I was on the phone conducting business with someone who was younger than the vast majority of my t-shirts. This pup of a man described another person, who I hadn’t yet met, as ‘old.’
“What does old mean?” I said.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Old. Older.”
“But what does that mean? Old is subjective. When I was four, I thought anyone over the age of nine was old. What does old mean to you?”
“I honestly don’t know,” he said. “Just old.”
“Take a guess,” I said.
“Oh, I don’t know. Mid-fifties? Maybe even sixty.”
I declined some of the more colorful and obscene responses that flew into my head and responded instead, “Ok.”
After we hung up, I looked in the mirror and tried to see what other people saw. I just see the familiarity of me, just as I have for decades and it’s hard to tell. I will say this: the advantage of having ridden out my acne years well into my thirties because of stupidly greasy skin is that I don’t have any crows’ feet and my hair is shiny and healthy. It’s also naturally dark brown. The organic lipid padding underneath the moisturized skin also helps fill out potential wrinkles. Yay fat cells!
I’m 49 and my husband is 65. We are not young, but we are not old. Ok, maybe he is, objectively, what with him qualifying for Medicare and all, and maybe I felt old when I got my trifocals, but the thought of this whippersnapper on the other line hanging up the phone and saying to his buddies, “Hey, sorry I’m late to skateboarding and posting selfies on Instagram, but I had to talk to this old lady on the phone” made me want to cry.
It also made me wonder what the objective facts were.
According to the US Customs Laws, something isn’t an antique until it was purchased 100 years or more ago. I’m only halfway there.
My daughter is a big fan of my “vintage 80s” earrings and t-shirts. Vintage means, among other things, “representing the high quality of a past time.” I’ll put up with that one only because of the ‘high quality’ modifier.
Dictionary.com says that old means “far advanced in the years of one’s or its life” or “of or relating to the latter part of the life or term of existence of a person or thing.”
Then, I realized this: dictionary.com also said that ‘old’ was an adjective, and adjectives are never facts, they are opinions. They are ways to describe things, like beautiful and hilarious and talented (or their antonyms) and all the other things you might say about me if you had a mind to. It’s a comparative word. My dog will never be as old as I am. To a 20-year old, I am old. To an 85-year old, I’ve got miles to go before I sleep. To my friends and the as-of-yet-unmet-‘old’-guy we were talking about on the phone? We’re just people who remember the excitement of the night MTV went live on air, saw Raiders of the Lost Ark when it first came out in theaters, and are old enough not to feel the compelling need to slap people who say stupid things like “55 is old” to people who are a stone’s throw away from 55.
I’ll trade that kind of masterful self-control for a
few years on my personal odometer.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.