One good thing about old age

Published 8:00 am Thursday, July 6, 2023

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A friend of mine is going through a crushingly difficult time lately. She absolutely detests her job, has a brute of a boss and has to swallow his sarcastic jibes because, like millions, she dare not leave for fear of not finding work elsewhere.  

“You know,” I said to her, making an anemic attempt to console, “if there’s one good thing about old age to look forward to, it’ll be that we can all say whatever the heck we want and merely be written off as ‘eccentric.’” 

She readily agreed. Not eccentric in the way of those women who’ve approached me about joining their outings, (let me just say this– come near me with one of those stupid red hats and I’ll punch you in the throat), but eccentric in that you wink at the bag boy when you’re 78 or slap a waiter’s hand away when he assumes you’re finished with your nearly empty wine glass on your 85th birthday.  

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Younger people, I think, always assume that old people were born old and that they never had a passionate youth of broken hearts, reckless flings or a snoutful of martinis while meeting with other moms to plan the local PTA bake sale…  

I certainly plan to shock and dismay anyone under the age of 30 when I become a ‘grande dame.’ The comedian inside me inherently understands timing and how to pull a punch line out of left field to an unsuspecting innocent. Truly, there is nothing more enjoyable. 

My late father was a master of technique, and I have witnessed him do everything from pretending he was a priest and listening to confessionals in a Bavarian Chapel to faking a heart attack to get a long-winded woman out of a phone booth so that he could make a call.   

And it’s not just the ability to say what’s on your mind that makes this all so appealing. It’s the utter lack of embarrassment that one seems to have when beginning to draw social security. Case in point: a woman told me that she and her family were sitting in a Burger King parking lot when her elderly mother, who had spilled half a Coke in her lap, went into the restaurant bathroom to strip and wash the pants and herself as best she could. She waited until she was alone, quickly removed her stretch pants, splashed water from the sink to places needed and, as she got back into the rear seat of the car, told the rest of the story:  “I have to tell you, I would never had thought it, but that hand dryer in there was really good for drying off my fanny. My front, too. It’s just the perfect height!”  

Pleased with herself, she looked up to catch the horrified expression of a couple who were decidedly not her family but sitting in a somewhat similar car.   

“I wonder if their sweet tea is as good as McDonald’s?” she said to no one in particular and stepped out of the car in search of a darker blue Ford Explorer.  I can only aspire to have a fraction of such aplomb—but I’m sure gonna try.