There Are Good Things About Passing 60, but the 'Whammies' Begin to Add Up
Nora Ephron, 66, is an author, screenwriter and essayist. Her latest book is "I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman" (Knopf, 2006).
Q How does it feel to be over 60?
A I don't think I can answer the question, because when I was 60, I felt completely different from the way I felt at 61, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. It's not this thing where you cross a threshold into your 60s and you suddenly feel a certain way.
You feel however you feel, and then I'm afraid after a certain period of fairly predictable euphoria because you're still here, the whammies start to mount up. And those either consist of, you know, your friends getting sick or yourself getting sick or the absolute clear realization that you cannot hike up the mountain that you hiked up extremely easily several years ago without having to be hospitalized for muscle fatigue or put into traction or whatever.
I mean, there is no question that your body starts to tell you how old you are whether or not you have any interest in listening to it. And that's the reality for most people; sooner or later at some point in your sixties, you're forced to deal with that fact. And it's not some simple little thing like, "You're not as young as you used to be." It's that you're old. And no one likes to use that word because they all want to go on being hired or listened to or taken seriously or counted in or made part of the dialogue. But that's the fact.
Does it feel different emotionally?
It's complicated and interesting emotionally. By the way, I already feel horrible that I've used the word "old" because it's as dirty a word as we now have. Nobody wants to be thought of as "old," least of all me. I'm just saying, that's the dirty little secret of life after a certain point, that you are old. Or as we like to put it, "older."
And some things about it are good. One good thing about it is that if you have any affection at all for the philosophy that's called "life is too short," it's a very helpful thing at this point because there are all sorts of things that you just shrug at and say, "I don't have time for that."
So there is some benefit, some peace of mind?
A very small benefit. Sure, that's a small benefit, but that doesn't begin to make up for the deficits, if deficit is the opposite of benefit.
What are you most surprised by in entering this phase of life? Is it better or worse than you expected, or exactly what you expected?
I think that like almost everything in my life: I had a gigantic failure of imagination about what it would be like. And I think I'm still constantly surprised at how much bad news there is about getting older. And as I said, most of it is about illness and dealing with it with your friends and loved ones.
There's no question that we all lived through an idiotic series of broadsides about how fabulous it was to get old. The reality is that it's very complicated. And it's very complicated to know how to deal with all the things that are realities when you are older, not the least of which is how you prepare financially for the fact that you have no idea if you're going to die tomorrow or live forever. Financially and emotionally, by the way.
Is there anything that is better than you expected?
Well, no. I've said on all my promotional tours, the only thing that's better is you don't have to shave your legs as much. But it's hard to think of anything that's really better.