Tag Archives: Acting my age

I’m too old for this sh#@.

old-lady-on-doorstep-with-cigar

I enjoyed Dominique Browning’s August 8 essay in the New York Times entitled I’m Too Old for This. You’ve probably read it; it’s making the rounds on social media. If not, go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

Well, I needed a break from writing query letters, and I couldn’t resist piggy-backing on this fun topic. This blog is (more or less) devoted to exploring this new (for me), mature phase of life. Being too old for some things might actually be a blessing.

Let’s see: I’m too old for…

1. Waiting in line. OK, to be fair, I’ve always hated waiting in long lines, like a baffled cow in a cattle chute. In fact, while waiting recently in the passenger chute for the Seattle ferry, I found it hard to resist the urge to moo. (Guess I’m not too old for sophomoric humor.)

It’s a good thing that my daughter grew up in Germany, where queue-up events for children are less common than here. Had she grown up in the U.S., she’d have felt deprived by the paucity of trips to Wally World—ain’t no way Mama’s going to wait sixty minutes in line to ride Thunder Mountain, or what have you. If I can’t get an assigned seat in advance, I’m not going.

“But that’s just how it’s done,” I hear someone say. “That’s part of the fun, waiting in line for hours and hours to get your concert tickets, or a tasty snack from a food truck.” Pish tosh on that; I’m too old. My poor old ankles might swell, my back might pain me, and my coffee would certainly get cold.

2. Uncomfortable shoes. I love to stroll around a city, or along the shore, or in the park, but you will not see me doing so in “cute” shoes that rub or pinch. I do my best to look “cute” from the ankles up, but comfortable shoes are non-negotiable. I’m too old to hurt myself in order to look snazzy.

I had the most wonderful teacher in the fourth grade. Christina Graham, a kind and elegant lady of about sixty, wore tweed suits and silk blouses to work, but she wore ugly orthopedic shoes. She said, “You can have a teacher with pretty feet and an ugly disposition, or ugly feet and a pretty disposition.” We chose the latter, of course—not that she would have been foolish enough to let a bunch of kids determine her footwear. She was, after all, too old for such foolishness.

3. Children’s television shows. I hate shrieky, shrill voices. Hate, hate, hate ‘em. This may be a problem if/when my grandchildren arrive, but I will not subject myself to shrill, shrieky cartoon characters, no matter what. I’m too old for that.

4. Unflattering clothing. Boyfriend jeans make me look like a lumpy boy—not the look I’m aiming for. Baby doll dresses make me look like a lampshade. Neon colors make me look green. Gladiator sandals only look good on Russell Crowe. But hey, those styles are mostly marketed to younger women. I’m off the hook—too old to wear such silly things.

5. Junky food. Doritos, frozen burritos, Popeye’s chicken, fast-food burgers…I ate this stuff when I was younger, and I knew that it was bad for me. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, my army roommate and I would celebrate Friday nights by sharing a jug of Lambrusco and a big ol’ bag of Doritos. (Are you out there, Cindy?) Well, today my touchy tummy gives me a sharp kick in the gut if I try to eat such things. A recent lapse reminded me that I’m never, never hungry enough to eat Doritos. They’re darn tasty, but just—no. I’m too old for that.

6. Caring about what snooty people think of me. I have enough life experience to know my worth: I’m well-read, a quick thinker, educated, and pretty cute. I know a quite a bit about art, literature, wine, fancy cooking, history, and other topics that help me score well in most trivia games. But I’m also quite bad at most sports, higher math, mechanical repairs, remembering which actor was in which movie…and that’s perfectly OK. I’m old enough to know that one can’t be good at everything, and that trying is foolish.

And as for snooty people who look down their noses because my attire isn’t as expensive as theirs—well, as long as I’m satisfied that I’m dressed appropriately for the occasion, why should I concern myself with such foolishness? I’m too old for that.

7. Staying up later than I want to just to prove I’m not a lightweight. Actually, I’ve always had a hard time staying up until the wee hours, but now that I’m older, I have an excuse to go to bed whenever I damn well feel like it. We old folks need naps.

8. Trying to enlighten the unenlightened. It’s hard to resist the urge to set people straight when they’re just so, so…so wrong! But people will believe some silly shit, such as the death-dealing properties of bananas, or that driving a huge pickup truck is patriotic, or that reality TV is real, or celebrity gossip is important. But I’m finally old enough to just chuckle and let that stuff go. It took years of banging my head against walls of willful stupidity before I realized how foolish that was. I’m too old for self-administered headaches.

