At what age are you allowed to stop doing bullshit things you no longer feel like doing with the excuse “I’m too old for this shit”? I often wondered in my twenties when I could take advantage of this exciting turn of phrase used by older people everywhere, along with wondering what specific types of shit I’d be able to self-exempt from. Then at some point in my thirties I awoke, and simply knew. Suddenly, I was just too old for this shit.
That includes—and I also asked friends—feeling “too old” to deal with:
- General caring*
- Certain hangovers
- Getting super easily offended
- Sleeping on floors
- Sleeping on any non-beds unless absolutely necessary (i.e., futons)
- Spending most evenings playing video games
- Skipping coffee in the morning
- Drinking shitty coffee
- Bad salads
- Fast food more than once a month even
- Cheap ice cream
- Skipping breakfast
- Being pregnant
- Having more than one kid
- Cheap bras
- No money in savings
- No emergency fund
- A skincare routine not supervised by a dermatologist
- Entire wardrobe of fast fashion
- Waiting for longer than 20 minutes at a restaurant if no bar
- Shitty booze unless it’s the shitty booze of precisely my choosing (i.e., “Coors Light”)
- The cheapest possible version of literally anything unless that is the best version (i.e., “Coors Light”)
- Really bad, mundane conversation
- Lame “friends”
- Most “parties”
- Bad movies—the really bad kind, not the good-bad kind
- Staying longer than I want
- Getting up if I don’t want
- Pretending to like a thing I don’t like (will try to be polite about it, but still—why fake it? Ever? Again? Ever?)
- Laughing harder than the thing warrants
- Making excuses—just, why?
- Acting like someone has a valid point just to make them feel good when that point is not valid at fucking all
- Being overcharged
- Doing anything I don’t really want to do, even for a minute
Back up to that “general caring” point—on the one hand, when you get older you actually seem to care more about certain things, including the people you already care about, being a better person, sorting your shit out. But overall you can be so much more selective about what you care about and it seems, at least in my experience, incredibly easy to say no to things you don’t really want to do. And what’s more, it’s easier to know where to put your energy, because you can suss out up front what the payoff is.
When you’re older, it also seems to be easier to identify people who are not worth your time, and to confront problems with your loved ones when it’s worth it, and to know when it isn’t worth it. Also, feelings become less mystifying, easier to navigate—it’s not as if you can’t still get hurt, or disappointed, or profoundly sad and wrecked by things, it’s that somehow your body/brain/heart remembers that you already did this before. You’ll be fine. You always are.
And finally, the best part of being too old for this shit is being able to say what you think—particularly being able to actually utter that you are, in fact, too old for the shit. It’s the punchline that, unlike you, never gets old.
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But when does the line come for each individual? Only you will know. You’re the only person to decide when you’re ready to stop being young enough to take a certain kind of shit, and to embrace being old enough to stop taking that shit. No one can say when the universe—or you, yourself—will grant you this reprieve. Over at the New York Times, Dominique Browning puts that lucky day much farther off into the future than I would. Browning writes:
There is a lot that is annoying, and even terrible, about aging. The creakiness of the body; the drifting of the memory; the reprising of personal history ad nauseam, with only yourself to listen.
But there is also something profoundly liberating about aging: an attitude, one that comes hard won. Only when you hit 60 can you begin to say, with great aplomb: “I’m too old for this.”
That said, at 60, Browning clearly has her shit figured out: She can now look back over photographs of herself from age four to 40 and see that she had actually been beautiful. And she marvels at finally being able to shrug off a vast number of experiences that once would have knocked her down. She also mentions the fact that she was once advised to perhaps consider saying “too smart” or “too wise” rather than “too old”—but lucky for us, she was wise enough to see that old has a punch of ownership, of earning power, that she likes too much to soften.
Office politics? Sexism? I’ve seen it all. Watching men make more money, doing less work. Reading the tea leaves as positions shuffle, listening to the kowtow and mumble of stifled resentment.
I want to tell my younger colleagues that it doesn’t matter. Except the sexism, which, like poison ivy, is deep-rooted: You weed the rampant stuff, but it pops up again.
What matters most is the work. Does it give you pleasure, or hope? Does it sustain your soul?
Browning also says the key to successfully being “too old for this” is staying resilient, which is basically being your age but feeling forever 15. Also, she doesn’t bother trying to change people—”what you see in someone at the beginning is what you get forevermore,” she writes wisely.
She has simply gotten better at knowing when to give a shit, and when not to:
Toxic people? Sour, spoiled people? I’m simply walking away; I have little fight left in me. It’s easier all around to accept that friendships have ebbs and flows, and indeed, there’s something quite beautiful about the organic nature of love.
I used to think that one didn’t make friends as one got older, but I’ve learned that the opposite happens. Sometimes, unaccountably, a new person walks into your life, and you find you are never too old to love again. And again. (See resilience.)
Of course, all this is easy for her to say—she’s 60. And, while it’s never too soon to be too old for certain shit, I would recommend never being too old to pay attention when someone smarter and wiser tells you something worth listening to.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby