Friday, 21 December 2012
By Carol Skahen
This week I did something pretty much unforgivable in our culture. I crossed an unspoken boundary into a dark place where fun ceases, vigor dissipates like fog over the San Francisco bridge and youth is but a distant memory clouded by the dementia that is, no doubt, circling my muddled brain like the Indians around the wagons in the old westerns.
I committed the sin of turning 70. I’m sure in four or five years when the ubiquitous baby boomers enter this decade, it will be declared the “new 50” but for now for lack of a better word, it’s just old.
I remember the joke cards when I turned 30, 40 and 50 but this time it was different. Since I am the oldest of my friends, I was flooded with cards from people who never send them — cards with pink roses and pastoral scenes rather than wine glasses and jokes about getting old. This is, after all, the real deal.
Family and friends treated me as if I’d just gotten a terrible diagnosis that shouldn’t be spoken of. Congratulations were doled out like condolences and “Happy Birthdays” in subdued tones reflecting the relief of those not so afflicted.
In our youth-drenched culture, it’s as if those of us who are older have somehow lost control of ourselves like guests who drank too much at a party. How did you let this happen to yourself? Surely there is some remedy. I certainly won’t look like this when I’m your age!
The most laughable are the back-handed compliments. No doubt meant in a spirit of kindness, they come across as condescending and patronizing at best. “You don’t look 70.” What does 70 look like?
“You’re my role model,” this from a woman pushing 60. I’ve been called an icon and a treasure. I’m just waiting for legend.
The encounter that gets to me like no other is with the male contemporary with the dyed comb-over and the sagging potbelly who calls me “ma’am.” I’m tempted to ask if he has a magic mirror but I always respond with a brisk, “Sir.”
Fortunately for me, I am healthy, agile and mentally alert. You don’t need to take my arm and I can drive myself thank you. I enjoy life just as much as you do albeit possibly in different ways. I am not disabled, crotchety or dysfunctional. I’m just 70.
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