Recently, my husband and I went to a rock concert, to see Chicago and the Doobie Brothers, bands contemporaneous with our youth. Ahhh....
Before concerts begin, I always look around and check out the demographics of the audience: are they old, teens, families? Do some people look like they were dragged there by their companions? What about those 16-year-old girls? Do they know the music, or will they spend the evening going to the snackbar for hot dogs and sodas, and checking out any teenage boys who are there for the same reasons?
Probably the majority of the audience members are people north of 50 who grew up with the music and have memories attached to some of the songs, and who reminisce about the good times. They are aging, balding, and chunkier than they were 30 or 40 years ago. They may pump their fists and sing along at the top of their lungs. They may move into the aisle and spin like whirling dervishes.
We may snicker at the gray-haired woman who claps along off-beat, or at the man in the too-tight plaid button-down shirt with his comb-over. But why are feeling superior? What do we look like to others?
I am not young. These concerts - Fleetwood Mac; Paul McCartney; Chicago; Crosby, Stills & Nash; are from my era, but I still have to stuff my ears with tissues. How do I look and act age-appropriate? Do I dress in contemporary fashion, with capris, tank tops, and flat-ironed hair (dyed to its original color, of course), or do I dress according to the band's reputation and history, wearing a thread-bare tee-shirt from The Stones 1969 American tour? Do I hold up my hand, making a V-shaped peace sign, or do I hold my camera phone to take pics to upload and shine a light in the air?
I wonder if we get lost in time, feeling like we're "back in the day," but with a few aches and pains and worries (kids, mortgage, stock market, leaky roof, job security). Or are we so "in the present" that it's hard to just relax and gently reminisce about what the lyrics originally meant to us?
It's tough for me to look at the young folk in the audience, with their lives ahead of them, having concerns only about college and their social lives. Am I envious? Do I wish I were that age again? Maybe so, if I could fix a lot of the mistakes I made and be more joyous than I was. But do I really want to go through those traumas again that we encounter when we're young, or is it really a matter of deploring the aging process?
I see the older concert audience members, and I know I am one of them, but I don't want to be. I don't want to "feel" about myself the way these people "look" to me, but it's because I don't really want to face old age and the inevitable.
I look at the performers who are in their 60s and 70s and wonder how they do it. From a distance, they look ageless. They perform, sometimes, for hours, and night after night, as though they've take some magic potion that prevents aging and provides boundless energy. And I feel more hopeful and somewhat ashamed of my fears.
If only there were a guarantee that we could go on for as long as we wanted, that we would feel great, that we would have no “wants” that could not be fulfilled.
I know I'm dreaming. These things can't happen, but I will try to do my best with what I have, try to stay "in the moment," and look for inspiration from the seemingly-ageless rock stars. So when are we too old for rock concerts? When we stop breathing!