This is 42: Abha Malpani-Naismith Responds to The Oldster Magazine Questionnaire
"Recently my second child turned 2 and I went back to doing gymnastics. I’m doing roly-polys, cartwheels, handstands, walkovers at the age of 42, and why the hell not!"
From the time I was 10, I’ve been obsessed with what it means to grow older. I’m curious about what it means to others, of all ages, and so I invite them to take “The Oldster Magazine Questionnaire.”
Here, writer Abha Malpani-Naismith responds. - Sari Botton
How old are you?
I am 42. Yikes! I really only feel my age when I say it out loud, or when I fill a form and have to select the age range 40-50.
Is there another age you associate with yourself in your mind? If so, what is it? And why, do you think?
In my subconscious mind I’m stuck at 35; I’m not entirely sure why. When I realize 35 was seven years ago, I gasp. But that’s all really. I think that’s because I don’t feel like I look 42? Nor do I physically feel like I’m above 35. In fact, two kids later, at 42, I feel like I am mentally and physically stronger and more energized than I was at 35.
Do you feel old for your age? Young for your age? Just right? Are you in step with your peers?
I don’t at all feel old for my age. I think I’ve been blessed with good genes as I still look and feel young. I do momentarily freak out when I see grey in my hair as I have a lot of it. Sometimes I feel my face is sagging a bit when I look in the mirror, especially when I am tired—which is often as I have two small kids and a full-time job—but a good night’s sleep, some almond oil, and a roller, seems to fix that for the moment.
I also feel old when I think about the fact that I am 38 years older than my 4-year-old daughter, or 40 years older than my 2-year-old son. And when I realize I have been out of university for twenty years. But the feeling is fleeting, and it has made me more conscious about making healthier life choices day-to-day. I want to be around to see my kids grow up, I want to surf with them if that’s what they do, I want to see them get married and have children. Being an older parent means you may not see all of that, but I can try my best to stay healthy so that I increase my probability of living longer.
In my subconscious mind I’m stuck at 35; I’m not entirely sure why. When I realize 35 was seven years ago, I gasp.
What do you like about being your age?
My confidence is at the highest it’s ever been, most of the time! I really do not care what anyone thinks of me (apart from my immediate family), and I do exactly what I want to.
What is difficult about being your age?
The fact that I am not far from 50 really scares me. Truth is, I may not look or feel old, but I do fear growing older, eventually looking older, and not being physically or mentally fit. Which is why a lot of my day-to-day efforts go into staying healthy.
I also associate growing older with being closer to death, and death is something I’m struggling to come to terms with. I’ve been reading a lot of Stoicism in attempt to help me deal with death, as the Stoics believe in living every day as if it’s their last—in other words, very aware of death. The constant thought of death helps you make better decisions as it helps you keep perspective; however, it can also add a significant amount of morbidity to your day.
What is surprising about being your age, or different from what you expected, based on what you were told?
Honestly, I never really thought about my age or getting older until I had children, and such thoughts increased once I turned 40.
I am Indian so culturally, for me, growing older has been linked to not being able to do as you are too old. But what I’m learning is that you can do and that age is only a number or an excuse. I fill my Instagram feed with people above 50 doing amazing things, whether it’s reaching physical fitness peaks or starting life over; as long as you have the will and determination, I believe age should not be a deterrent.
I want to be around to see my kids grow up, I want to surf with them if that’s what they do, I want to see them get married and have children. Being an older parent means you may not see all of that, but I can try my best to stay healthy so that I increase my probability of living longer.
What has aging given you? Taken away from you?
As cliché as it sounds, aging has given me wisdom and more maturity. I am more patient, more tolerant, more aware of what really matters and am able to let go of the small stuff. As I write this, I wonder if it’s age related or is it because I am now a mum; I guess it is a mix of the two.
Also, my gratitude levels are through the roof. I am so deeply grateful for everything I have: good health, beautiful family, good job and a lovely home.
Life seems to go by fast when you are busy and happy. As I get older and see my kids grow up so SO fast, I’m learning to be more present and “in the moment,” because I realize, especially with my kids, that these moments are not coming back.
How has getting older affected your sense of yourself, or your identity?
