We all have a lot to assimilate, not to say expiate. After a huge, frenzied build-up and preparation, we drop off the mountain and begin, slowly and then with mounting speed to, to pick up the pieces and to assess the past year and plan for the year ahead. I used to think and say that September was the beginning of a new year for me, and it still is for some things, but January now marks so much more.
The change of number (2017 coming up, oh my), means a change of number in my own years (in February). Other people seem to be more impressed with my accumulation of years than I am. They get awed and sticky about it, concluding every admiring or congratulatory comment with a qualifier that takes the air out of them:
“At your age!”
It’s remarkable what you are doing - at your age. (Still breathing for one.)
How did you know that? (whatever it is) - at your age.
You remembered! At your age!
Still writing? At your age.
It all sounds so patronising.
Do you remember when your child or a toddler of your acquaintance took a few staggering steps or learned a new word and you said, isn’t he amazing, he’s only three or did you hear that, she’s only two and a half? That’s the same tone people use when they remark on some accomplishment of mine: isn’t she wonderful, she’s almost eighty-six?
And do you remember Samuel Johnson’s analogy of the walking dog: ("Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all”) reducing any accomplishment by a woman to a joke ? Any skill achieved is irrelevant; the remarkable fact is that the dog/woman can do it at all. So for an old woman. Sigh.
Well, as Stephen Sondheim claims for all us ladies who lunch, “I’m still here!”
And hope to be so for a while longer.