“Look around me/ I can see my life before me/ Running rings around the way / It used to be…” — Crosby, Stills & Nash
I couldn’t eat at my favorite Chinese buffet, attend the cinema or even hang out at the public library; but in mid-April, I celebrated my 60th birthday, bolstered by the love of my family, the companionship of my pets, an impressive degree of health and the guilty pleasure of newspapers being stuck with conveniently OUTDATED photographs of me. (Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away!)
Even though I realize I’m exactly the age God meant for me to be… and, come to think of it, platypuses look exactly the way He meant for them to look and Yoko Ono sings exactly the way He meant for her to sing… Whoa! And I was worried about crow’s feet and gray hairs being a bummer!
Where was I? Right. It’s amazing how well I’ve handled the milestone. Well, not so amazing if you consider the recent Wall Street Journal article “The Emotional Benefits of Getting Older.” According to the lead author of a new study published in the journal “Emotion,” the biggest predictor of successfully resisting your desires is age.
Yes, there are exceptions to every rule; but in general, decade by decade, people grow more mature, stable and mellow as they age. They finally learn “A penny saved is a penny earned,” “Beauty is only skin deep,” “Measure twice, cut once” and all those other adages. Call it the gradual transition from raising hell to raising your fiber intake. Or the change from bragging “I got away with pulling out my fake I.D.” to “I pulled money out of my 401(k) PENALTY-FREE!”
People my age and older crave most of the same things as younger folks, but we are better able to pace ourselves, resist conspicuous consumption, set reasonable goals and delay gratification. Older people are disciplined enough to play the Long Game — as in when getting even with their own children via spoiling the GRANDCHILDREN. (“Revenge is a dish best served with caffeine and sugar.”)
By and large, younger people are known for impulsive marriages, foolish purchases, daredevil stunts, substance abuse and poorly planned job-hopping. Yes, if time machines existed, we seniors could go back and give our younger selves some stern lectures — assuming we could find some tech-savvy youngster to help us when we whined, “Why can’t they design a time machine with just one or two big buttons?”
Truly mature older people know how to bite their tongues, swallow their pride and avoid BURNING BRIDGES behind them. Or if they do burn bridges, they know to buy the DAY-OLD BUNS for the hot dogs they roast over the flames. (“Let’s share with those madcap jokers at the DMV.”)
I must brag on my contemporaries for remaining non-violent while navigating all the “local franchise policies vary” red tape on Senior Discount offers. (“Okay, you’re 61-and-three-quarters, a Capricorn, delivered by C-section on the third floor by a Lithuanian-American obstetrician…Wait…the free appetizer for YOUR group was LAST week. Now, take the Hobble of Shame back to the end of the line, Grandpa.”)
I’m 60. My glory days are ahead of me. And if they aren’t, I’ll just patiently, calmly convince myself they ARE. And that this platypus won’t talk editors into using HIS picture instead of mine.