Saturday, August 03, 2019


Occasionally, when I mention my age* to someone, they respond "you don't look it."
I take that as a compliment, of course, but at the same time I wonder.
--What does it really mean?

Does it mean I look OLDER that my age?  Or YOUNGER?
Does it mean I look great (my preferred possibility) or terrible?

It's a curious thing--time. We tend to think of time as linear, progressive, each stage leading to the next. It's that kind of image Shakespeare evokes in the words from AS YOU LIKE IT--you will recognize it from its opening line: All the world's a stage.**

But I think we don't really experience time as a slow progression, one stage to the next a la Shakespeare. In some ways, that approach makes us cherish some stages and rue and fear others. 

Shakespeare's evocation of the cavalcade of life lists seven stages:

--infant in his nurse's arms, whining school boy, then lover, then soldier, then the justice, then the sixth stage--"the lean and slippered pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side," and finally the last stage, the second childishness--"sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

I think of time, not as something linear, but pleated like a fan. The folds may coincide with my life's progression--curly haired smiling infant, little girl with pigtails, newly minted boarding school girl 
with awful haircut (my worst stage!), budding teen,  long haired quasi-hippie new mom, professional woman embarking on a career, empty-nester, and now "you don't look your age."

But that's not how my memory works. I can jump from one stage of my life in a blink. I can connect the dots that may seem random. I can move backwards and move forward in time. It seems that the same person who was inside me at the various chronological points in my life is still there. Sure, experience and reflection have added dimensions, but generally I am who I am, who I have always been. And no doubt who I will always be.

So, I don't look my age? Maybe, maybe not. But my mind stores all  the steps along the way, and lets me move back and forth in time.

* For the record, I was born in February, 1945. You can do the math.
**AS YOU LIKE IT (Act II, Scene VII)
by William Shakespeare

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.