Groaning as I bend over, I grumble about my back, knees and hips, and how gravity seems to be heavier these days. At 59, have I suddenly become a Grumpy Old Man? When does “middle-age” end and being “old” begin? (Interestingly enough, a 20-something student at a workshop I gave last week said, “40 is old!”).
Long gone are the days when you were too young to drink, but not too young to be drafted. There was once a time when you were 18, the purgatory between adolescence and adulthood. You challenged authority and exercised your new found freedom to hop into your beater of a car and cruise down the road into the dark, intoxicating night. You revolted against “The System” and “The Man,” while wearing well worn, patched jeans and long, shoulder-length hair parted down the middle, as you emulated rock’n’roll heroes John Lennon and Jim Morrison. You were young, angry, and cocky. With each passing year, these memories grow dimmer and dimmer as you fly past each decade of your existence. Soon you exceed 30, 40 and then 50.
In my opinion, “old” begins at 55. You are already one of the 37+ million AARP members receiving discounts at Dunkin’ Donuts and Denny’s, and you are no longer a member of the highly desirable 18 – 54 demographic age group. At 55, no one cares about what you think or buy. In the minds of advertisers, you are now nothing more than a consumer of laxatives and boner pills. You can no longer name the top ten songs on this week’s Top 40 playlist ("What? You still listen to radio?"), or the who’s who of cultural references on the Entertainment Weekly’s "The Bullseye" on their back page.
You are well beyond “middle age” as no one can count on living to 110 these days. It happens, but unless you have indestructible Keith Richards-like DNA, your chances of achieving this milestone are slim.
You are no longer patient with stupid, clueless people ahead of you as you wait (forever!) to check out at Walgreens, and you constantly yell at drivers who do not allow you to merge safely, cut you off, and fail to use their turn signals. You forget words, names, and where you placed your reading glasses (“cheaters”). You realize that now you MUST pay for TV, even though for much of your life, television was free because it had commercials. Now you pay for cable TV, which except for a handful of premium channels, also has LOTS of commercials. And, if that’s not enough, if you watch a show OnDemand, you MUST sit through commercials (no fast-forward!), even though you are paying for the DAMN service! And, don’t get me started on cellphones! You just get use to your iPhone and a new comes out a moment later, making your phone obsolete. And just when you feel confident using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, a stream of new social media options emerge and mock you as a “dinosaur.”
Well, I’ll tell you this much: Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau’s John and Max characters may have pioneered the “Grumpy Old Man” title back in 1993, however there’s a whole new group of men ready to join their ranks as Congress continues to avoid work, our country becomes less a democracy and more an oligarchy, and Climate Change threatens our very existence! And, don't even think about chatting during my matinee screening of "Deadpool," and you best pick up after your dog as he takes a dump on my lawn!