by Joseph Toone
I was friends with an elderly gringo. While we were not particularly close he was always very nice to me. About a year ago he had me over for several holiday dinners and invited me to speak at his church. In his thank you note he stated, “You were the best speaker we’ve ever had.”
I was a bit surprised, then, when shortly after that he started a social media campaign to defame my tours and books on local history and culture. The content of my tours and books is exactly what I spoke about at his church to his acclaim. It got so slanderous that I had him, and his illogical ranting, removed from the Civil List, Facebook and other websites. Still, I was stunned and confused by his actions... until yesterday.
Yesterday I learned he was diagnosed with incurable cancer. I knew from experiences with my mother, and from being the head of a volunteer care team for the terminally ill that in such circumstances things go south early on. Often, long before a person realizes they are in the troughs of their final illness, they get cranky. It’s as if you are hiding. Your mind is trying to hide the disease and your impending demise. It is as if your higher centers, the part of your brain with morals, kindness and logic shuts down first to provide more allowance for the illness’ subterfuge.
Then there are other elderly gringos I encounter that are simply mean from the get go. They go on in their meanness like the Eveready Bunny in blissful health. For example, one morning I had a meeting with a gal that I’ll call Mrs. Methuselah since she was a waitress at the Last Supper. That morning our oldest resident gringo, Farley, had died around the age of 95.
I thought that his death would sadden Mrs. M.. So I was surprised when she dismissed the news with “He was too old to be alive anyway.” I think somehow she forgot they were once in the same homeroom.
It made me do a bit of research on aging. I had assumed, wrongly, that we get kinder with age. I thought men who were lousy dads, lose their testosterone and become kindly grandpas. Or that we simply gain perspective and the corresponding kindness with the years.
Instead I learned that who we are in middle school is who we are our entire lives. If, instead of being like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Half Pint, you were a Nellie Oleson, a vindictive, shallow and intellectual limited gal, then you have those qualities until you stop breathing. Sure, your beliefs, likes and hair-dos evolve, but the basic you, it seems, is set in concrete around 12.
That made me want to go back a step and see how American women in their fifties think. That was now my age. For me my fifties have been fine. I’m more attractive to women than I’ve ever been before, happier than I’ve ever been, done with my official education and taking care of others (employees, clients, vendors, kids, parents and spouse) and in good health. What more can an old fogey want?
Well, American women in their fogey fifties, it seems, want much more.
One book I referred to was a series of stories by American college English professors. I thought these ladies would know how to tell a story. Fifty percent wrote about their fading looks and being invisible to men. Since I never relied on my looks for anything, and professionally speaking, being a white man was always a liability in my lifetime, their stories were enlightening.
Forty percent then wrote on the trials and tribulations of looking for a man. Apparently finding a man who is not seriously troubled over a failed romance earlier in their long life is slim. Oddly, personally I have found that my having already been married is appealing to women. It's like you have somehow been previously vetted. Plus the idea of taking another gal’s man (even if she doesn’t want him) is oddly appealing to most women.
The last ten percent of the stories were on the trials and tribulations of moving for your professor job. For all the moaning about moving, not one of these fifty over-fifty gals wrote about teaching, their actual profession. I thought that was telling on how little they ponder over their lives spent in the classroom.
For a comparison, I questioned local gals over fifty for their experiences. Mexican women enjoyed no longer being responsible for parents (now dead), children (now grown) or careers (now over, as I know a lot of retired school teachers). They relished their independence and new interests.
That led to jump backwards in age to study Millennials and their leading expert on happiness. He stated that parents of Millennials (like I am) short-changed our kids with endless awards. Yes, I remember teasing my kids for winning awards like “Best Bus Rider” or “Best Breather,” knowing that they knew that those awards were silly. But I also knew that those types of awards were often the only affirmation some of their classmates ever received.
The Millennials’ expert’s claim that this new generation’s “sense of entitlement knew no bounds” made me laugh. As an employer of hundreds for two decades, and living here with elderly foreigners, I’m all too aware that a sense of entitlement spans the generations. In the US it is more of a national trait than something defined by a generation.
So, if who we are is who we were in middle school, I can live with that. I can even thrive if it's true that all men turn into their fathers, and all women turn into their mothers. All this is in accord with the advice from combative 1930s actress Bette Davis, who once stated, “Aging isn’t for sissies.”
Joseph Toone is Amazon's bestselling author of the San Miguel de Allende Secrets series of books and TripAdvisor's best rated historical walking tour guide. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit History and Culture Walking Tours or JosephTooneTours.com, also on FaceBook.