I have a secret… I am going to die. It’s very sad but I have known about it for a while. You see, I have a condition; it’s called ageing.
You may have heard about death from people who have had something disgusting, like a sickly dog, or grandparents.
Ageing is an odd thing, we all have to do it… if we’re lucky! So why do we often feel shame, regret or sadness about passing through one window of time, when that is exactly what is meant to happen?
I am thinking more about death as my parents decline, and as I become more aware that I’m about halfway through my life (this is a guesstimate, of course, laced with arrogance from a woman who has – let’s face it – nearly set herself on fire twice).
In the UK we can be quite uptight about death. Maybe we think if we don’t make a noise, it might not see us. But in other countries and cultures they seem to have a healthier attitude towards the end of life; they talk about it, sometimes celebrate it, and can even see it as a beautiful transition.
Many Native Americans believe the dead ‘walk on’ rather than die – it’s less final, a journey rather than an end point. The Kenga people of central Sudan celebrate their departed with energetic dancing on the day of the burial. And Tibetans often feed their dead to the vultures (it’s called a sky burial, babe).
I still haven’t quite made peace with ageing but I am trying now, because I’m fully aware it’s rather futile to resist.
I work in an industry (TV and comedy) that, like many walks of life, fetishises youth and rewards the new. They want the next best shiny thing. I get it, there’s often something exciting and frenetic about young people performing. I love to see it!
But when I watch comics like Maria Bamford, Margaret Cho and Sarah Silverman, there is a real depth of reflection and a connection to the world that has been developed and sculpted over time.
What I am saying is, there’s room for everything. So let’s not throw out something with shapes and replace it with a colour. We need shapes and colour. One shouldn’t denigrate the other, it should enhance it and feed in.
I don’t want to be a cliché and say that life’s got easier as I’ve got older – but it’s true
We all have so much to learn from each other. I learnt how to be a better trans ally from my niece, and I’ve learnt about crypto currency from my young friend, Dan.
I learnt to enjoy nature from my grandparents (ironically they’re now sprinkled in the ground, so they’ve become nature), and I learnt all about being ‘gnarly’ from a 62 year old skateboarder.
For a long time I didn’t tell anyone my age. I didn’t lie about it (unless you were on Tinder circa 2018), I just avoided it, or said I didn’t want to divulge it, because the TV industry is sexist and ageist.
But actually, it was me who wasn’t comfortable with it. If I was at ease with my age then it wouldn’t matter what other people thought.
If you’re truly accepting of something, you don’t need other people to be. Helen Mirren isn’t squirming around using the term ‘bestie’ and posting about her Gen Z quizzes…
It irks me slightly when 23 year old comics on Twitter or Instagram are ageist but of course they are – they are 23.But they will learn because it all comes around, age more than anything comes around. Plus my annoyance is probably more to do with me than them. I mean, what do I want from them – they are 23!
The early twenties can be a hellish time, so thank God they have good skin and stretchiness on their side.
When I was younger, I wanted to be older. I remember being a teenager and seeing my older boyfriend in the town. I was mortified that he might see me in my school uniform and be disgusted. Now I know more about men’s desires of course… (hashtag not all men).
Often, we say we would like to be younger – to go back armed with the knowledge we now possess.
But the whole point of life is balance; there are pros and cons to every age, so let’s own them all unashamedly (again, I realise that I might be talking to myself here, you might be fine with it).
I will say, now that I’m older, I do enjoy some spicy deals on car insurance and knowing the names of at least seven different outside plants.
Let’s not fritter this time away by wishing to be older or younger, or Spanish or French. We are what we are and we are where we are. LET’S F***ING ENJOY IT, we’ll never be this young again.
Sarah Silverman talked about ageing recently and she said she got some great advice from her therapist: ‘look in the mirror less’.
I love that advice – and I took it on. It’s a tonic. Sure, as a result I have done gigs with stains down my top and spinach in my hair but overall, it’s a winner.
This also echoes some wise splatterings from spiritual teacherEckhart Tolle (73 and very supple, thank you) – he says something along the lines of ageing being a chance to go within more, and become less identified with the external. (I’m paraphrasing but he won’t mind, the guy’s enlightened.)
So I guess we can at least look forward to that sweet inner glow! Getting less narcissistic can be very freeing… I imagine.
When I think of when I’m happiest in life, it’s when I’m laughing hysterically with a friend or having a fascinating chat with my brother or learning facts aboutoctopuses.
These are timeless pursuits that connect to something inside of you – and you can do all of that with crow’s feet.
As you get to know yourself and you get to know life better, you get more relaxed in your own skin, it’s just the skin is more… lived in.
And even if you are knocking on the door of death, just start believing in reincarnation and you will be a silly, little baby again in no time. Or perhaps you can reincarnate as a turtle? They live for ages and look old from birth!
Good luck and see you on the other side in a long, long time.
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