Dying alone with 72 cats
Manila — So goes the funny print on a shirt that I saw in a department store that featured three checkboxes with the options "single," "taken" and "will die alone with 72 cats." As I took a photo of the shirt and posted it on Facebook, I thought about not really being alone or dying alone but of old age. The "being alone" tag often partners with old age when a person formerly coupled with someone who passed on is suddenly labeled, not single, but "alone" in his or her twilight years.
It may be morbid but I associate old age with someone's life that is about to end in a few years. We may not all readily admit it but we're afraid of old age – that phase in life that seems final and there is no turning back, when life slows down and memories and regrets storm in as there is not much to bother with anymore such as a career, a young family, or dreams of what we want to be when we grow up, or older.
I live in a country where senior citizens 65 and above enjoy benefits. The one which many younger people like me are envious of is the 20 percent discount on almost everything from food to medicines. Besides free cataract surgeries, there are also free entries to movie houses on Mondays and Tuesdays, with the days varying depending on each city implementing the senior citizens law.
One day, I got to share a movie with them. I was one of a few non-seniors who paid for our tickets while the rest of them just showed their senior citizen IDs and were asked to pick their preferred seats. Before the film played, they behaved like high school kids throwing popcorn on each other with their noisy exchange of pleasantries and swapping stories of how one's daughter is doing in Canada or how one's little grandsons are causing her joint pains while she follows them around the house.
After the movie, I saw the seniors in the coffee shop, still reeling from the film's high moments. They watched people while sipping coffee. They were amused at the sight of children or babies.
My country is one of the few in the world experiencing a youth surge as nearly 60 percent of its population consists of people aged 25 and below and only five percent are 65 and above. So the seniors contemplating on travelling or exercising more have to cope with how young people, the so-called millennials particularly, express themselves, often in undecipherable language.
Wherever we live, we are all part of a statistic, a cultural construct and a stereotyped life stage, and this becomes real with old age. We don’t want to imagine our ways into old age because it's terrifying especially when our spouses and partners, or the closest persons we live with, passed on ahead of us, and then we realize we are alone, and old.
But we experience it. We are all aging. We will all be grumpy with some ailments and will feel entitled to behave the way we want. But we don't have to intend to be old and grey. Fear happens but it we can opt out of it.
Every time someone states that he or she prefers to be alone, they tell the person, "You'll die alone." They also say this to a guy who can't manage to mutter a perfect pick up line and fail to get the girl.
We were born into this world alone so we die alone, so someone said. Come to think of it, it's not that bad to die alone with 72 cats if you decided to live that way. That would be a lot of furry company, and a wacky way to go.
Diana Mendoza is a freelance journalist based in Manila.