The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Don’t Let The Old Man In …

Recently I was talking to a friend of mine about getting old.

Not in terms of age, but attitude.

We were discussing how there are some people we meet who just seem to embrace stepping out of life.

OK, maybe that’s a bit dramatic … more they choose to only focus on what is of interest to them, but there’s a seemingly deliberate ‘closing off’ to the things that are new or different or just happening around them.

It’s like they’ve put on a pair of ‘cultural blinkers’ they don’t intend to ever take off. Expressed in how they look. How they talk. What they like. What they say.

Now … there is absolutely nothing wrong with these people. They can do what the fuck they like. But it’s definitely not how I look – and live – my life.

And then my friend said something that caught me off guard.

He told me this story of someone he knew who used to tell him, “don’t let the old man in”.

[I subsequently discovered, thanks to a post on exactly the same subject by Kevin Chesters, it was a song by country singer, Toby Keith, who was inspired to write it after a chat with Clint Eastwood – who was about to turn 88 years old – while playing golf]

Anyway, I found it fascinating.

Not just the turn of phrase, but the implication that ‘stepping out of pop culture’ was, at a certain point, a default setting.

That to avoid doing that required a commitment to not doing that.

With hindsight, it should have been obvious, given – as I wrote in her post last week – my Mum was the embodiment of that attitude.

She absolutely did not want others to define her – or judge her – by her age.

And while that didn’t mean she dressed like some suburban version of Madonna, circa 1984 [or even 2023 for that matter] it did mean she was always open to what others were open to.

She followed young comedians … she went to see new movies … she read modern literature … she studied politics …

She didn’t necessarily like – or understand it all – but she was open to learning about it.

Because in her mind, the best way to embrace life was to have a curious mind, and for her, that meant caring about what others cared about.

And I took that all for granted until my mate said ‘don’t let the old man in’ and then I realised it was a conscious effort.

I distinctly remember her telling me about a time someone said they were surprised ‘someone of her age’ would be interested in a particular subject or activity. I still remember the defiance in her voice when she said, “I don’t want to live by their outdated expectations”.

Now you have to understand my Mum was the opposite of a rebel.

She was a kind, considerate, compassionate person. But in terms of not living up to stereotypes, she was an anarchist.

That doesn’t mean she ever did something she didn’t want to do simply because younger people did, it just means she found things interesting that people who ‘let the old man in’ didn’t.

This was a revelation to me.

Not just because I now realised my Mum had actively chosen to refuse to embrace the ‘default’ setting, but I was doing the same.

Please don’t think I’m suggesting I’m on the cutting edge of anything … but by the same token, I’m also not closing myself off to life either.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say, the older I get, the more open I am to stuff.

Views. Fashion. Food. Music. Health. Ideals. Art. Everything …

And while I originally thought this was my default setting, I’m now realising it’s not.

It’s an active choice.

A desire to stay open and interested.

Being in a young persons industry helps.
Working with international rockstars and fashion gods helps.
Having parents who were always looking forward, not behind, helps.

But it is also my choice. I just didn’t realise it.

Which suddenly explains so much that I didn’t realise till that conversation.

From the things I buy … the multitude of magazines I read … the things that grab my attention … the people I hire.

It’s the realisation that I live by a ferocious, subconscious desire to keep the old man out.

Not because I want to be young. But because I definitely don’t want to be old.

In terms of attitude, not age.

Which is why I now realise people who say others are ‘growing old disgracefully’ have got it wrong.

Because they’re not growing old disgracefully, they’re growing old with curiosity’.

And as aging traits go, that’s surely pretty awesome?

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