Year out, year in
NOTES FROM THE EDITOR - Singkit (The Philippine Star) - December 30, 2018 - 12:00am

When we were kids, our elders used to tell us, every time a new year rolls around, that everyone is now another year older. That is supposed to apply to the lunar new year, by which Chinese reckon years and ages, but since we go by the Gregorian calendar as well, it has come to apply to January 1st too.

Why the rush to be another year older? When you’re a kid – especially when you’re the runt or bunso – you can’t wait to be older so you could do all the fun stuff the older kids do, like ride the two-wheeled bike without training wheels and go roller skating (no rollerblades or skateboards in those days) around the compound by yourself and go “ghost hunting” at night in the two “haunted” houses (they were more dusty than haunted, unlived in after the aunts moved out).

Our “Chinese age” is a year older than our “real age” and that is because when we’re born, we’re already a year old. I am told that those born between Jan. 1 and the lunar new year get yet another year added on. The cycle of 12 animal signs is at its core a foolproof way to determine a person’s age; thus any Tsinoy worth his nian gao knows the sequence by heart.

This is of course anathema to the western preference for youth and looking young. Unfortunately we have increasingly bought into this myth of eternal youth such that we hide and/or lie about our age and giddily consider it a compliment if someone tells us we look 30 – even though we know it’s an outright lie. And so the anti-aging industry is booming as we try everything chemical and technological to defy gravity and natural progression.

A couple of years ago, when I decided to give up coloring my by then already mostly silver hair, I got a lot of aghast reactions, most of which were along the lines of “You’re going to look old!” – to which I replied, “But I am old!” My niece would tell her friends that her tita is the only one she knows who thoroughly enjoys being a senior citizen. She doesn’t realize that, being a certified senior citizen, I can order all of the bagets like her around and make them do things for me – anything from carrying my bag to resetting my phone to getting me food, and they can’t object, precisely, I tell them, because I’m old. But after one trip overseas with me and experiencing all the perks of being the companion of a senior, my niece decided it’s pretty cool to be senior.

Of course there are drawbacks to aging. After going non-stop for well over half a million hours, body parts show signs of wear and tear: the knees creak, the eyesight is bad (thank goodness for implant lenses!), aches real and imaginary appear.

There was an article in The New York Times last week entitled “7 ways to age well in 2019” or “How to increase your chances of living longer, learn the secret to aging well or just look younger.” The advice ranged from the obvious – exercise, engage in social or team sports, make smart choices with regards to food – to the not-so-obvious – do facial exercises, be content (“accept old age as just another stage of life to deal with”) and…move to Minnesota (state with the longest life expectancy).  

One writer sought to define “old” – a 69-year-old can seem like a teenager, while 65 is often considered “the onset of old.” One person said: “Old is my current age + 4.” Old, like many other concepts, is totally subjective, and relative. I say I’m old only when it suits my purpose; my silver hair gets me to the front of many queues, but it is also a fashion statement when an orange or purple hair’d bagets compliments me on how I’ve streaked my hair platinum. As I said, it’s all relative.

So as we end a tumultuous 2018, another year older, perhaps wiser, let us go forth into 2019 bravely and with fortitude and hopeful optimism. A blessed new year to all.   


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