One of the things that most amazes as one grows older is the human’s infinite capacity for immaturity. Based solely on empirical evidence, i.e., my own personal experience, I have discovered that there really is no division between being mature and being immature. There is no magic threshold one crosses, such as turning 21…40…60…90, that defines one as mature. Older yes; mature, not necessarily.
Remember when, as a child, you woke up on a wintry morning, peeked out a window, and saw a gleaming white landscape? If it was a weekday, your first reaction was, “Yay! No school!” (If your first reaction was, “Darn! No School!” then you were probably born mature and are not going to get anything out of this essay.) Currently, all of Western North Carolina, where I happen to be, is under a thick blanket of snow. Some mountain roads are impassible and many vehicles are buried. Especially mine (Yay!).
When there’s lots of snow “Little Me” comes out. I am sitting in my nice warm bed with my nice warm laptop wearing my nice warm pajamas in the middle of the afternoon, thinking “Yay! I don’t have to go grocery shopping tomorrow.” My level of maturity is questionable for several reasons: a) I’m still in my pajamas; b) I’m still in bed; and c) my first thoughts at the falling of the first flake are about all the things I won’t have to do, whether I planned to do them or not. The fact is that it doesn’t matter if I want to do them, I can’t! My road hasn’t been cleared and there’s no getting out of my steep driveway.
Not only are there lots of things I don’t have to do away from the house, there are plenty of things I can’t do right here at home. I can’t pick up the branches and twigs that have fallen all over the yard from the high winds we experienced this week—they’re buried in snow. I can’t upright the bridge over my creek; it’s frozen in place (which is the wrong place). Of course I can’t rake leaves or pull weeds; I can’t even see them. And, best of all, I can’t shovel the snow from the driveway because the driveway is gravel and I don’t want to disturb even one pebble. Unlike that schoolgirl of yesteryear, I don’t have an “adult” who has a list of things I could be doing while “stuck” home. Husband Chip doesn’t mind what I do as long as it doesn’t interfere with his naps and meals (talk about a baby!).
Meals are another really cool thing. When Chip is home for dinner, I generally cook (although we do have a weakness for Jukebox Junction when the roads are clear). I actually provide balanced meals that might be considered passé because they consist of an entrée and two sides, or something from the slow cooker with meat and lots of veggies. Chip, of course, insists on dessert. But when I’m alone, Little Me prepares the meals. “Prepares” is an exaggeration when lunch consists of Snapple Diet Peach Iced Tea and a snack-sized bag of Lays Classic Potato Chips (although this is uncompensated product placement, it is also an example of my lack of maturity—I insist on having exactly what I want), or Frigo Cheese Sticks and a Coke (make that Classic Coke).
Being married has probably saved me from being toothless and diabetic. Left to my own devices, Little Me is perfectly satisfied living on fortune cookies, mozzarella cheese, potato chips, shrimp, Chinese dumplings, and lots of sugar. When I was younger I pictured little old ladies sitting at the kitchen table, sipping a cup of broth for dinner alone. Back in the day, I could never have imagined a little old lady, sitting in a bed shared with four cats and a dog, eating junk food, with a computer on her lap and Law and Order on TV.
If it sounds like I spend a lot of time in bed, that’s only because I kind of do. Like middle class children whose rooms are their fortresses, I go to play (on the computer), read, or do my homework in my room. Sometimes I even sleep there. My bedroom is across the hall from the kitchen, and of course I have my own bathroom (I’m not that great at sharing). This is all in the back end of our house, so most days I just close off the rest of the house and spend my time in the bedroom and the kitchen; I can claim maturity by saying it cuts down on heating costs. I spend one day a week in my granddaughter’s bedroom while my house is being cleaned. Being immature, I like being “taken care of.” Being old, I never have anyone tell me to mind my manners or clean my room. There are real advantages to being old and immature.
Being old and immature means that you always get to wear what you want, eat what you want, watch what you want, and mostly do what you want. Since age provides its own excuses, you never have to lie about why you did or didn’t do something. You either forgot or…“You know, it’s my age…” If you’d rather spend time with your cats than with your relatives, it’s okay. Everyone will say you’re eccentric. “Eccentric” is just a classy word for old and immature.
Now, I have had a real problem with turning sixty. It’s all psychological, of course; isn’t everything? But Little Me is actually loving it. Just think, Little Me thinks, in two years I get a raise in my allowance. I remember looking forward to the “important” birthdays that meant an increase in my allowance as much as Little Me is looking forward to collecting social security. If there’s any left to collect. Can you imagine being a child and told you don’t have to do any chores anymore (do children still do chores?)? That’s how Little Me reacted when I retired. I think it can best be described as “Whoopee!”
Maybe being immature is what makes getting old unacceptable. However, I have begun to adjust to being sixty (sixty years, two months, eleven days, 5 hours, and 27 minutes as of this writing). Little Me likes it a lot because all those things that were once forbidden to a juvenile are now options. And, instead of being “just a child,” I am comprised of all the ages I’ve ever been.