I’m Not Old Until I Say I’m Old

I’m Not Old Until I Say I’m Old

An acquaintance just asked me if I’m “still working.” She either thinks I look like I’m old enough to retire or like I just came into a whole lot of money. And I’m pretty sure it’s not that.

Recently, a young woman told me I’m “cute.” There are only a few things twenty-something women describe as cute: babies, boyfriends, pets, clothes and old people. Or rather, people they think are old, which, when you’re her age, is almost everyone. 

Still, I might have taken it as a compliment if someone else I know hadn’t just told me that I’m “getting up there.”

And there was no denying what one technician at my recent medical appointment meant when she said to the other: “When we’re working with an older patient…”  I didn’t hear the rest of the sentence, because I was looking around for the older patient they were working with. I was the only patient in the room.

Wait just a darn minute! I am not old. Fifty is the new thirty, after all—not that I’m fifty anymore. Anyway, older people are wise and mature. I’m neither wise nor mature, so it stands to reason that I can’t be old either.

Younger people are the ones with the problem. They aren’t wise or mature yet either, plus they lack diplomacy. And apparently they don’t see very well.

A friend of mine has noticed the same thing. She was upset one day because she hadn’t been carded the last time she was at the liquor store.  

“Why would you be carded?” I asked innocently.

“Their sign said they card anyone 40 and under.”

“But you’re over 40,” I said, adding “by a long shot” under my breath.

“But I don’t look like it. Do I?”

Absolutely not. And neither do I.

Middle age is the “tween” of adulthood—old enough to get an AARP discount, but too young to admit it. We might be more willing to acknowledge our age though, if the younger set wasn’t so critical.

If anyone over fifty tries something new, like belly dancing or mountain climbing, or if we get a new sports car or a tattoo, we’re accused of having a midlife crises. Just to be clear, I’ve done none of the above, but I’m not dead yet. My philosophy of aging is as long as I’m here, I might as well do something. That’s not a midlife crises; that’s a zest for life. And anyway, middle age is a good time to get tattoos; you have more room for them.

Sure, middle-aged people trade fashion for comfort. Yes, we go to bed earlier, wake up at the crack of dawn, then take up napping as a hobby. And yes, before we buy chairs at the furniture store, we test them to make sure we can get back up out of them. But those are not signs of getting older; those are signs of getting wiser.

And we do occasionally misplace and forget things, but the main thing we’re forgetting is that we’ve forgotten and misplaced things our whole life, just like the younger people who call us forgetful then ask where they left their shoes.  

The point is, middle age is not old. And when we finally do get old, they still better not call us old—or cute.

(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better.)