The Ageing Process
Last week, reading Wodehouse At Work to the End, by Richard Usborne, I spent a long time looking at the cover.
There was PG Wodehouse at his typewriter, pulling out a sheet of paper. He was old in this picture. Almost bald, white-haired, wrinkled, everyone’s idea of a grandfather.
When I was growing up and falling more and more in love with PG Wodehouse with every book I read, I never tried to imagine what he looked like. (Come to think of it, I’ve never tried to imagine what any of the authors of my favourite books look like. I just don’t care. Even though I interview a lot of writers these days, and drive them crazy by demanding that they pose for pictures, I don’t think I equate authors with regular people like you and me. When I read a book I like or love, I just think of the book. Never the author, unless it’s with a sigh because she or he writes so well or has such a strong imagination and I’d like to read more by her or him. Hmm. Interesting. Complete separation of creator and creation.)
Anyhow, there was this picture of Wodehouse looking like everyone’s idea of a grandfather, and looking at it, I thought: I wonder if he knew he’d ever look like this when he was a boy at school.
I strongly suspect he didn’t.
I also strongly suspect that none of us can imagine looking like a grandparent when we are in school, or college or… any time, really. It’s also difficult for us to imagine ourselves as looking like parents, even when we are parents. I don’t think I’m alone in this belief, but at some point of time an image of ourselves gets stuck in our heads, and that’s the image we always see when we think of ourselves, no matter how old we are.
For instance, I am permanently 11 years old. A friend of mine is permanently 24. I had a great time too when I was 24 – in fact, I enjoyed myself hugely the whole of my 20s. But I not only enjoyed myself hugely aged 11, but I also felt completely secure and was completely unaware that the world could be unkind. Therefore, in my head, I’m 11. And even when I look in the mirror, I don’t see my 41-year-old self. I see an 11-year-old. (Except when I catch a reflection of myself by mistake and then I’m very startled. Can this person who looks like my mother really be me?)
However, the fact remains that though I think I’m 11, I’m 30 years older than that. And my body shows that. Like this:
1. I’ve had oily skin my whole life. So I think I still have oily skin. Actually, it’s dry. I need moisturizers, creams and unguents that I never needed before and I still believe I don’t need because, duh! I have oily skin. Don’t I?
2. Ditto my hair. It’s been oily my whole life. Now it’s dry. So what shampoo do I automatically buy? One for oily hair, of course.
3. Still with my hair. See, I know I’m still 11 years old because I insist on having the most radical hair colour ever. Grey. Apparently, no one has grey hair these days. It’s totally, totally, outré. Only a teen or pre-teen would insist on such an extreme shade.
4. On the rare occasions I shop for clothes, I’m convinced I look great in midriff-baring tops and tiny skirts. Of course I don’t.
5. When (younger) friends call and invite me for a pub crawl starting from the tip of south Bombay and ending in Malad, I say, I’m sorry, I can’t. There’s Top Chef on TV.
6. I think 11 pm is late. Really. It astounds me that people agree to meet at 11 pm. (It astounds me that I once thought 1.30 am was a perfectly acceptable time to pop into another pub to meet another friend for a drink. I did that? Who, me?)
7. Even if I never eat anything solid ever again in my whole life, I’ll still put on weight.
8. I can’t read without specs. Anything. Not even menus.
9. I plaintively ask my niece, “You call that music?”
And so on and so forth and so fifth.
And pretty soon, I’ll think there’s nothing more fun than sitting in a rocker, knitting bedsocks for my great-nieces and mumbling to neighbours’ children, “In my day…”
The ageing process. It’s really quite hilarious. But I’ll always be 11, even if my body doesn’t think so.