It doesn't really suck to get old. At least not every day. Most days I wear my white hair proudly. After all, it was my choice to stop coloring my hair and let the world see the real me. At the time, I was still an ER nurse, clocking endless miles rushing between patient rooms, the med room and the nurses' station. The hallways kept getting longer as the print on the drug vials continued to grow smaller. It occurred to me that maybe if I let my white hair show, maybe people would go easy on me. They would see that I was not as young as I used to be and they would cut me some slack. Hah! No such luck. The young become the old and the old become tired. Very tired.
Outside of work, I discovered a few benefits of looking old. The young girl selling tickets at the movie theater assumes that anyone with white hair deserves a senior discount. The security staff at concerts assume that women with white hair all have sagging breasts and never suspect that it is the added weight of small bottles of rum in my sports bra that is causing me to hang so low. My perky tennis opponent assumes that I will never get to her overhead lob and, therefore, is not ready for my bodacious down-the-line backhand return.
But some days it just sucks to be old. When I show up at a casting call for a granny in a TV ad, the casting director asks me, in all sincerity, if I can handle the G forces of a swing. The G forces of a swing?? Do swings even have G forces? When I get to the set, feeling quite glam in my make-up and wardrobe, one of the young stage hands takes me by the elbow to help me over the uneven terrain. Does he not know I can still navigate tree stumps and small hills? And there really is no need to act all embarrassed if I overhear you using the f word. I am not Mother Theresa and I am not your granny and I doubt if there is a thing that you can say to shock me after my 40 years in the ER.
Today was one of those days when the reality of my 60s smacked me in the face. I lead an aqua fitness class at my neighborhood pool. It doesn't sound like much, and probably looks like even less, but we really do work hard. Really. It's a great aerobic work-out. When I arrived this morning to open the pool for our class, there were two 20-something young men sitting in a pick-up truck, waiting for me.
"Are you here for aqua fitness?" asked one of the young men.
I thought it odd that they would want to join us, but, on the rare occasion when we have had teenage girls in our class, they had a tough time keeping up. So, maybe the word had spread? Who was I to make them feel unwelcome?
"Yes," I replied, smiling my most welcoming smile. "Are you going to join us?"
Okay, okay, don't choke on your laughter. Wipe that smirk off your face. And don't patronize me. I HATE to be patronized.
"Oh, no, we're just here to clean the pool," he said, as his friend giggled like a silly school girl. "But we can come back later. No problem."
As they drove away, no doubt laughing, I could just imagine how hilarious they thought it was to have been invited to join aqua fitness with the old ladies of the neighborhood. I could hear my daughters' embarrassed "Oh Mom" as they once again exchange worried looks that it might be time to start the nursing home search. I felt foolish. Invisible. Irrelevant.
Yeah, I know, old age is a privilege shared only by a select few. You're only as old as you feel. Sixty is the new 40. But, somedays, it just plain sucks to get old.