"I'm still 35, as far as I'm concerned," Barb Jonesi says. Credit: Sunshine Tucker

is a first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford. This week’s Chicagoan is Barb Jonesi, 75 going on 35.

“I’ve always dressed funkily, I guess you would say. I don’t dress age appropriately. I am most comfortable when I’m wearing something loose and flowy, and I pretty much live in Frye boots. I’m not a color person, except for the shock of pink in my hair, which I did on my last birthday, to say, ‘Hey, world, I’m still here.’ Other than that, color is just not who I am. I’m always in black or gray or khaki or olive. It’s not that I want to blend in. I don’t think I blend in at all.

“I find that most of my compliments on the street come from the teenagers, for some reason: ‘Love your Grateful Dead T-shirt, lady. Love your striped hair.’ Or my skull rings. I’m very big into skulls, and I wear a lot of skull T-shirts. I just love the form.

“I get a lot of strange looks from other women my age. I get a lot of ‘How do you do that?’ I’ll say, ‘How do I do what?’ And they say, ‘Look the way you do, dress the way you do.’ I don’t know what to say. It’s just who I am, that’s all. I know I don’t look the way most women my age look. And I’m not putting down how they look. That’s perfect for them.

“I really hate the term ‘bucket list.’ All of those books, like 1,000 Places to See Before You Die—oh, God, they just infuriate me for some reason. But I would love, love, love to see Italy. I do not foresee that happening. I am a widow living on a fixed income, although I certainly don’t see myself that way.

“My husband passed away three years ago. We were together 32 years, but we were only married for nine. I just hadn’t believed in marriage. At age 63, it was like, ‘Why the hell not? How many things do I get to do for the first time anymore?’ When we went to get our license, and both of us said this was our first marriage, we got: ‘Oh, how cute.’ Like, ‘Oh, they let you out of the assisted-living facility to come get married.’ 

“So we got married, and it was absolutely wonderful, until he got lung cancer and died nine months after he was diagnosed. It’s hell. But you go on. You do what you have to do.

“I see myself wanting to live my remaining years the same way I’ve lived my life, which is: Whatever happens, let it happen naturally. I will never go into assisted living or one of those retirement homes. I want to be offed before I hit any of that. I am a strong, strong believer in assisted suicide. Until then I want to enjoy life. I want to interact. I want to not be seen as an old person. Older women become invisible, and that’s a shame. We become cute. I hear that a lot: ‘You are so cute.’ And I find that very condescending. I’m still 35, as far as I’m concerned.”