Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Young and Dumb

For those of you wondering: yes, that's a kid inside a giant airtight ball running around on a pool of water. Yes, parents actually pay money to let their kids do this. No, I don't know any, personally, but obviously they exist. And no, I don't know why this hasn't struck anybody else as a terrible idea.

I will be turning thirty at an unmentioned time later this year, and much to my surprise, I really don't feel much older than I did when I was twenty. To be sure, I don't stay up all night anymore (not that I did that much when I was in college), but there are nights when I go to bed at around midnight and get up at around five. Besides my perpetually-knotted shoulder, I don't have any aches and pains, and while I have some stray white hairs, I still pass for someone in her mid-twenties, an image that is only reinforced by the fact that I Rollerblade to work whenever the weather and roads cooperate.

I mention this because my mother, in perhaps what could be called a midlife crisis, has recently started asking me in every conversation whether I feel old, because she certainly does, etc etc, [litany of aging problems here]. I always tell her no, because, well...I don't. And it's hard to feel old in the Netherlands, because no matter how tired you are, how achy you feel, it's terrible form to be passed by a little sweet oma with her basket of leeks and potatoes on the back of her bike. When you have that as your standard for what you should be capable of when you're eighty, a sore shoulder from hoisting kitty litter doesn't seem nearly so terrible.

While there are nursing homes for the elderly, they tend to be inhabited by those who, for whatever reason, have lost the ability to live on their own. If you've got two legs and can make yourself a pot of tea, apparently, you're good to go. Karel's dad, who is nearing eighty, still lives on his own--he walks his dog twice a day, shoots a shotgun longer than I am tall and stocks his freezer with his own game, and is a regular at many dinner tables. Granted, he does have a housekeeper, but there's a long/complicated/personal story that I won't get into. The gyms, likewise, are full of retirees that are "sporting", as the Dutch say. On beautiful days like on Sunday, the woods are practically crawling with people--young and old alike--taking advantage of the beautiful weather to get some exercise and catch a few rays.

Maybe it's naive of me to think that I'll feel this way forever. After all, I haven't been fifty yet. On the other hand, I must wonder how much of my parents' experiences of getting older has been shaped by their relative isolation and life in suburbia, living in a neighborhood surrounded by yuppies with kids. Me? I say, no little old oma is going to pass me for a long time, yet.

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