‘This Old Body’
‘People can tell you 60 is the new 40 all day, but I don’t notice any 40-year-olds rushing to change places with us. People also keep urging us to retire with Passion! Purpose! Pep! That’s fine, but I say let’s take time to lighten up as well. As George Bernard Shaw wrote, ‘You don’t stop laughing when you grow old; you grow old when you stop laughing,'”
So observes Barbara Greenleaf, author of “This Old Body: And 99 Other Reasons to Laugh at Life,” her newly self-published soft-cover book that provides plenty of chuckles as she muses about “Aging: Why Didn’t Anybody Warn Me?” “Married Since the First Crusade” and “Muddling Through Modern Life.”
Each of these three sections are filled with essays, poems and quick takes with funny titles like “Hair: The Reality Not the Musical,” “The World is Round but My Feet Are Flat,” “Cuddling Between the Coots,” “If He Didn’t Eat It When He Was Five, He Ain’t Going to Eat It Now,” “Kale is the Holy Grail — This Week,” “Is There a Question in There Someplace?” and “Christmas at the Kids’.”
The Santa Barbara resident told the News-Press that she “had never been a funny person, but there is something about growing old that tickled me. Rather than crying about it, I started writing pieces joking about the everyday humiliations and aggravations of growing older. This was also unusual because as a journalist I was always writing in the third person.”
After graduating from Vassar College, she worked at The New York Times and has written the award-winning “American Fever: The Story of American Immigration”; “Children through the Ages: A History of Childhood”; “Help: A Handbook for Working Mothers”; and young adult novels “Animal Kingdom” and “Good-to-Go Cafe.”
Ms. Greenleaf also writes a free biweekly blog, www.Parentsof
GrownOffspring.com, that deals with issues that arise in today’s adult families.
Although reluctant to reveal her age, other than revealing that she and her husband, Jon Greenleaf, recently celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary, Ms. Greenleaf admitted that over time she has noticed that “her parts were falling apart, which led to jotting down all these exciting new developments, like the thinning of my hair.”
She writes about it in “Hair: The Reality Not the Musical”: “I always liked my hair: It was thick and wavy and adapted easily to every style that was in. But, basically, like teeth until they ache or heels until they blister, hair — until it falls out — is something one simply takes for granted. Recently, mine has been falling out or, as the euphemism goes, ‘thinning.’
“The essay was published on BoomerCafe.com and other websites, and I read it at Speaking of Stories and other personal appearances around town and found it struck a responsive chord with middle-aged audiences so I kept writing,” said Ms. Greenleaf, mother of two and grandmother of four.
The title, “This Old Body,” is a takeoff on the long-running PBS show, “This Old House.”
“I thought each of the essays would make a compelling episode about the lighter side of living longer,” said Ms. Greenleaf. “Besides, studies show that having a sense of humor is good for you. People who laugh often free up all those feel-good endorphins.”
There was a lot of giggling and chortling during the interview as the author chatted about some of her favorite pieces in the book.
Like “Tai Chi and Me” and “If Droopy Eyelids Worked for Robert Mitchum, Why Don’t They Work for Me?”
“I’ve worked all my life, so when I retired, I thought, ‘Great. I’ll have time to take up things like tai chi, but it turns out, I was a dropout. It was so humiliating because I am a really accomplished person,” said Ms. Greenleaf. “I had such a good time with the droopy eyelids piece.”
In it, she writes, “I’ve been battling with gravity over my eyelids for years, and gravity, alas, is winning. Ever lower my eyelids sag, and no amount of holding them up manually has stopped their downward trajectory; the outer corners just continue to lay down and die.”
Although happily married for more than half a century, Ms. Greenleaf couldn’t resist poking fun at her relationship with her husband.
“Jon is such a good sport. He has read every word,” she said.
The piece that gets the most feedback from readers is “A Married Man Walks Into a Clothing Store …”
“Like most men, Jon hates to shop. One woman told me that her husband’s clothes were so old that her friends staged an intervention, forcing him to buy new ones. My solution is to make the men’s department a drive-through. It would save so many marriages, including my own,” said Ms. Greenleaf, who also offers “Five Secrets of a Successful Marriage.”
Among them are “A bathroom of one’s own” and ‘You eat your food, and I’ll eat mine.”
The subject of food and the problems it presents in modern life are the topics behind “Thanksgiving: the Holiday Meal From Hell,” where one guest couldn’t eat fat, another was gluten-intolerant, one wanted tofu turkey, one would only eat organic and so forth.
“Last Thanksgiving, I had so many custom orders … I emerged from the kitchen with jumpy eyes, disheveled hair and a nervous tic … Next year I think I’ll serve bread and water — but I’ll hold the bread,” writes Ms. Greenleaf.
The author is available for appearances.
“Give a holler. I’m not a stand-up comic, but everything I write about stems from real situations. Men are laughing just as much as women. We’re all in this together.”
“This Old Body: And 99 Other Reasons to Laugh at Life” by Barbara Greenleaf is available at amazon.com for $14.95 in paperback and $11.95 on Kindle and other e-readers. For more information, visit www.barbaragreenleaf.com.
Her social media accounts include Facebook, Barbara Greenleaf & Parents of Grown Offspring; Twitter, @bkgreenleaf; and Instagram, barbarathewriter.