You know, it feels like I should be able to come up with a #9 and #10, just because lists of ten items have become traditional on blogs. But I’m too old to worry about silly rules. Wow, this being too old can be wonderfully freeing.

How about you? What are you too old for?

 

Wonder Woman Versus the Sproing!

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Sproing! It happens to every athlete, young and old – but I’ve never been much of an athlete, and up until now I’ve been feeling pretty smug. Seated on the mat, folded over at the hips like a closed book, I had succeeded in comfortably resting my forehead on my knee during my post-workout stretch. I’d done this several times now, a happy result of my seven-month steady gym habit. Look at me! I’m Wonder Woman – defying the limits of middle age. Watch me fly! Watch me – OW!

But I felt better after two weeks of avoiding the lower-back press machine and extreme forward bends, so I tried a “beginners’” yoga class – and forgot, once again, that I am not Wonder Woman. A few days later I found myself in the emergency room, paralyzed with agonizing back spasms. Have you had these? If not, I pray that you never do. It goes like this: your lower back seizes your entire body and mind, as if you’ve just been grabbed down there with a giant staple remover. You know, that metal claw-like thing in your desk drawer? It grabs you with a sharp pain that takes your breath away and hisses into your ear, “Don’t. Move.” But you have to move, right? You have to summon help somehow. So you try a tiny step, only to be clamped again in a vice of blinding pain. Ladies, it’s not unlike strong labor pains, but centered in your lower back. And deep breaths don’t help – in fact, it’s hard to breathe. After two fuzzy days on Vicodin and muscle relaxers, I had to figure out how to fix this.

One of the things I’d been looking forward to doing in retirement was getting into really good shape. Oh, I wasn’t a complete slug during my working years; I’d hit the gym once or twice a week and take long walks when weather permitted, but it was always difficult to force myself to exercise after a long day of teaching high school and then coaching after-school activities. And to those chirpy morning types who tell me to get up an hour early to exercise, to them I say – well, I can’t use such language here. As it was, I had to get up at 5:30 A.M. in order to have time for breakfast, perform my ablutions, prepare my lunch, and gather my work things, including workout clothes. And I hated that alarm clock with a passion; every day I cursed that nasty, insistent beep, beep, beep that wrenched me from my dreams and into another cold, dark morning. One of the most delightful aspects of retirement is the ability to get out of bed when I’m damned good and ready.

But I digress. Now I’m free to fit in exercise more frequently, at a civilized hour, and I have been doing so. I’ve always enjoyed lifting weights, and we read how important it is for older women to perform resistance exercise in order to stave off the otherwise inevitable wasting of muscle tissue that comes with age, and the ensuing bone brittleness. According to Dr. Pamela Peeke, a physician and expert in women’s fitness, women lose about ½ pound of muscle per year after age 40 if they do not engage in regular resistance training. (I recommend her book Body for Life for Women, in which she presents a do-able, gimmick-free fitness program that includes weight training.) Less muscle mass equals a slower metabolism equals a plump, sluggish body and less joie de vivre. And how much fun is it to look in the mirror and see toned, firm arms and shoulders after 50!

Our local YMCA is a wonderful place to exercise. Unlike many commercial gyms, it’s truly a community center, and the clientele ranges from tiny children (in the pool – so cute!) to very old folks maintaining their strength, balance, and flexibility. I feel very comfortable and welcome there. Spin class is very challenging, and I merrily ignore the urgings of the younger instructors to crank it up to gear 15. I challenge myself, keep an eye on my heart monitor, and enjoy the group energy and the great music. Zumba class is an absolute hoot! I love a dance-y workout, and have zero interest in any fitness class that resembles combat – but hey, chacun a son gout. About 60 of us shake it twice a week, led by two young instructors through a series of heart-pumping hip-hop and Latin dance moves. I’m inspired by a woman I see at every class who’s 80 if she’s a day, and who does all the moves – modifying for her range of motion, of course. She’s having so much fun!

A problem with the fitness industry is that most instructors are young and very fit (of course!), and they lack experience in modifying workouts for older exercisers, for larger exercisers, or for people who have limitations due to injuries. “Of course everyone can bend like this,” they say. “Just try a little harder!” Our Y is blessed with some excellent older instructors who never neglect to mention modifications. But the computer is another matter.

