Darla Shaw: The Ten Most Asked Questions About My Eccentric Lifestyle

As an eccentric, or someone that is seen by people as being “different”, I am regularly asked bold questions about my lifestyle. I try and politely answer these questions, but would not ask any of these questions of other people. I feel that people have the right to live their lives the way that they see fit and are not beholden to anyone to be held accountable if they do not conform.

Why are you still working full time at age 76?

The question I am asked several times weekly is: “Why are you still working full time at age 76?” After that the comment is usually: “Do you really need the money that badly?”  People don’t seem to have the passion that most eccentrics do for their jobs or their way of life. Instead most people count the days until their retirement so they can live a life of leisure instead.

I am also asked regularly: “Why don’t you dye your hair and get Botox? You would look so much younger”. My response is: “I have worked very hard to get to the age that I am and feel very good about myself, thank you.”

People are also very concerned about my lack of material goods and ask: “Why are you still living in your starter house? I know you could afford a better neighborhood. I know you could also afford a more luxurious car”. So many people don’t seem to understand that eccentrics are not defined by the material goods that they own or don’t own, or the “power” neighborhoods in which they don’t wish to live.

There is nothing wrong with BINGO for others, but for me the game just bores me to death.

So many people also question my choice of vacations and ask: “Why would you possibly want to travel to disgusting third world countries to do humanitarian work when you could go on a luxurious cruise?” If you ask this question, there is no answer that I can give that you will understand. Our values are just too different.

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People are also taken back by my use of color in everything that I do. They ask why I always dress so colorfully and don’t seem to care about the fashion trends for the more mature lady. These people do not realize that eccentrics make their own fashion statement based on their vision of life and not fashions suggested in a magazine.  Also all my clothing, household decorations, and classroom props come from garage sales and thrift stores. Shopping in regular stores, where everything looks the same, is totally unsatisfying for me.

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Then too, people question why I have friends in every possible age group. They ask what I could possibly have in common with my students, my children’s friends, centurions, etc. To me people are people and it is about who these people are and what they are all about, not their age.  My parties include people in their 20’s to 90’s, and all have a wonderful time because they are all special people, each in their own way.

It is not surprising that people my age also continue to ask me why I am still taking courses, trying out new skills, taking on new responsibilities and still setting goals. To most of these people, their regime is well established and they like the security of knowing exactly what they are going to be doing the next day. This would literally drive me crazy, as I love spontaneity, challenge, and mystery.

People are also taken back by my use of color in everything that I do. They ask why I always dress so colorfully and don’t seem to care about the fashion trends for the more mature lady. These people do not realize that eccentrics make their own fashion statement based on their vision of life and not fashions suggested in a magazine.

It seems to bother a lot of people that my husband and I can have entirely separate experiences and be married for over 50 years. They ask how can we consider ourselves to have a good marriage when we are often apart due to our different hobbies and interests. Giving space in a relationship is an essential ingredient for success in my mind. Many disagree and say that it is melding into one and doing everything together that makes for a good marriage. Yuck, for me. Double, yuck.

Why would you possibly want to travel to disgusting third world countries to do humanitarian work when you could go on a luxurious cruise?

For many people, fighting for causes took place when they were in their youth.  Still fighting for human rights and other causes is something that senior citizens are not known to do. I am constantly asked why I am still expending so my time and energy in causes when this is the job for young people. These types of stereotypes just go on and on. The world needs everyone to speak up and help out, just not certain age or ethnic groups.

Finally, I am asked why I do not attend most of the social functions in town for senior citizens. For this question I have to answer that I only have so much time and these functions are not a priority in my world. This usually ends the conversation, as people feel that I am insulting them.

I am not insulting people when I choose an activity that is different from those of my peers. Life is about getting to know yourself, being introspective, acting on your core feelings and finding passion in what YOU choose to do. If talking to caregivers about dealing with Alzheimer’s has more meaning for you than playing BINGO, do it, in spite of what others say. You can change a life with your Alzheimer’s talk while BINGO can be played any week on the same day, same place. There is nothing wrong with BINGO for others, but for me the game just bores me to death.

In regard to making your life choices based on yourself and not your friends, spouse, or other family members, you are what Dr. Weeks would call being non conforming, curious, and idealistic. Most of the questions asked above would fall into one of these three categories, as most people feel more comfortable conforming, letting others fight for what needs to be done, and sitting among their material possessions, but not me.

And more blogs to come from Darla.