Monday, April 25, 2016

A coat of age



Pre-lycra cycling days

As I was walking the other day a young lady cycled by, and a much older man turned to watch her pass. She was young, attractive, and sped by in tight lycra. A passer-by muttered something about a ‘dirty old man’, but  if a young man had turned and looked, would he have been called a 'dirty young man' for such frank admiration of the cyclist? I imagine not. 

This little scene made me think. How does that old man  see himself? Perhaps he was looking out of the eyes of a young man, who in his younger day may have offered the lady cyclist a broad smile and received a smile in return. His aged observation meant no offence or insult, he was just admiring from his internal perspective, not external appearance.

I have a very different picture in my head of myself, to how I look to others. Inside, I feel like I am still 23, but somehow that young woman got zipped into this heavy, wrinkled suit called ‘age’. They slow me down, those years now layered on to my younger, inner self. 

So upon a skeleton that has remained largely unchanged (apart from some deterioration from arthritis), there is extra weight and my skin now wears a map of wrinkles, whilst the landscape of my body is disguised with a proliferation of moles and variations in pigmentation. 

Younger cyclists pass me easily as I slowly, but steadily, pedal from city to car. I am cloaked in anonymity, in the beige of middle age that both cloisters and protects.  But I have 23 year old eyes, and they look at the world through that prism of perspective.  I can admire a good physique, I can enjoy good conversation, and appreciate the gift of youth and not feel the burden of obligation from such engagement.  I find it interesting, the 'inside' and the 'outside' that each of us carries, our coat of age.

So next time you talk to an older person, don’t judge them by the years they wear, but look at the eyes, and see if you can catch the years they feel.

Photo courtesy of http://www.sheilahanlon.com/ 
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