Why, oh why, did I listen to that computer? The program is called ActivTrax, and it spits out a weight-training workout, based upon an initial strength test. Well, this computer was impressed with my progress, and told me to set the lower-back press for 110 pounds. And I listened – what kind of fool am I? I’d also been doing some very challenging (for me) ab exercises, heaving myself up on a slant board, waving my legs in the air like semaphore flags, and other foolishness. I’ve since read that an imbalance in the abdominal and back muscles can result from these very-targeted exercises, which can lead to lower-back pain. It’s better for people with back problems to train the whole core with exercises like planks, rather than to zero in on upper abs, lower abs, etc. Now I know.

My wonderful GP doctor, her physician’s assistant, and my equally wonderful physical therapist have taught me a great deal about how to exercise my abs without straining my back. My GP, who is young, slim and fit, also has back problems and will not even do any sort of forward-bending stretches of the type I was abusing when the sproing hit me. Well then! Obviously, I have a lot to learn about a subject, weight training, that I thought I was already pretty well-informed about. And I must face the fact that, at my age, I must take a more cautious approach to exercise. Not that I plan to “slow down,” nor do I plan to restrict myself to swimming – which is what so many advise old folks to do. No, you’ll find me in weight room again, but I’ll be planning my own workouts, rather than following the dictates of a computer program. And I’ll be listening much more carefully to my body.

But I would like a pair of those WW red boots!

Call Me Ma’am

“Thank you, Ma’am. You have a good one.” The 20-something gate guard hands me my ID card and I drive on through. At the military installation where I work, everyone must show a military ID card in order to enter the base. The gate guard may be military or civilian, but the greeting always contains a “Ma’am” – and that’s just fine with me. Ma’am, after all, is the polite term of address for a grown-up female human whose name one does not know. And at 50, I’m certainly a grown-up female human.
I’m aware that some of my fellow grown-up female humans object to this term of address, saying “It makes me feel old,” or some such silly twaddle. What would you prefer: Honey, Miss, or perhaps Young Lady? Please, my sisters, get a grip.
A few years back, I was dining with my parents, my daughter, and my ex in one of those obnoxious chain restaurants – let’s call it “Blue Sparrow.” Our waiter was forty if he was a day, and when he approached our table, electronic order pad in hand, he purred greasily, “Now what can I get you young ladies?” I looked over at my daughter, the only young lady present at our table. No, he wasn’t addressing her. He was talking to my mother and me.
“Excuse me?” I inquired, my left eyebrow – the snarky one – reaching for my hairline.
“What would you lovely young ladies like to drink?” he oozed at Mom and me.
Now, this is not the first time that I’ve encountered this disrespectful, slimy, angling-for-a-bigger tip tactic, but for some reason I was especially offended this time. Even as I fought for control, I felt my eyes squinch, my lip curl and my hackles rise.
“This grown woman will have an ice tea,” I snarled at him. He was clearly taken aback – the poor schmuck seemed to have no clue what he’d done wrong, but he could see his fat tip melting away.
“Mom!” my gorgeous daughter poked me after he left. “That was mean!” My mother just laughed. She and Dad told me about the patronizing language and tone they so often encountered: “You young folks, you dears, you sweeties, you kids…” Salesmen, clerks, cashiers and waiters felt justified in treating my dignified, educated, grown-up parents, both in their early 70s, as if they were children. Unbelievable!
Alas, I’ve seldom been blessed with a quick retort when insulted, but here’s what I should have said to the waiter, in front of his manager, back then:
I find your patronizing tone offensive. I am obviously not a ‘young lady,’ and neither is my mother. We don’t buy your phony flattery, which is clearly intended to get a bigger tip from us – but you won’t get a tip by insulting your customers. Let’s look at the assumption behind your comment, shall we? You think that young is better than old, and that we’ll be flattered if you refer to us as ‘young.’ As it turns out, we’re both perfectly content to be the age we are – 48 and 70 are both lovely ages to be. Young is not better than old, nor is old better than young. Any age that a person happens to be is a perfectly fine age to be. And the proper way to address an adult female customer is Ma’am. Now please send us a different server – you’ve spoiled my appetite.”

I live in Germany now, and one thing I enjoy about this culture is the polite formality of business transactions here. My doctor’s receptionist does not call me by my first name; she calls me “Frau S-.” So do clerks, salespeople – anyone who is conducting any kind of business with me. I appreciate the sense of respect that comes with this old-fashioned politeness. We’re not pals, after all – I’m your client, your patient, your customer. And if you treat me politely, I’ll be your repeat customer. Thanks for calling me Ma’am.