That’s So Brazil

Post #8: Age is but a… oh, never mind

The other day I was standing in a long line at the bank when I suddenly remembered: as someone over 60, I was entitled to hop over to the caixa preferencial, which had a much shorter queue. A sign above the teller’s booth served as a helpful reminder: “This line is for old people—anyone as old as 60 or even older.”

Old age 1“Coming right up,” I felt like saying. “Just hang on while I retrieve my walker and pop in my hearing aid.”

Along similar lines, the Brazilian novel I’ve been reading recently brought a new character into the story, a “very old man” with wrinkles criss-crossing his face, cocker-spaniel pouches under his eyes, and the weight of the world on his rounded back. A couple of pages later the author let it be known that the man was 60.

With insults and injuries such as these, I can’t be blamed for being a wee bit twitchy about my age. I turned 61 a few weeks ago, but damned if I was going to let anyone know. Not here in Brazil, where people “refresh” their cheeks and breasts and butts as one might rearrange the furniture in a living room. Brazil cosmetic surgery

For most of my midlife years, the guess-my-age game has given me a reliable ego boost. “You’re really 52? I would have guessed mid-forties.” “Fifty-seven? No way.” As recently as two years ago, I was propositioned by a handsome Italian man on the boardwalk in Cannes. I put a quick end to his nocturnal aspirations,  but still… ego boost.

In the past couple of years, though, something has changed. I look in the mirror and don’t see it—I have no frown lines or turkey chin, and my body hasn’t gone all sausagey on me—but clearly the rest of the world does. People are no longer shocked when they learn my age, and on my third day in Brazil one person actually guessed higher.

After that I stopped playing. I have no interest in seeing people’s un-shocked faces. Now, if someone asks me how old I am—and Brazilians often do—I just smile and say, “A gente pode mudar de assunto?” Can we change the subject?

Let’s face it, youth is a currency, and I don’t have quite as much coin as I might like. Before meeting Brazilian cyber-buddies IRL for the first time, I’m tempted to give them fair warning. You know, truth in advertising. “Hey, just letting you know that I’m 61, even though I feel like 25, both physically and mentally.” I actually wrote this to one young dude I was planning to meet for English-Portuguese conversation exchange. He never showed up.

To be fair, I’m meeting a ton of people who don’t give a fig about my age. (If anything, Brazilians seem less concerned about age-gapped friendships than people back home.) I’m making friends of all ages, just as I’d hoped. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t peeved at this “betrayal of the flesh.” I have worlds of energy inside me. I’m ready to rock, roll, and samba. Why didn’t my epidermis get the memo? Ω

Edited to add: Today a woman in a second-hand clothing store asked me if I was 50 yet. She also told me that I speak better Portuguese than many Brazilians, so she’s clearly not a reliable source, but I’ll take what I can get. Ego off life support—for now.

Note: A few people have asked how to follow the blog or leave a comment. There were some technical problems, which have now been fixed. To follow: click on FOLLOW ME ON EMAIL at the top right of this blog post (right above the LinkedIn icon).  To post a comment: scroll down until the “Leave a Reply” box and fill it in.


31 thoughts on “That’s So Brazil

  1. Hi Gabi – great blog message. It still isn't that easy to figure out how to leave a comment (which I did). I took a screen capture of the last few paragraphs of your blog. See where it says "Leave a Comment" in the list of where you have tagged? It's practically invisible. Very few people will notice the button there. Love Drew

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    1. Hi Gabi!!! Thanks so much for writing us. You are sooo funny girl. Your blogs make my day, always make me laugh out loud and miss you! Wish I was there but am with you in spirit and thoughts being “senior” in more places, stores each day myself haha. Nice set up now so will keep in touch. Hugs, Anita

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  2. Beautiful and insightful as always, Gabrielle. You are the youngest 61-year-old I know. Love hearing of your continued adventures down south. You are such a brave soul to do what everyone else just *says* they want to do.

