This post was originally published at smerconish.com
I’ve come to the realization that one’s perception of their age is as transient as their actual age itself. When you’re young, you’re always looking ahead; the calendar seems to be moving at a snail’s pace leaving you filled with anticipation, and you yearn for the day you’ll finally be a teenager, and when you’re in your 20s, you feel all grown up.
Later in life, as you approach and then rapidly blow past the 50-year mark, calendar pages fly off in rapid succession like you’re in one of those cheesy black-and-white movies. However, somewhere along the aging process, the mind locks into a false perception of how old we think we are, and from conversations with men closer to the end than the beginning, that age seems to be mid-30s.
The age might be different for women, but as I’ve learned the hard way, the discussion of aging is not the sort of topic you want to broach with women, especially with those you want to continue to be married to.
You’ll hear men in their 50s claim that they’ve never been happier in life, or men in their 60s saying they’re finally able to enjoy life and that they wouldn’t want to be young again, even if they could.
They’re all lying.
Granted, no one wants to be in their 20s again, because let’s be honest, the 20s are terrible. Horrible dates, assuming you’re even lucky enough to have any, that seem to lead into nightmarish relationships. Jobs that weren’t what you wanted, didn’t pay nearly enough and showed no sign of ever leading to what you dreamt of doing with your life. And of course an unsatisfying array of friends, some left over from high school who you knew you’d outgrown but couldn’t bring yourself to part with, and new acquaintances who you have no history or real connection with, yet embrace in a superficial friendship in a desperate attempt to appear not to be pathetically alone.
Thirty-five: now that was a good age! You looked and felt like a responsible adult but still had hair and an overall youthful appearance. You were in a real relationship and though not at the pinnacle of your career, for the first time, you weren’t embarrassed about what you were doing or where you were living. You oozed confidence and certain joie de vivre. That was the best time of our lives.
If only we had known that.
I’m not going to say that from thirty-five on out it’s all downhill. But as the years roll by, the weight piles on, the hair disappears, and our minds continue to mistakenly believe that we’re still at our apogee. It’s why there are those mornings when you can barely keep your eyes open as you shave, and you glance at the face staring back at you in the mirror and wonder who hell that is.
It’s not that we actually believe that we’re still thirty-five, but rather we forget that we aren’t.
I was in the mall the other day, and couldn’t help but notice an attractive young woman walking in my direction and instinctually I smiled, just as I would have done when I was thirty-five, but instead of a returned smile, I watched as a look of absolute horror engulfed her face. Needless to say, I was taken aback until I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the glass window of the store next to me and realized that rather than being that confident thirty-five-year-old, I was now the creepy old guy at the mall. Not the transformation you want to have.
There are also those times when you’re minding your own business, and others go out of their way to remind you how the world now perceives you.
I had to kill some time recently before a meeting, so I stopped into a McDonald’s and ordered a cup of coffee. 99 cents. I gave the cute young girl behind the counter a dollar, and she gave me back 21 cents. So now I’m thinking, what happened to our public education system? I pointed to the sign above her and said, “It’s 99 cents,” to which she proudly smiled back at me as if she’d just done her good deed the day and proclaimed, “I gave you the senior discount.”
Really? Piss off! I don’t make you eat off the kid’s menu. Suffice it to say I’ve set up several Botox appointments.
Growing old is bad enough, so there is no need for outsiders to cheer us on during our trudge to the crypt by giving us special honors and status for merely still being alive.
The worst offender in this respect is what I consider to be the most odious organization in the world: AARP.
As soon as you enter AARP’s radar, which I believe is shortly after your 40th birthday, they begin a full court press to get you to join their parade. The first clue is they’re destroying the simple pleasure of getting mail. Before they locked their sights on me, my mailbox would be filled with brochures featuring exotic vacations and fancy cars, investment scams for the upwardly mobile, and of course, the occasional unsolicited porn.
And yes, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Today, however, my mailbox is regularly stuffed with brochures for retirement homes, hearing aids, stair lifts, and funeral planning. Thank you very much Forrest Lawn, but you can keep your after-life planning to yourself. I’ve got mine already figured out, and it doesn’t include spending several inheritances to spend eternity lying next to other old Jews, constantly complaining that their kid never comes to visit them anymore. Instead, I’ve left strict instructions that upon my demise, my carcass is to be dragged out to the curb on garbage day. The only part of this plan I haven’t quite figured out yet is whether I should be dumped into the garbage, the recycling, or the compost container. Unfortunately, every time I call the local sanitation department in order to get some guidance regarding this matter, they hang up on me. I’m now on a list.
That said, I would still like my friends and family, assuming I still have any left as I’m planning to fully embrace my cranky old man status, to throw me a little going away soiree. Of course, I’ve left detailed plans regarding this matter too.
I want it to reflect my time as a stand-up comic, which yes, was at its zenith when I was thirty-five. There should be a two-drink minimum, followed by a few opening acts that will be chosen based on submitted audition tapes. They’ll get five minutes, and don’t dare run the light because you won’t be asked to any other memorial service nights. From there, we move on to more immediate friends and family who will hopefully have something nice to say about me or, at the very least, be funny in their takedowns.
Finally, they introduce the featured speaker for my eulogy.
“You’ve seen her in school plays and at many family events, she’s regular at holidays, please give it up for Glenn’s daughter.”
Now being the last person on the program, she might think she’s the headliner, but that will still be to me. Sure, I might not be performing, but I’m still the reason everyone came, so I get top billing. As for her eulogy itself, I have a few requirements.
It needs to open with a funny line, followed by material regarding my accomplishments, which hopefully, I still have time left to achieve. Then, she finishes with a great callback resulting in another huge laugh. From there, merely thank everyone for coming, let them know that I’ll be here for eternity, and remind them to tip their mortician.
Now if that could be made into an AARP brochure, that would be something.