There’s rather a long list of things that let me know I’ve become old. There’s the sudden onset of random pains that vanish as quickly as they came, a new passion for naps, weight that won’t come off no matter what I do, the lengthening amount of time it takes to remember the name of that actress—you know the one . . . brown hair . . . sort of on the tall side . . . it’ll come to me . . .
There's also the onset of invisibility. After a certain age, people can no longer see you, and sometimes walk right into you, only to discover, to their great surprise, that you were there all along.
But one of the surest signs you’ve become old is when people start claiming to be shocked when they hear how old you are. “62? You’re kidding! I wouldn’t have guessed older than 35!” “Wow. Good for you! You look amazing!” People seem to feel strangely obligated to behave as if they're utterly gobsmacked whenever an older person announces his or her age. It’s a pretense, of course—a backhanded courtesy bestowed only upon the elderly (to young people, that’s anyone over 50).
No one carries on like that with younger people. “29? Really?!? You look like you’re about 22!” That never happens. No, this practice is reserved for the aged, and it’s done merely out of pity, to make us feel less despair over our advanced ages and sad little fading lives. It’s all a bit condescending, like a verbal pat on the head. And as soon as you start getting that reaction, you may rest assured you’ve turned that inevitable corner toward dotage.
And you might as well know this as well: The performance continues to grow ever more lavish as you age. The more people protest, saying they refuse to believe their ears because no one your age could possibly look as young as you do, the older you know you look. “Stop it! You’re lying! 68? Come on. You’re pulling my leg! Am I being punked? Tell me the truth now.” Yeah. When you get all that, take my word for it: you’re visibly ancient and decrepit. And if they go all-out and pretend to faint from the shock, get your affairs in order; you’re done for. It’ll be any day now.
What people don’t know is that we who are older don’t particularly need to be told we look young for our ages. Many of us are perfectly fine with the ages we are. (I don’t happen to be one of those people. I hate being my age. But that’s not the point. I hate many things.) We don’t require pity compliments, nor are we naïve. Believe it or not, most of us still have mirrors (which some of us can still see clearly into) and therefore know what we look like. We don’t need you to tell us we look youthful if we don’t. That’s just silly.
It’s true that some older people are blessed with youthful looks. Some of them honestly do appear to be considerably younger than their years. And upon encountering those lucky creatures, it’s perfectly fine to comment on this unique asset. Otherwise, please, calm down. If you’re lucky, you’ll be this age too some day. And now you’ll know, as soon as you start getting the “I can’t believe it!” routine, that you’re in decline.
I had another point I wanted to make . . . hang on . . . it'll come to me . . . you know, that thing . . . Agh. It's gone. Ah well, at least I still look young for my age. At least, that's what they tell me.