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  3. Gabrielle it is so interesting reading your perspective. Especially since I’m reading the 33 year old’s story at the same time. Thank you for sharing! I’m so glad to have met you.

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  4. Fantastic post mum… the way I see it, you’re better off sixty-one than sixty-done! At least you’re out and about, exploring the earth and all its little weirdnesses. Post again soon!!

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  5. Once again, Gabrielle, you have expressed what I feel also so eloquently! Maybe the moral of this story is to also “not give a fig” about age since the assessment and perceptions of such are so widely varied and let’s just take the senior discounts where we can.

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  6. Well expressed, and – to me – an accurate reflection of reality (ie, of being ‘senior’, not of you looking anywhere near being senior). But don’t worry: rest assured that all those dismissive, age-ist youngsters will one day suffer our fate.

    Can’t believe you already speak Portuguese! Surely your Japanese must be slipping, my over-achiever friend? ; – ) (You’d better come back as expert on at least half the samba percussion rhythms, or else. . .)

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  7. maybe no one will give a fig or any other fruit about your age if you don’t. this reminds me of other self-fulfilling prophecies where it is hard to control what you feel since your feeling depends on the outcome that you think will happen later.

    confidence seems like one of these things – we can trust that being confident will result in a life situation that will give us more confidence later, so… why can’t we just be confident, if we truly trust that it will bring about goodness? maybe we don’t trust the future as much as we want to, or maybe we just aren’t accustomed to letting the future dictate our actions and not the past.

    anyways, great post as always! I love hearing about your youthfulness

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    1. Methinks you’ve been taking too many philosophy classes! (Just kidding.) I actually think you nailed it. Confidence and trust exist in a weirdly symbiotic relationship: each feeds the other, but it’s sometimes hard to get the engine going.

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  8. awesome post! this reminds me of self-fulfilling prophecies – if you cared less about your age, others would probably care less too (maybe that guy who stood you up would have met you and never even thought to ask your age!). It’s very hard to make ourselves feel things, even if we are pretty sure that feeling those things will change our situation to make us naturally feel them later. this might be where “fake it till you make it” comes from!

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    1. Agreed. That’s why I stopped broadcasting my age after that incident. I still felt the impulse, but forced myself to override it. Remember, too, that I tend to exaggerate things a little in my writing., just for the fun of it. IRL I’m not walking around all day thinking 61, 61, 61…..

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  9. Yesterday I was asked if I was 55. Since I’m used to getting reactions more like the ones you describe (“Really? You look ten years younger than your actual age!”) I said I wasn’t. (Not quite yet!)

    As Tara says, better sixty-one than sixty-done (great turn of phrase!). You’re healthy, happy, adventurous and enjoying an adventure that would intimidate many people much younger than you. Go for it! Do you. It’s wonderful, and so are you.

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  10. In our family (including you), we all look young for our age until just before the final curtain. When I drank a toast to my 50th Birthday in a bar some two-and-a-half years ago, the bartender could not believe I was 50 (she thought I was 35). I had to take out my driver’s license to prove my age. And yes, I have had some grey hairs for quite awhile (as in a couple of decades plus before 50).

    The last of our uncles/fathers still standing is age 90. He looks like he’s in his 70’s. Then again, I’m looking at this situation through the biased eyes of a 52-year-old.

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    1. Hey Tommy, Thanks for chiming in. It’s true, you do look much younger than 52. My one claim to fame is having no (well, almost no) grey hairs at 61. I don’t dye my hair–but won’t hesitate to begin when the whities start multiplying.

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  11. Great blog post! I find aging a particularly interesting subject specially now that I am turning 50, like yourself I feel like 25, in my case more mentally than physically, though. I guess I get tired more easily nowadays, but I am sure I still have more energy than lots of people half my age.
    I love the way you write, your style and your sophisticated sense of humor
    ‘Why didn’t my epidermis get the memo? ’. I look forward to you next post!

    Alfredo D. Branco Jr.

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