The Age of Grace
- Roberto Caballero () - January 12, 2003 - 12:00am
A few years back, I celebrated my "golden year" in Kua Maritane, a safari ground in South Africa, just beyond Sun City. I "ran away" from a party plan prodded by well-meaning friends about celebrating this "passage" with a blast. But I had this deathly fear of celebrating with the music hits from my "younger years," or imagining myself trying to blow a cake with 50 candles before they activate the smoke alarms. However, the hope of witnessing a Discovery Channel safari sequence of lions devouring a zebra in wild Africa seemed to be the right fix I needed to jolt these notions into oblivion.

But as it turned out, there were no zebra-flesh-tearing lions, just sleepy yawning ones.

I seemed to have this burning desire to be as far away from home on that milestone birthday. Was I running away from an inevitable reality of "growing old?" Running away from realities of gray hairs sprouting, the middle spread that won’t go away?

Liposculpture? Waning sexual drive? Viagra? Face lines? Botox? Down-aged wardrobe? At 50, I decided, I’m not running anywhere in my mind or under my skin. I would meet the passage head on. But it wasn’t bad either dealing with my fears by the Cape of Good Hope, watching the waves from two oceans clash head on as the afternoon mist settled in.

One of my favorite authors on passages is Gail Sheehy. In her top seller book, Understanding the Passages of Men’s Lives (I keep giving away the copies I have as presents to my friends, men and women alike to share my joy over the book’s breakthrough views) Sheehy says the fifties is a passage to one’s second childhood!

As I embraced this thought, the years beyond being 50 or so no longer seem to be an indictment to a proverbial rocking chair. For me, it’s a new journey that begins with a new attitude. And the payoff is big time–a graceful view to age. Well, that’s how it works for me.

From then on, I began to see things in a different light and delight with laughter. I grimace with the pitiful sight of those resisting the inevitable. But I am awestruck by those who exude grace as they partner with the years beyond 50.

I managed to wiggle into a Broadway matinee of the campy Aida by the tandem of Elton John and Tim Rice. In a magnificent spa scene, the Egyptian princess, swathed in towels and layered with beauty creams exclaimed, "It’s so hard to keep competing with 20-year-old or so pretty young things!" This seems to be the Waterloo thought of many. Can any one really win the race against age? Or, why race at all?

In an earlier conversation about liposuction, one of the team doctors, capitulating to my relentless probing, said that most male repeat clients are some gym freaks who don’t want to even feel a pinch of fat from their sides. Of course, fatty deposits start building up with men on the waist and with women on the outer thighs ("saddles" at 30 or so). But hey, what’s so wrong about buying some wonders of science to "look good" and consequently "feel good." In this new age of self-esteem, buying vanity technology isn’t to be frowned on. But when abused, it turns ugly.

And in the salons of the "hair designers," intensive "processing" rings the cash registers. Highlights, low lights to hide gray hair, or to simply ride the wave of blonded, burgundied, coppered and multi-tint from a volumes and volumes of color shades produced by the top hair coloring manufacturers. The time-honored barber shops, still stick to the traditional dyes, which most Chinese gentlemen order before a birthday celebration.

But why not enjoy the perks of style and the financial wherewithal to buy the latest buzz? I am sometimes relieved to see some friends chase the gray hair away with a very flattering rinse.

Once serene and secure with acceptance of chronological age, one can ease on down the road with grace, looking forward to what lies ahead with life. How does grace manifest itself in the golden years? My rule of thumb is from my good friend, Bing Baloy, whose "deathly fear of looking silly" criteria keeps me in good stead when discerning what’s gracious and what’s not.

While the fashion mantra of ageing brands is to "down-age," we still need to have the perspective of how well will new fashion fit us. Chanel, Burberry, Dior, Hugo Boss, among other retailers, have down-aged their fashions, realizing that most of their "traditional" buyers have moved on to the pearly gates.

And as golden citizens do have the financial prowess, they need to be reined in a bit. Conscious of the down-ageing trend. What to do? Simple, ask a friend, when trying to squeeze into an Armani Exchange garment meant for thin, twenties or so bodies. Ask sales people, how a pair of biker Oakley shades looks on you.

So over 49 isn’t at all over the hill. Just watch that one doesn’t go overboard in one’s second childhood. Grace will see you through, just focus on the new perspective.

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