I felt a sense of loss of identity when I became a mother, more than just while getting older. As I’ve gotten older, and I have reestablished my sense of self after children, I now feel like I know who I am, and I’m reminded of it as I raise my children. Understanding your own values really comes to the forefront when you start parenting.
What are some age-related milestones you are looking forward to? Or ones you “missed,” and might try to reach later, off-schedule, according to our culture and its expectations?
The only age-related milestone I have is that by the age of 45, I want to have time freedom—in other words, I want to be able to make money while managing my own schedule.
What has been your favorite age so far, and why? Would you go back to this age if you could?
I don’t really think of any age to be more favorite than another. I think every age has its glory and it’s different for every age. Having said that, I’d be happy to live my whole life aged 35, purely because by then I knew what I wanted, I knew my values, I was mature enough to know how to live my best life, and I was super fit!
Is there someone who is older than you, who makes growing older inspiring to you? Who is your aging idol and why?
I follow a lot of celebrities above 50 on Instagram: Halle Berry; Salma Hayek; Jennifer Lopez, for example. They are all mums, in great shape, doing anything and everything they want. Goldie Hawn takes the prize though. She is a 76-year-old grandmother, with the spirit and energy of a 30-year-old. I know they are celebrities and they can afford anything they want along with the best trainers, therapies, treatments, surgeries (maybe?) etc. to look and stay young, so perhaps they are not realistic benchmarks. This is why I love this Oldster newsletter, as it really brings to the forefront profiles and stories of some incredibly inspiring “real” older people. (Ed note: THANK YOU.)
I am Indian so culturally, for me, growing older has been linked to not being able to do as you are too old. But what I’m learning is that you can do and that age is only a number or an excuse.
What aging-related adjustments have you recently made, style-wise, beauty-wise, health-wise?
When I turned 40 I figured that I should invest in anti-aging face-cream. After paying a fortune trying all the brands to see what would be the best fit for me, I concluded that the best moisturizing for my face is a natural oil (like almond or avocado oil). My face feels the best after using these natural oils and they are a fraction of the cost of branded creams. I do buy eye creams,, though as I have dark circles and obvious eye-wrinkles, and feel like maybe eye cream will help reduce my dark circles and delay the wrinkles? But who knows!
I also bought a jade roller for my face that I don’t use much just yet. My husband got me the Jawzrsize to exercise my jaw so that my jaw-line doesn’t start fading away, which I also don’t use much but I plan to.
My husband and I recently tried an icebath, inspired by the Wim Hof Method, that was truly life changing. (I wrote about it here.) With so many physical and mental benefits to doing icebaths, it really seems like a no-brainer to include them in some sort of regular routine.
Otherwise, I am quite conscious about getting my exercise in and eating clean 80% of the time.
Oh, and I have a lot of gray hair and am obsessed with keeping it hidden, so I “5-minute dye” my hair very often. I just don’t have the courage to grow my grays out and admire everyone who does!
What’s an aging-related adjustment you refuse to make, and why?
I refuse to stop or refrain from doing anything “because I’m getting older.” Recently my second child turned 2 and I went back to doing gymnastics. I’m doing roly-polys, cartwheels, handstands, walkovers at the age of 42, and why the hell not! I also want to restart doing silk classes and go back to dancing salsa once I can make some time for those things.
When I’m 60, I don’t want to look back on my life and be like “I should’ve done that when I was younger.” I really don’t want to have any regrets when I am older, I think that would be the worst feeling, as you can’t go back and change anything.
What’s your philosophy on celebrating birthdays as an adult? How do you celebrate yours?
I’ve never been a birthday person and really don’t enjoy the fuss. All I want for my birthday—and it’s always been this way—is a nice meal with my family to mark the occasion and some cake. I do feel like I need to celebrate my existence more though, so maybe when I turn 50 I’ll have a big party!
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I found Abha’s response to the Oldster Magazine Questionnaire so relatable! Maybe it’s because I’m 47 and think of myself as 35. I never understood why, but she’s onto something...this is also when I came into my own, no longer caring what other people thought of me--just being me! I am glad to hear that she looks in the mirror and balks at some of the physical aging. While I also have the gift of good genes and do not look my age, the sagging, the wrinkles, the thinning hair are forcing me to reconcile that I can no longer look 35. I will never look that age again, and I must find a way to accept and love my body as it is.