Coming of “Age”

by Marnie Macauley September 23, 2017


Picture of a happy elderly woman celebrating birthday holding a heart shaped balloon an blowing a whistle outdoor

My darling San Dieganas: As my Birthday approaches bringing me to an age my 10-year-old nephew can’t count up to, my mulching brain has been in high gear (read: I’m awake).

So in really getting with our senior theme, I thought, “Wait, with the advice. I’m it.” And so I give you a few of my quirky observations.

It started when strange agencies and people began calling and sending me truly scary forms. I now have an “Alter C” box. It contains 15 offers for burial insurance “so my loved ones aren’t burdened with my bones,” 27 medical supplement plans that cover dementia plus rotten prostates, 32 “youthenizing” adverts that will truss up my turkey neck, not to mention the 17 coupons for discreet adult diapers.

Whoa! What chutzpah sending this to a “27-year-old” who happens to walk … a little slow … and to the right? I needed this shot of reality?

I picked up my hands and looked at them. And I saw my grandmothers’. Remember the cereal commercial that made us “pull an inch” from our waist to test for fat? It also tests for age. Suddenly I could pull an inch from my hand, which already resembled a relief map of Mongolia.

So I started reading those mags that say look in a mirror and applaud yourself naked. I ordered an applause machine on eBay.

It laughed.

I was now unofficially “an old lady.” Or was I?

I started asking strangers: “So tell me, you’re a butcher (they know body parts) … how old do I look? No, really, it’s OK.” Forget beauty. Let’s say I wasn’t winning any Miss Congeniality awards.

Could I blame them? It’s one of those, “Am I getting fatter?” loser questions. Who, including me, doesn’t hate hearing “How old do I look? No really. It’s OK.” Here are the results. Some people …


  1. got my right age within a year!

No good. I told my deli-man: “May your customers complain your tongue tastes slimy!” Afraid I might’ve over-reacted, I kindly suggested he visit a retina specialist.

  1. pegged me as less than five years younger.

I negotiated with the determination of a Middle Eastern potentate. “In the dark, if my hair didn’t resemble fusilli, or I actually used my exercise bike for more than a clothes rack, oh, and had a touch of Botox around my eyes, mouth and neck, would I look 10 years younger?” When they collapsed from my heel in their backs, they finally admitted that Bar Rafaeli and I could’ve worn twin Pampers (though they may have meant for different reasons). Now was that so difficult?

  1. bored me with the aphorism: “Age is just a number.”

Right. And so is 2001. If they made me feel shallower than I already did I’d add: “It’s nice that you can make lemonade from lemons because everything happens for a reason and it’s all good.”

  1. asked: “Well, how old do you want to look?

Oy, a smart one. I’d simply hug the offender and say, “About your age.” (Assuming they were under 40.)

  1. said: “You look great for your age!”

Whoa! Even if they knew my age, that was like saying, “for a fat person, you actually look healthy.”


For such a question there’s only one good answer. “Marn … no one at any age ever looked or could look younger than you do.”

But there were still those hands. And the bags, wrinkles, and assorted things hanging from me that I could see even without my 40 pairs of 350 diopter glasses. Instead of sheep, I dreamt of operations to tighten, lop and plump up the right places.

Then, I accidentally turned on one of those “reality” shows about billion dollar housewives. Should you ever become a self-absorbed harpy over a little age, this stuff is the ultimate intervention. By the first commercial, I tossed the mirrors and taped my mouth shut in shame. It wasn’t pretty. With lips the size of melons, surprised eyebrows (“why am I on the top of her head?”) and hair that resembled long yellow shredded wheat … they looked older.

A conundrum I tell you, a conundrum.

So I made two lists – the proverbial “pro” and “con” of aging.

Cons of Coming of “Age”

Forgetting: I was never good at names. Now I don’t even try. I use un-PC descriptions: “the blond one,” “the short one,” “the zaftig one.” I also lose the occasional word: “Darling would you pick up … that thing … you know. The thing you wash with. Not dishes or laundry. Your hands. It comes in bars.”

