Okay, I know. Every year that creeps by adds to the pile. But there are other insidious and nasty indicators that you have to be on the lookout for, otherwise they will sneak up and bite you on the you-know-what.
The unseen conspiracy to rub your nose in the fact you’re over-the-hill begins with the mandatory public declamation that you have entered geezerdom. The first time I went through it I almost came apart at the seams. It was seven years ago, just after I turned sixty-five, when I took Annie to see Slumdog Millionaire.
Now I’m cheap, right? You know that. So I wasn’t going to resist getting a senior discount, even though it meant I had to come out of the closet in front of a bunch of strangers.
“Hi, what movie would you like to see?” the lady behind the glass at the theatre on the Downtown Mall asked.
Here’s where I had to come clean. I answered, “One adult for Slumdog, and one…” Here’s where my jaw started to tremble, “suh, suh, suh, een…” It’s the first time I’d said it and I could barely get it out. “Suh-suh-een,-yor,” I stuttered.
And then as she handed me the tickets, she had to broadcast it. Speaking into her mike for everyone on the Downtown Mall to hear, she shouted, “One adult, one SENIOR for Slumdog.”
I took the tickets, feeling an impulse to duck my head into my coat collar and run, but instead I had to march past the entire line of people who were giving me the unmistakable look that said, “He may not look it, but that guy is OLD!” What to do about it? Shell out the extra two bucks and keep the secret to yourself.
Another way we’re singled out and made to feel close to croaking is with the barrage of drug commercials that run on the news. In between snippets of late-breaking events are endless commercials selecting different parts of your body, pointing out what could be wrong and stuffing a remedy in your face. Do they run these commercials during Monday Night Football or on The Dating Game? Hell no! They run them only on the shows that you watch. Since you don’t have to pick up the kids from soccer or drive them to school, you are a sucker for the morning or nightly news. They know that and they are going to endlessly bombard you.
You watch in morbid fascination as they present new diseases you never knew existed that could strike you dead in seconds. “Oh gosh, I didn’t know I could get that.” Or, “I’d better keep my eye out in case I start seeing those symptoms.”
So you go from ghastly news footage of a car bombing in Beirut to a drug that relieves intestinal blockage. Or from bloody victims of a school shooting to someone with nasty red boils on his face while the announcer threatens, “If you’ve had chicken pox, you could develop shingles,” and end up like the hapless fellow who looks like his face just went through a Cuisinart. The commercials come at you like slugs from a Gatling gun, you begin to wonder what’s worse, the calamities going on in the world or the diseases you could get and die of?
And just when you start thinking, “Jeez, I better ask my doc for a prescription,” the announcer comes on to tick off a raft of terrifying side effects. Sure, the drug might cure shingles or blast through your gut block, but it may also cause heart failure when you’ve never had a problem before, fatal bleeding, chronic lung diseases, shaking or sweating, itching rash or trouble breathing, an allergic reaction that may be life-threatening – the list goes on and on.
After a flurry of these ads, I’m turned into a quivering mass of anxiety, wondering, “Do I have this? And if I take that drug for it, will I get those horrible side effects?”
As you begin to come unglued, to relieve your anxiety the network cuts to the scene of the latest home invasion in some small town in Texas where a whacko broke into a trailer and slaughtered a family of six.
As they haul bodies shrouded in sheets out the door, they cut to a commercial break where you learn about a drug for ulcerative colitis that starts you thinking, “Gee, I did have a bad stomach ache a couple days ago, do I have that?” But then they hit you with the complications: blood or nervous system problems, new or worsening heart conditions, shortness of breath, swollen ankles – it’s enough to send you sprinting to the bar.
The moral of this story? Never watch the nightly news. Choose reruns of Sesame Street and The Three Stooges instead. Big Bird never gets elevated blood sugar and while Curly may get hit over the head with a hammer, no way he’ll ever get ulcerative colitis.
Watch them and you’ll feel a lot younger.