22 December 2012
When Will I Be Old?
Loved this piece of writing in Kate Morton's The Distant Hours.
(As Saffy tangles with her preciously-mended silk stockings) "Oh Lord, no!" Saffy's big toe caught and she began to topple sideways. There was a split second in which she might have righted herself, but her toenail had snagged in the fiber and to plant her foot would have risked a new ladder. Thus, she took the fall bravely, whacking her thigh painfully on the dressing-table corner. "Oh dear," she gasped. "Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear... "
All seemed in order; it had been a narrow escape. Saffy let out the sigh she'd been holding, and yet she wasn't wholly relieved... When she and Percy were girls they'd had plenty of opportunity to observe adults up close and what they saw had mystified them. The ancient grotesques behaved, for the most part, as if they'd no inkling at all that they were old. This perplexed the twins, who agreed that there was nothing so unseemly as an old person who refused to acknowledge his or her limitations, and they'd made a pact never to let it happen to them. When they were old, they swore, they would jolly well act the part. "But how will we know?" Saffy had said, dazzled by the existential knot at the question's core. "Perhaps it's one of those things, like sunburn, that can't be felt until it's too late to do anything about it." Percy had agreed on the problem's tricksy nature, sitting quietly with her arms wrapped around her knees as she gave herself over to its consideration. Ever the pragmatist, she'd reached a solution first, saying slowly, "I suppose we must make a list of things that old people do--three ought to be enough. And when we find ourselves doing them, then we'll know."
Gathering the candidate habits had been simple--there was a lifetime's observation of Daddy and Nanny to consult; more difficult was limiting their number to three. After much deliberation they'd settled on those leaving least room for equivocation: first, professing strong and repeated preference for England when Queen Victoria was on the throne; second, mentioning one's health in any company other than that which included a medical professional; and third, failure to put on one's undergarments whilst standing. Pgs. 138-139.