilliant.

   The sitting US Vice President is younger than I am. This has never happened before. Does it matter in any real way?

   My wife talks to her mother about being old and her mom just laughs, saying “You don’t know what old is.”

    I look at it this way, I’m called legally blind even though I have partial vision.  I’ve been legally blind all my life. Now I’m also legally old.

   I’m not all the way old, but entitled to certain benefits and considerations.

   Maybe all we’re really talking about here is being comfortable being yourself. 

   Growing up, growing down, it all requires comparison to something, something that gets less and less relevant the older you get.

   One advantage my blind friends and I have as we age: We have always had people trying to put ridiculous artificial limitations on us because of blindness. So we’re not likely to buy the notion that age in and of itself means anything. 

   “Getting old is like climbing a mountain; you get a little out of breath, but the view is much better,” said actress Ingrid Bergman.

   Very true. But could we amend that quote to say getting old is like climbing a tree? 

   Well, I’ll have to think that one through. But whatever answer I come up with, I will own it and not apologize for it.

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