I am thinking of giving up some things I normally eat. If I cut out all the unnecessary stuff, I will be left with a daily core diet that I can live with: oatmeal, a package of M&M peanut candies, a box of wheat thins and half a bottle of wine. Eating just these essentials should save me about a thousand calories a day.

It’s not that I need to lose weight. I just want to gradually fade away to nothing instead of getting old and having jowls and wonky knees.

Nobody wants to get old, but since we have no choice, we might as well play along when it becomes obvious that it’s happening. Tell people, “I wouldn’t want to be twenty-five again.” Explain that you wouldn’t trade the accumulated wisdom of the last thirty years for tight abs and a digestive tract that can handle anything.

Really, I would give anything for a pair of knees that aren’t scheduled for surgery.

Up until about two years ago, I would have said that I felt no different than I did at thirty. Well, thirty-five, perhaps. My knees clicked a bit going up stairs, but took me anywhere I wanted to go without complaint.

Now they complain. They are like the car we had when we first got married. We called it Baby, which pretty much describes how we had to treat it. If we didn’t speak to it in lilting tones, if we accidentally swore at it, we could plan on taking the bus.

My knees demand respect. They hint at a walker, or at least a cane.

I am not yet at the point where I start telling my sons what hymns I want sung at my funeral, but the realization that my joints are wearing out has given me a new perspective on life. I used to chafe at the way old people drive. Why are they so slow? Why aren’t they in a hurry? Don’t they know that time is running out?  

Now I understand: they’re trying to remember things. They have forgotten their destination. When you honked at them, they suddenly realized that they had left the list at home. Now they’re looking for a place to turn around their huge, band-aid colored car.

I used to see old people paying for their groceries with cash. The bills would always be in a bank envelope, and often they would take out a pencil and make a notation: groceries, $81.76.

I have always written checks. Now I see younger people sigh impatiently when I pull out my checkbook. They are using debit cards. Duh! Who uses checks anymore? My son had to come home and dig through his closet to find his check book when he realized that he needed to write one. He’s had a checking account since high school, but his next check is number 106.

I hear myself lecturing students about loud music, warning them that I’m investing in hearing aids so I’ll be rich when they are deaf in their thirties. I think many of them are already deaf, at least selectively, since they always seem surprised when we’re having a quiz, even though I’ve announced it every day. These young kids today — they just don’t listen!

People over sixty get to be Golden-Agers; they get special discounts. People make allowances for them, let them cut in line and argue with the check-out girl about coupons.

Middle age gets no such respect. Once I was over thirty-five, I looked silly wearing clothes from the Juniors department. “Mutton dressed as lamb,” my mother used to call women who did that. But I wasn’t ready for the alternative (think “sensible”), and there didn’t seem to be a lot in between.

There ought to be a Swap Day for teachers and students. Maybe during Homecoming Week. If students saw our middle-aged bodies sporting saggy pants, or spilling out of skin-tight tops, wearing skirts that barely cover our butts, they would not find those clothes so appealing. And they would have sympathy for those of us who must shop in the sensible department.

I’ve started to get mail from the AARP, so I know that I’m about to enter the Golden Age. Soon I will be able to get away with all sorts of things. I can complain about things, like all these damned television channels. How am I supposed to decide what to watch when it takes me a half hour just to get through the choices? While I am squinting at the TV section of the newspaper, my son is flipping through channels so rapidly that he ought to be having a seizure.

“When I was a child,” I tell him, “we had three channels. And they turned them off at night. We had to watch a test pattern if we got up too early in the morning. And then the Farm Report came on.”

My son doesn’t read newspapers. If he had to get up and actually touch the television in order to change the channel, he would complain.

“Oh, look,” he says. “Antiques Road Show is on.”

“I’m not that old,” I reply. Just wait, I think.

I tell him, “One day you’ll be looking in the Antiques section of eBay and see your entire childhood — 1 RAM DOS 5 computers, Thundercats action figures, pogs, Magic cards, Goosebumps books, Creepy Crawlers, Happy Meal toys, and the Fischer-Price cassette recorder you used to have. Then you’ll feel old.”

“They already have all that stuff on eBay.” He pushes the button on the remote and the channels fly by.

I try to think of a metaphor, but decide to read the newspaper instead. Who knows how long they’ll keep printing the news…


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. The Excited Neuron
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 20:03:52

    Fortunately my current school has a strict dress code that the kids (well, 95% of them) truly comply with.

    At my old school, there was a lot of pant sagging (which would prompt me to sing “Pants On the Ground” to them), tattoos, crazy hair, piercings, low-cut tops, etc. We used to often make the same joke about letting the teachers come to school dressed like that. I think it’s a great idea, seriously. It won’t change the way the kids dress right away, but it will give them something to think about (or vomit over).


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