By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Sometimes you get subtle reminders you’re not as young as you used to be – like when you notice the small but insistent ache in your knees while climbing the stairs before it rains. Or the way you involuntarily make an “umph” sound when you get up after sitting on the floor.
Other times, the reminder is much more visceral, much more in-your-aging-face. I’ll give you two real-life examples that are too weird for me to have made up. A few weeks ago, an acquaintance (who’s close to my age and looks fantastic) told me about the day she was out shopping for a new area rug. She’d narrowed her choices down to a few rugs and had laid them down in front of her so she could pick her favorite.
Suddenly, an older woman came over and stood next to her. She offered an unsolicited opinion on which rug looked best. Then she added this verbal kick in the teeth: “You know, you should get a rug with a rubber backing so it won’t slip and cause you to break a hip. You don’t need that at your age.” She followed it up with a non-helpful tidbit about how they were probably “about the same age,” to which my acquaintance gave a tight smile and said (inside her own head): “Um, no. We’re definitely not.”
Phrases like “at our age” shouldn’t be used unless you know the person’s birthdate and that date is within a year of your own. It’s in the same mistake category with asking “When’s your baby due?” when you’re not absolutely certain the woman is pregnant. (Never assume a woman is pregnant unless she actually says “I’m pregnant” or unless you’ve tagged along to her doctor’s appointment and have seen the ultrasound with your own eyes.)
When I heard the story about the rude rug shopper, it reminded me of the unexpected invitation that recently came in the mail to our house. The folded brochure featured a photo of a gray-haired husband and his wife sitting on a park bench, his hand clasped lovingly over hers.
When Tom and I opened it, we realized it was an invitation to a “free workshop about pre-planning needs” at a Golden Corral restaurant. Tom handed it to me, and I read through the next paragraph about final arrangements while shaking my head in disbelief.
Me: “Do they really think we’re going to show up at a Golden Corral to plan our funerals next to a chocolate fountain? Did they really put a postage stamp-sized photo of meatloaf and mashed potatoes on this thing to try to lure us to a giant buffet to talk about our impending deaths? How old do they think we are, Tom? We’re not even getting the senior citizen discount yet, and they want us to discuss cremation next to a vat of creamed corn?”
Him: “I think they do.”
Me: “We’re at the age when people get high school graduation announcements in the mail, not death luncheon invitations. I’d like to throw a dinner roll right at their head.”
Him: “I don’t think that’s what dignified, pre-planning people would do.”
Me: “I’m about to throw a dinner roll at your head.”
So much for aging gracefully. I’m not going down without a fight. Someone hand me an aerodynamic dinner roll, please.