I notice I am getting more ‘age’ jokes in my email these days. Most of them are kind of silly: they’re either about leaky parts or real or imagined sexual fantasies among octogenarians (watching or wishing in all sorts of unusual circumstances, like learning to bounce your walker on a trampoline so you can peak at the nude beauty in the next yard). Like most humor, it is about people laughing at themselves or their situation. I don’t find most of them particularly funny, probably because while I am now officially a ‘senior citizen’, I don’t yet identify with the core realities that are being spoofed.
While I don’t mind this attempt to ‘laugh it up’ in the nursing home set and I don’t think this kind of levity is ageist, it does reflect our expectations and our fears of what we are in for as we grow older. No doubt our bodies do change and, like antiques and fine wines, they are a bit more susceptible to damage if not handled with some care and attention to their vintage. For a lot of my friends, however, the real joke is that growing older is absolutely great—particularly for the Baby Boomers who haven’t bought into the ‘rocking chair’ mindset and cultural notions that ‘old’ means declining and being of less value.
I hope I go out laughing. Not because of the jokes and the gags, but because laughter nourishes the soul and reminds us of the irony that, after all the drama and significance and all our struggle to succeed and get it right, there were really only four questions:
- What was the game?
- Who was playing?
- What were the rules?
- Who is going to clean up?
I don’t know when I first realized that laughter isn’t about what I am laughing about—it is about who I am. The more I realize the perfection of life, the more grateful I am, the more I connect with how magnificent people are, and the easier it is to laugh.
As my mother always told me in those moments when I was feeling down: “It will all work out, and besides, who will care in a 100 years?” That thought makes all my dour self-centered, self-judgmental and significant notions about me and life pretty darn funny. And, like kids playing at a birthday party, at the end of the game, whoever isn’t laughing gets to clean up.
Oh heck, don’t worry. Those of us who are laughing will help too….