On a recent visit to my ophthalmologist, I was diagnosed with dry eyes. After a grand test involving the clicking of a mouse-like switch, I was told that everything was fine with my eyes except that they were getting drier. A very common phenomenon, my doctor said, which occurs with age. The metaphorical significance of this did not strike me until later — I am losing my tears.
It seemed to explain my recently identified mid-life crisis — I am becoming increasingly unsympathetic to some of God’s creatures. My personality is changing, and I cannot honestly say for the better. Put simply, I am on my way to becoming an angry old woman.
When I was younger, I had a wonderful forgiving nature. Behold the transformation. A few days ago, while filling in one of those fun questionnaires, I startled myself by writing that my favourite lunch-meat was whining women. This species brings out the worst in me. Nowadays, not only do I refuse to listen to their tales of woe, I growl and snap — and many a whiner supreme has withdrawn hurt from my presence, muttering that it is an unfair world.
A lethal sub-species of the whiner is the chronic hypochondriac. Recently, I gave my hypochondriac uncle a big shock by stopping him abruptly at the very launch of his saga and offering him a list of hospitals. The poor man had not met me for a few years, and had fondly retained the image of the old, sympathetic me in his mind.
The latest story doing the rounds in the family circles is that he is suffering from trauma as a result of my unforgiving and therefore unforgivable behaviour.
I also find ambitious mothers difficult to take in my stride. After watching countless performances of talented kids with a smile on my face, I have reached the point when I gather my purse and my son and walk out the moment I glimpse the glint in a mother’s eye. As a result, I have been ostracised by fellow-mums and stopped my son from developing a possible career in show business.
My reaction to pop philosophers, particularly the NRI variety, has worsened too. Experience has taught me that about five minutes of philosophical reflection per day is the maximum I can digest nowadays.
All my life I have been a good girl. If people were nice to me I went out of my way to help them; if they were not so nice, I faded away and kept my mouth shut. The quality of mercy and all that.
Approaching middle age, however, I have totally abandoned Gandhigiri and have become a firm exponent of the eye-for-an-eye school of thought.
No thought of stooping too low deters me. In particularly extreme cases, I walk up to the people I hate, fold them in a close embrace and kiss them noisily on both cheeks. This, I have discovered from experience, can be deadlier than the tightest slap.
Another year has gone by. Once more, it is time to do mental maths — all those calculations of profit and loss, tangible and intangible, which make life exciting.
They say age brings tolerance, forgiveness and wisdom. At the beginning of 2009, the prospect of growing old and wise does not seem very bright for me. It is nobody’s loss, of course, but mine.
Sometimes, though, I think, with the abundance of older, wiser and kinder people in the world, how is it that we go on with our life as usual when so much is lost — innocence, love and life? How is it that we are not angry anymore? The fruit born of age and wisdom, perhaps. And the loss of our tears. As my doctor said, it is a very common phenomenon, after all.