A young sports writer on television the other night referred to the Miami Dolphins’ “aging quarterback.” The doddering old fud, Dan Marino, then beat the socks off the Pittsburgh Steelers anyhow, despite his advanced age, which is 34.
A few hours later, I read my favorite financial writer, Scott Burns, giving good advice to a reader concerned about a possible estate tax problem for his mom. Not to worry or get premature, Scott wrote reassuringly, “she is only 77.”
When it comes to the age thing, chillun, it is all in how you look at it. And from where.
For example, a mature friend noted recently that the first baby boomers turn 50 in three months and are all making heavy weather of it. “I am just loving this,” she said, glowing happily. She had one of those wicked, knowing smiles that I’m afraid baby boomers are going to have to learn to put up with.
It is not perhaps the most charitable way to look at this milestone for our nation’s largest and most self-obsessed generation, but it is a pretty popular way amongst the generations ahead of it on life’s highway.
Older folks have been known to burst out laughing in bookstores, when looking over the tidal wave of new books that purport to “reverse the aging process.” Three guesses which crowd these books are aimed at.
There is, for instance, the yuppie-oriented “Stop Aging Now,” subtitled: “The Ultimate Plan for Staying Young & Reversing the Aging Process,” which is “based on cutting-edge research revealing the amazing anti-aging powers of supplements, herbs & food.”
Then there’s “Fifty & Fabulous,” which, it says here, is “Zia’s definitive guide to anti-aging - naturally!”
Zia herself, presumably, is shown on the cover, stretched out in some casual leisure duds, looking cutting-edge skinny, cool and fabulous. But the other lady involved, the as-told-to ghost writer, was not as evident, possibly because of less fiftyishness and fabulosity.
Even Jane Fonda, always ahead of any trendy curve, is now giving literary aid and comfort to middle-aged boomers fighting 50, with “Women Coming of Age.”
Many how-to books hawk something called “melatonin,” like “The Melatonin Miracle.” Which, it says here, is “nature’s age-reversing, disease-fighting, sex-enhancing hormone.” Melatonin, I gather, is the boomer version of monkey glands, a high-tech shot at victory of hope over what they fear is reality.
Seniors, who have learned that actually the furnace stays lit long after snow falls on the roof, find all this absolutely hilarious.
Probably the main reason for the unseemly giggles among older generations is that the boomers in their younger days came on especially strong with the youth-must-be-served stuff. As adolescents, they really bought into that “nobody is as unique as us” line, sold to them mostly by dysfunctional nitwits a decade or so older than they were.
Just as the rest of America had to endure endless delusions that sex was invented in 1963, now we are in for similar discoveries that aging first appeared on earth in the mid-1990s. But boomers should know that digging holes with youthful smart-mouth talk and falling into them later is not original with them, either. Ask my wife, Teen Angel.
My friend and office neighbor John Anders dropped by the other day, saying, “Now that you’ve written that Social Security and your wife just turned 60, you can come camp with us for a while until Dot lets you back in the house.”
His offer was much appreciated, but sanctuary was not necessary. When the lady had her 40th anniversary, friends knew precisely how old she was, and the big blabber was herself: One of her major yarns over the years has been the “I was NOT a teenage bride” story. We married on her 20th birthday - in fact, she always says, “at the very hour I was born, 7 a.m. in Houston.”
This summer, we were partying with old Marine friends. Some first heard the story back when it was present tense, “I AM not a teen-age bride,” for we were wed at 8 a.m. in the Quantico post chapel in Virginia. She was just rounding the last bend, the 7 a.m. in Texas part, when somebody said, “Wait a minute!”
Quantico was on Eastern Daylight Time, he said - thus 8 a.m. was 7 a.m. standard time and 6 a.m. standard time in Houston (which didn’t have daylightsaving time in 1935). So, it turns out she was wed an hour short of age 20, a fact that old friends now promise they will never let her live down.
Most of these friends not only can count but can do simple sums, like 40 plus 20. So, they know her age. And nowadays, they also address my child bride as “Teen Angel.”
But she just laughs. Teen Angel has always considered the screenplay of life to be a comedy, not a tragedy. That, by the way, may not be the best way to fight age, but it surely is a good way to get along with it.