Not long ago I stopped for lunch on my way back to work. On the back page of the menu was the 55+ page, with the discounted meals for “mature” people. If I’d been there before my birthday in January, I would have skipped over this page. This time, I took a second look, thinking “I can order from this menu now”, only to suddenly have a horrified, dreadful feeling, and to think, “No way would I order from the ‘seniors’ menu!”
It was uncomfortable to be conscious of my age, especially to think of it in a bad way, but there the reality was, rudely staring me in the face, bluntly telling me that I was older (and to be honest, I don’t even want to write the word “older”). Age isn’t something I think about, except a few times, like the day I opened my mail to find my AARP card. I laughed about this rite of passage with friends, but this time another milestone on the timeline of life had changed from something to anticipate to something to remember, and I didn’t like that in that moment.
Well, so what, I tried to say. Big deal if the numbers have changed. It took a while to really convince myself of that, but I can be genuine about it now. After all, I certainly don’t “feel” 55. I can’t see how life is so different from what it was on January 18, and just as they say, I can now affirm (based on the wisdom of age!) that you really are every bit as young as you feel! I do “feel” 55 because this is what being 55 feels like.
Yeah, I know. That sounds a bit defensive, and I guess it is, and I’m irritated about that. Why does a person have to feel defensive about his or her age, like it’s a crime or a sin? Or his or her race, culture, looks, and all the other things for which we are judged as being either adequate or deficient? Who sets the rules on these things and why do we listen to them? And yet, I know there is no one person who controls this, and that really, we all keep the system going if we believe it and judge either ourselves or others the way that we are told.
As for me, there is one benefit I’ll take away from that moment in the restaurant. It’s to remember how shallow the expectations that we live with really can be, and what an imposition they are if I accept them for myself or try to hold someone else to them.