“Old age is no place for sissies.” –Bette Davis
I was at the local Urgent Care one Sunday morning with an earache. As I was planning to fly to Cuba for a cultural educational exchange representing screenwriters, I needed to take care of this. After I completed the medical questionnaire, I was escorted to one of the exam rooms where I waited. Finally the door opened and the doctor looked at me: “I’m so sorry,” he says. “I have the wrong room.” Then, he comes back. “Nola Rocco?” he asks. And when I reply, he apologizes. “I looked at the chart and was looking for a sixty year old woman.” “A woman in a housedress and bunny slippers?” Laughing and added, “I get this all the time!”
I hate it when I’m labeled “old”. And it doesn’t matter what age you are and especially when you are not. I got a text from my daughter’s long time Beverly Hills High School girlfriend who knew I was writing this book; and whose mother had friends who stayed at The Hidden Garden. She was livid–she had just gone to an “early” movie and the ticket seller had asked her if she wanted a “senior” discount!
Instant stereotyping: early movie means you are old. These expectations about “aging” have been placed on us by society.
I was fifty-five when my daughter became pregnant, panicking that the stereotyping would add years to people’s expectations of me, I made it very clear to my daughter that I would pick the name I wanted my granddaughter to call me. It wasn’t that I wasn’t proud. I just did not want to be called “Grandma” or “Granny” or “Nona” or any foreign cute name that had anything to do with labeling me a grandmother. After being called, “Here she is!” for eighteen months after her birth, I settled on “Granola”. I couldn’t believe it took me so long to figure that one out. I’m sure it had to do with repressing the thought that society would see me differently. And now her friends and family call me Granola, not just my granddaughter. I’m good with it.
Becoming more “mindful” of my presence and more involved with my life, I make other choices. At fifty, sixty and now at seventy, I am not stuck. I want to tell you, you may feel limited by expectations, but you must not stop looking for the unexpected.
Words like: decline, forgets, misplaced, need to be removed from your vocabulary. Retired, senior and even grandmother is a label that has a negative aspect of aging. The more we see ourselves taking on a more active role in our physical and social life, refusing to fall into the negative stereotype of being an old person, we will become more youthful. It will happen.
It is because of this age stereotyping that cosmetic surgery is so popular. And without these procedures I would not have been successful at having a place to hideout afterwards. I found my niche. I found exactly where I belonged, in the beauty world yet not in the beauty world. I found that it was very true that a cosmetic procedure could take years off your look, and if you went beyond just the “look” and got yourself into excellent physical shape, you could actually carry it off. It takes all three: looking good, being healthy and fit and feeling good—to biologically become younger. But without the “looking good” aspect, people don’t treat you as younger.
Guests at The Hidden Garden Hideaway did not want to be seen or treated old. Many said they just wanted to the seen as their age. Which means, they let themselves go or haven’t aged well. Smokers, recreational drug users and sun worshipers pay the price as they age. And of course, stress or a traumatic experience like a divorce, adds years to our bodies and shows up on our faces.
Many women who have had plastic surgery found their personalities changed. They found that their chronological age was fixed, but their attitude was not cemented by past experiences.