The fear of old age by Peju Akande


I know I’m not the only Nigerian who prayed for long life during the watch night service as we turned into the New Year. Millions of us did. We prayed for a healthy one too, with plenty of money to boot.

I wish I had factored in a number of requests while I was asking for this long life; requests like; nimble limbs, ache-free shoulders and back, firm arms, sharper eyesight among other things.

Old ageBut, no. I didn’t pray about them, I just assumed I would be my same ole same ole self. That I’ll just get up and go.

But our bodies no dey hear word, sam-sam. They know how to shame us.

It can start with inconsequential issues like’ a slight headache, or stiff neck, a feverish feeling, an abdominal ache, a shoulder pain, nausea, moments of dizziness, little things that make you pause and search your brain, what did I eat?

Many times, it’s not what you ate now or last week, it’s what you’ve been consuming for years. I remember I could eat anything and get away with it and I did for a long time with little consequences.
I still recall a few years back, when I looked in the mirror and loved the velvety smoothness of my cheeks, I never needed night creams or gels to keep it firm- now, I virtually have to use an iron sponge to scrub my face to rid it of moles, rashes and whiteheads.

I remember the shininess of my arms and shins, not for me those greasy ointments to make it glow, I just had it in me. Today, I layer my skin in Vaseline just for that shiny look.

I remember the speed at which I could spring up and catch a falling glass that my kids knocked off by mistake, the brisk pace at which I could dash downstairs if I forgot something in the car and be back before the door upstairs had fully swung shut!

In those days, I could stay slouched over my computer for hours and feel no pain or cramps afterwards – now, it would be suicidal to try any of these; I have to swiiiinnnngggg sllooowwwlllyy or I’ll faint for sure.
These days my body has become mean to me, all it does is count every slice of cake I eat against me, every scoop of ice cream is accounted for, every sip of coke is paid dearly for. My relationship with my body further took a dip when I observed that all my body parts that once defied gravity are now obeying bowing and drooping like wet paper!

Let’s start with my face. It’s longer, so I don’t bother to look in the mirror anymore, why look? it’s my mother’s face, I see. I see the same discoloration of skin tones, the same moles on her eyelids and neck region, the curve of her brows!

I love my mother but I prefer my face!

Not done. Try my rotund mid-section, it belongs to my aunt. I’ve known that mid-section since I was a teenager and my aunt was in her 40s. I used to laugh at her and she’d point back and say “you are laughing at yourself.”

Where did all my taut flesh go? I should search my cluttered wardrobe, perhaps I flung it in there without knowing.

These days it’s those back aches that mother suffered from that worry me, those joint aches she rubbed ceaselessly, that knee she begged me to massage for her, those are the same spots I need urgent massage for.

So, I went for a full body exam, having been convinced someone switched my body while I slept. I checked out the kidneys, the liver, the spine, did X-rays, MRI, CT scan all the works. Final place was the ophthalmologist, where a sweet looking girl of about 25 years was taking charge.

Upon examining me and determining that I would require new pair of glasses, she recommended bifocals to which I immediately said no.


“Old people wear bifocals,” I replied stubbornly.

The sweet girl looked at my file and smiled sweetly in my face and said, “Madam, you must wear bifocal, you can’t help it, its old age.”

I sank back into my seat and aged some more, my mind going to the movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, played by Brad Pitt.

At least, now I know what ails me. I can make fun of myself and enjoy the jabs my friends throw at me.
I’ve aged! I could choose to bawl like the 5 year old kid in the Whatapps video I got a few days back. “I don’t want to be old.” She cried when she was told she was older than her 2 year old sister.

“I don’t want to be ooollld like grandma!”

Or, I could change my habits; food and all and embrace this new life I’ve been so blessed with. Not a difficult choice if you ask me. Not a difficult choice at all.


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