WHAT'S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN?
WHAT COULD BE WORSE THAN THAT?
WONDERFUL THINGS FOR UNFITTIES TO DO
Okay, so you’re not as young as you used to be. You have pains in places where you didn’t used to have places, and you suspect your weight in pounds far exceeds your height in centimeters, although you’ve never been mathematically inclined and never mastered the metric system. The math part won’t matter anyway, unless you want to explore countries where everything is metric.
But you really don’t want to explore anything much any more.
You no longer imagine yourself walking the Left Bank of the Seine because you can’t even walk to the bank where your passport molders in a safe deposit box. You don’t imagine yourself sipping anything stronger than ginger ale, or maybe going wild with a diet cola on New Year’s Eve, and you no longer wish you were part of the crowd in Times Square. You don’t want to stay up to watch the ball drop. You’re happy if you live in the west and can watch it drop at nine or ten, when it’s already midnight in New York, so you can go to bed with a heating pad.
You’d walk to the library if you thought you could carry all those books. You’d walk to the coffee place you love so much, just to hang out for a while, if you thought you wouldn’t have to ask someone for a ride home. “Maybe I can get there, but I don’t know if I can get back!” has become your new mantra.
Can this really be you? How did you get to be an unfittie?
You remember when you could work full-time plus overtime, do your own housework and laundry, serve on a couple of committees, attend a few meetings, and go dancing every week.
You remember when you were 34 and could outrun a soccer-playing 13-year-old in a hundred-yard dash, although you realize you couldn’t have held out for a longer distance, even then. Maybe it was a sign, but you were too triumphant to notice it.
Triumphant, oh yes, you were, and you were all kinds of other good things, too. You were still young in your 30s – you were bright, productive, resourceful, excited and exciting. Members of the opposite sex still turned to look when you passed, and you still appreciated it. Hey, you still expected it.
You don’t know when you became invisible. When your hair first started graying, you thought it quite chic. Rather than dye it to conceal the gray, you dyed the gray parts purple, to match your favorite outfits. You certainly weren’t invisible then.
Nor were you invisible in your early 40s. You could still turn a head now and then, but nobody called you ‘cute’ any more. Instead, they said ‘good-looking’ or ‘charming’ or, if they loved you very much, ‘gorgeous’.
In your 40s, you fondly remembered the plans of your youth, when you wanted to change the world. You never quite accomplished it, but, in your 40s, you still thought there was time. The wild excitement of civil rights issues and women’s issues had, perhaps, given way to more subtle environmental causes, but you could still get pretty wrought-up about saving whales, pandas, or your local river.
Now you’re a confirmed recycler, if your spouse will bundle up the papers and plastics and cans and take them away. You want to save the polar bears, and those endangered penguin species, but you aren’t sure you could travel to the North or South Pole to see them.
You aren’t even sure you want to travel at all any more.
Home is nice.
Then, one day, you casually ask your spouse, just as a point of interest to see if you’re still soulmates, and not as a suggestion at all: “If you could go anywhere in the whole world, where would you want to go?”
Much to your surprise, he waves a brochure at you and declares, without hesitation or doubt, “Here!”
It’s from his university alumni association. They’re arranging a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
It doesn’t dawn on you right away – you’re not the quick study you once were – but life, as you’ve grown to know it, is over.