It happened again week before last, and I couldn’t help but wince. My dentist handed over the bill for my six-month cleaning and it came with a 5% discount. The same thing happened the week prior, when the sprinkler guy came out for my annual winterizing. 5% discount. Listen, I’m all about saving money (I have a little Scrooge DNA in me), but not when the rate reduction is followed by the words… senior citizen. Senior citizen? People, that’s for old people.
To soften the gut punch, I went looking for a gentler, kinder description on Wikipedia. Blew up in my face. Type “senior citizen” into the Wiki search box and you’re redirected to “old age”. Ouch. Not only that, “old age” defines as “ages nearing or surpassing the life-expectancy of human beings, and is thus the end of the human life cycle“. Really? Just hit me while I’m down, why don’t you? Cue “Amazing Grace” and start shopping caskets.
As if to sympathize with my predicament, Wikipedia lists several alternatives for “senior citizen”. Senior. Older Adult. Retiree. Pensioner. Elder. Elder? Why not just grow the long white beard and parade around the house in undies and dressing gown? I can’t even cackle, let alone vigorously shake a cane at little kids. I’m starting to think Wikipedia is for old people.
(Note to self: drop annual contribution to Wikipedia.)
As an infant or a kid or a teenager, it’s painfully obvious which of those classifies you. Various stages of awkward. You dream of advancing to the next level. A kid longs to be a teenager. A teenager longs to be an adult. Your twenties, thirties, and forties are described as “your best decade”, for reasons subtly designed to make peace with growing older. But age fifty is where the whole lexicon falls apart. Fifty is as soft as “approaching middle age” or as harsh as “eligible to join AARP”. You’re still a decade or more from the traditional age of retirement, yet you’re basically undefined. Then again, “undefined” redirects to “limitless”. Hey, maybe this isn’t so bad after all.
My son and his wife are expecting their first child, which means my wife and I need to come up with new names for ourselves. Grandma & Grandpa? Heck no – those are for old people. Let’s go with Geema & Geepa instead. Or Nana & Papa. Oma & Opa? Gigi & Gigo? We’re getting cuter as the list goes on. And “cuter” typically redirects to “younger”. Now we’re talking!
Segue to a recent article in Sports Illustrated. Laird Hamilton is my new hero. He’s 53 and still one of the most recognized big-wave surfers on the planet. He’s been at the top of his game for decades and shows no signs of stopping. Hamilton pioneered the tow-in technique, allowing surfers to catch faster-moving waves than would be possible paddling by hand. All in search of an adrenaline rush Hamilton can’t seem to shake “well into middle age”. As he puts it, “I’m not going to fall victim to what I’m supposed to do at any certain age. We subject ourselves to… social pressure – ‘Oh, this is how old you are now, this is the only thing you can do'” Hamilton never wants to grow up. I’ll bet he takes his senior citizen discounts and tears them up into little bits for the fishes.
Tell you what. I’m planning on living for an entire century; the full one hundred. If you’ll grant me that stretch, I can claim I’m now in the middle of the first decade following the midpoint of my life. In other words, fifty-something. To put it most optimistically, I’m only halfway-and-change to the great hereafter. I have no intention of growing up; not yet.
“Senior citizen” – ha! That’s for old people.