Losing stuff: Keys, money, glasses, a piano? Gone. Obviously stolen by an anti-ager or dybbuk. Oh wait … I hid them so I wouldn’t lose them. Now where did I hide them?

Losing touch: Michael Douglas, Dustin Hoffman, Tony Curtis, I knew. But what is a Kardashian? The closest I can come is a type of heart attack common in old Jewish men from Russia. And the “digital age?” They’ve revived “Guess Who?” I’m saying: “Guess who … died?”

Skin Things: True, my family may not have been gorgeous, but oh, our skin? To die for. Now, I may die from it. What do doctors know? When I ask them what’s this stuff that puffs, itches, hangs on my face and body, they say: “Who knows? A rash.” I now am the Queen of Creams. I’m still “rashing.”

Sight and sound: Somewhere along the line I lost the ability to actually see and hear basic things. Like alarms. Thank God for EBay. I now have 50 glasses of every diaptor and a hole in my head from a cochlear implant (which EBay doesn’t sell).

Youthenizing: I am now a research genius about creams, pills, sprays, and masks that can take 20 years off my age in three weeks! Yes, I too can look like Cindy Crawford – at $150 a bottle. Yak butter, Emu cream, retinol, Ginkgo Biloba, snake venom, “Stay Young Forever” kits (recommended by someone who once served Dr. Oz an alfalfa sprout) are all over my bathroom. Mostly because you can’t open or close them with those cheap clasps.

Enough kvetching. There are things about aging that are nothing short of … magical (not to mention manipulative).


Pros of Coming of “Age”

Opening a mouth: From calling everyone “Darling,” to telling the real truth (“Yes, you’ve gained a ton!”) to boring people with anecdotes from my checkerboard past, I can now get away with it! Yes! I’ve either earned their respect or they think I have a small arterial flow problem.

Shlep-nishting: At my age I should schlep? Anything? “Mamala, I left a glass of soda there – on the table, you’ll bring it to me so I shouldn’t, oy, have to get up?” Strange younger people help me put gas in my car and load it with groceries. True, once or twice I’ve been robbed a little, but it evens out.

Perks: Not only can I get discount diapers … but a sharp senior can get everything half off – usually on a Wednesday. (TIP: After a certain age, keep Wednesdays for SBs (Senior Bargains)). Even if they don’t have such a policy, you get. At the bakery, they give samples. At my age, let’s say I now bring home enough samples to feed Haifa.

Napping: I love taking a nap. I always did. When you’re 35, you’re lazy or maybe it’s anemia. At my age, no one questions. I get up at 9. Write for an hour. Yawn. “Oy am I exhausted. Maybe I’ll take a little nap – till dinner.” And yet everyone still thinks I’m a workaholic. “Look! I finished two articles today!” (I do count notes to myself.)

Driving: I hate driving. I have a split brain. One smart, the other “garnish” (nothing’s up there). I can’t even set the Global thingy. As soon as someone gives me directions, my mind goes into a rendition of the Jeopardy! song. When I was young others found this annoying. Now, they’re grateful not to see me behind a wheel. “Yes, of course we’ll send an Uber to get you!” Finally!

Marriage Questions: In my twenties I was in the hospital with a blood clot. Bubbe called daily. Not to find out how I was, but to ask in her deeply Yiddish hecsent: “So mamala, did you meet a doctor yet?” Needless to say, when I got out, instead of Welcome Home, she was sitting Shiva for me. Today, as a widow, no one would dare ask that question, except the yenta who watches the cookies during Sisterhood meetings.

But most important, as you age, you can become you. Now it’s true, you become more you. If you were annoying at 35, at 60 … people will run from you. If you were a mensch at 35, at 60, you’ll be a bigger mensch, but more. You’ve learned a little something to share. You’ve done an accounting and accepted regret, joy, the roller coaster ride, the grief, the love, the stupidity, the marvel of simply living. You’ve learned, hopefully, to worry only when you have something to worry about.

You’re OK with you, even with a few flaws.

I never again ask “How old do I look.” Mama Nature gave us those wrinkles, age spots, and veins, for a reason. I’ve decided they mean we’ve lived, sometimes despite impossible odds. And those hands? They show our journey and just how hard we’ve tried.





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