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Finally, A Benefit of Being Fifty

I tend to think of myself as a big mouth, but it’s more because I will interrupt people to make funny—to me and some of them—off-hand comments, and not so much because I spew my opinions to all, loudly and incessantly, as do some big-time big mouths.

So a few weeks ago, at the break-the-fast meal at a friend’s house, I touched on the power of being a fifty-year-old woman and how it related to my bigmouthedness. There was a man, Sergei, who stated that the high-tech pioneers in Israel in the 80’s were all Russians. I said, no, they weren’t. He restated his point. And I, I said that no, they were not Russian; rather, they were Israelis who had come out of the technology development departments in the military. He countered by saying they were Russians, since the Russians who immigrated to Israel had either been engineers or musicians, ha ha ha. I let it go, and from there other things came up and the discussion leapfrogged about.

And then another man, talking of the wonder of the US and how anyone can succeed if he/she tries (he even quoted, Lenin about picking up opportunity in the street, as a nod to Sergei), told of the success story of his parent’s non-English-speaking gardener who went on to become a successful non-English-speaking landscape company owner with a house probably bigger than his parent’s. And I said that I don’t think that that should be the only gauge of success in our country and that it’s not so easy to find other types of success—or even that kind. He, should I say, works for the government and while he has travelled the world has not tried to start a business or seek a pathless path for himself.

Not much by way of groundbreaking in the conversation department, but for me, these two mini-conversations were important. Generally, when the boys speak ‘round the table, their statements stand as if they know what they’re talking about, and generally, they state, I nod, and the conversation goes on. But I wasn’t in the mood to just let them slide through with pronouncements; I know or surmise a thing or two myself. Or maybe I realized that to speak up you don’t have to be bolstered by reams of data because no one at a dinner party has prepared as if for a press briefing. We know what we know.

And I know that the trapdoor under my seat will not open and send me into the blazing furnace in the basement if I say something that I feel or infer or think because that is enough support. Yes, my mind and feelings and connections are enough. Most people only back up their assertions with a single sentence of “evidence” anyway; and that evidence is often something someone read somewhere, and that’s generally an opinion anyway.

I like to think that my newfound bigmouthedness stems from the wisdom of age. And that wisdom is twofold. First, I feel that I know things, and in the scale of knowledge people have, I know more than some on some things, and less on others, but I have a range of knowledge and understanding of which I am proud. Second, I’m fifty and, it seems, my mouth has overridden my shy self-consciousness.

Is wisdom knowing that you don’t need to know it all to say something? Or is it knowing that it is better to speak than to remain silent? Or is it in knowing that thoughts have as much validity as facts? Or is it that experience, or living life, has taught me that experience, or living life, trumps any degree from any school, and any job, no matter how high-powered or high-paying? Is wisdom of age the true equalizer?


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