View from the Empty Nest: Perks

I am an expert on getting old. Of course, everybody over fifty is. All of us approaching our dotage are very sad about it. Facing mortality and all of that. Enough has been written about “not going gently into that good night,” or whatever that famous quote says. Aging isn’t fun, no. But there are some real benefits that all of us dreading going into nursing homes can focus on.

First of all, nobody over fifty is really in the dating pool any more. If you are an older single, face facts: you have to take what you can get and be thrilled about it. But there is a good thing: when you go to the store without makeup, nobody cares! Isn’t that freeing? You can go out to get a quart of milk and look like the cow that gave it, and absolutely not one person who sees you will think twice about it. However, if Gwyneth Paltrow wanders into her yard with a pimple, it’s huge news. Whew! Let it all hang out—you have earned it!

Another thing: with age comes wisdom. If I knew then what I know now? Good grief. For example, I now realize that being popular one’s teens is worthless. So you were a rugby star or got voted “most likely to succeed?” Did you succeed? I bet not. All of us dorks in the background are now reaping the rewards of  those endless nights we spent without dates reading books and developing our vocabularies. Those geeks in science class are now zillionaire internet phenomena. Haha!

Now that I am almost a senior citizen (sixty is the new thirty), I have a much more relaxed world view. I have seen all kinds of predictions of horrors unmentionable. I spent many sleepless nights in my youth worrying about things  like atomic cataclysm, DDT, menopausal hot flashes, budgets, rabid bats, and huge meteors hitting the earth. But all of those things either never happened, or somehow weren’t as bad as I had thought they would be. Humans seem to adapt, solve problems, and invent really good things like vaccines and cheap macaroni and cheese. The world continues to turn. Goodness almost always prevails, and when it doesn’t, somebody comes along to kick the bad guys in the ass.

I now know that all the mommies who wonder how they will ever survive when their babies leave home—DO. And they go out and take Zumba lessons, eat in restaurants weekly with their husbands, and forget how to cook recipes that result in leftovers. Those kids were darling, we loved them so very much, but they left cereal bowls under their beds and got gum stuck in their hair. Now our houses are clean! There aren’t any back packs in the foyer! Hooray!

I have come to realize that each part of life has pros and cons. We all have angst a lot of the time. But now that I am right here, looking at the world both backwards and forwards, I like where I am just fine.  In the balance of things, youth really is wasted on the young. I now have lots of time, more money than I ever used to, and there are bowling leagues out there just begging for me to join them! I can take a walk at three in the afternoon! I haven’t been to a high school play in YEARS.

So if you are middle aged or younger, don’t you dare pity my wrinkles! I have earned every one of them. I get to do all kinds of things that you young ones don’t have the freedom to do.  Feel free to envy me. I am having a blast!

Molly D. Campbell is a two-time Erma Bombeck writing winner. Her debut novel is Keep the Ends Loose. Molly lives in Dayton with her accordionist husband and five cats.