Wednesday Feb 21 2007
By Lauren Selman
When do you start to get older? After reading the comments about aging,
I ask, “When does aging begin?” Aging is placed in the context of those
entering their thirties and beyond, but for me, I believe the process
of aging began the day I was born.
When I was a little girl, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and I simply responded, "I don't want to grow up." But the truth was I was growing up as I was saying those words. I was resisting aging from the moment I could answer such a question and the fairies of Neverland dusted me with fairy dust. But the wonderful thing about Neverland is that everyone is there. The older pirates and the youthful lost boys.
The metaphor of Peter Pan brings me to my next point of the fear of aging being embedded in us when we are young. Peter Pan (youth) and Hook (aging) are in a constant battle, and the clock of time is also after Hook. In Alice in Wonderland, Alice travels down the rabbit hole into a world full of imagination and creativity, a place where time is still. She does not age in Neverland, but it is when the older 'evil' Queen of Hearts chases her out of Neverland that we realize she is forced to grow up. If we were never forced to grow up, would we age? What is signified by aging? The social construct of taking on more responsibilities and paying bills is what teens are afraid of. But do these primarily Western constructions of aging really signify aging?
When I was in the Amazon Forest, it was the elders who embodied the youthfulness of today. I was living with the Kichwa people of the lower Amazon Basin, and as I shared ripe yucca with them, they told me that in the mornings the children teach the elders, and in the evenings the elders teach the children. In a sense, each has the same soul—just different bodies.
If this is so, how does the conversation of plastic surgery affect the concept of aging? I am going into plastic surgery in a little over a month and I am what is considered young. But if age is defined by our bodies and what we do to our bodies, then how old am I?
If I didn't tell you the age of the following patients, how old do you think they would be:
Female with low bone density, joint pain and breathing difficulty. On daily medication for abnormal biological reaction to autoimmune frailty. Muscular structure is strong with slight tendonitis in the right arch of foot. Discoloration of skin and sleep deprivation.
Female has completed over a dozen triathlons, and ran a half marathon last weekend. Is writing a 60-page book, has a healthy relationship with her partner, runs daily to see the sunset, gardens once a week, is setting up a clean water program for indigenous communities and rides her bike to work everyday...
Is how we understand and think of aging how we define ourselves to others??
Patient A and B are both me.
20 years old.