I Am This Old

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Many years ago, when I was in my mid-thirties, I was with a man who had a habit of announcing his age. Vehemently. With conviction. As if it meant a great deal to the conversation at hand.

“I am a forty-two year old man,” he would say, as if it gave credence to his opinion, or discredited mine. “I am forty-two years old,” he’d grumble in answer to a request. “I am forty-two years old,” he would declare in a loud voice, as if it could render void any argument or complaint presented to him.

I didn’t see the logic. He was older than me, but only by six or seven years. He was healthy and fit. I saw no reason for his age to be a part of any discussion, unless the discussion was about his birthday, or his age. I tried a couple times to respond with, “…and what does that have to do with anything?” It didn’t go over well, though. My fallback strategy was to give him a blank look, and wait for more information. Sometimes forthcoming, sometimes not.

My daughters noticed the behavior, of course. They’d find ways to try out the tactic for humorous effect. In a discussion about what program we were going to watch on television, one might state, with a grin, “I am sixteen years old!” If I called after work to let them know I’d be home soon, I might hear, “Hey, I’m fourteen years old.” Sometimes we’d catch each other’s attention and share a slight smirk or eye-roll at the poor man’s expense.

For quite a long time when I was a young adult, it seemed like every chat was remedial, with folks feeling like I needed to be told how things were, or how they should be. Perhaps it was because I was young, or small, or female, or so obviously lacking in life experience. Then, for a blessed long time, age, knowledge and experience gave me a certain credibility. Now, with advancing years, I seem to once again be relegated to the kindergarten class.

In defiance, I find myself reaching back into my memory, and starting conversations with that same idiosyncrasy that I mocked so many years ago. I don’t say it out loud, but the chatter in my head often begins with, “I am sixty-seven years old…”

The nurse practitioner at our Medical Center, in response to a question about a medicine that is no longer working, said, “Well you know, you do have to take these pills every day…” I held her gaze. Inside my head, the conversation went like this: “I am sixty-seven years old. I have been taking this medicine for almost twenty years. The prescription bottle clearly says to take it every day. What, for heaven’s sake, would make you think I don’t know that??” Out loud, I said, “Yes, I know. I take them every day.”

When a bit of well-meaning advice comes my way about how to interact with a troublesome person, or handle a personal failure, or deal with a loss, the silent dialogue begins: “I am sixty-seven years old. I have a little life experience under my belt. In addition, I am the queen of self-help books. It may not seem like I’m handling the situation well but, for the love of God, I know how to handle it!!!” Out loud, I say, “Good advise, thank you.”

A couple days ago, I stopped at the airport on my way to town, to pick up a couple deliveries for the hardware store, and a prescription for myself. I turned off the car, went in to the terminal building, gathered my packages and carried them out to the car. The car wouldn’t start. I turned off the radio and the fan that circulates the heat, so that I could hear what was going on. Nothing more than a “click” when I turned the key. I popped the hood, and stepped out of the car.

“What’s going on?” the mechanic asked. “I don’t know,” I replied, “My car won’t start.” “Did you push the clutch in all the way? Do you have it in neutral?” I greatly appreciated his willingness to help. I gave him a silent nod. Inside my brain, though, the diatribe was both long and sarcastic. And it started with the words, “I am sixty-seven years old…”

About cindyricksgers

I am an artist. I live on an island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. I have two grown daughters, four strong, smart and handsome grandsons and one beautiful, intelligent and charming granddaughter. I live with two spoiled dogs. I love walking in the woods around my home, reading, writing and playing in my studio.

4 responses »

  1. And doing quiet well for 67!

    Ecuadorians love to ask personal questions; “How old are you? Do you have Children? Why do you want to live in our country?” (the latter is one of wonder and not being snobbish) —
    Sometimes if they don’t speak English, I ask them back, “Do you want to know what color underwear I’m wearing today?” The statement that gets them most is that – like most of them – have had dengue and chikungunya ‘ and then the conversation turns to something besides ‘the interrogation.’

    If I were having to endure those cold winters up there, I’d be feeling quite old! Brrrrrrr!

  2. I’m in a conundrum about what to think about this post. On one hand, we’re mature, capable women who know a thing or several millions about the world and how things work. On the other hand, playing the dumb girl can have it’s advantages. In that case you can either learn something you didn’t know, or you can listen to the (wo)mansplaining in hopes of catching someone trying to pull one over on you. I love it when that happens.

    However, I never, ever divulge my age to make a point. My grey hair says it all for me.

    • I wish my gray hair would cause folks to assume I am wise…but then I also wish it would cause them to cut me some slack, offer to carry a heavy load, or step in to help. I guess I’m in a conundrum, too! Thanks for reading, Sara, and for your comments.

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