“There’s good news and some very disturbing news,” my wife, Kimberly, says.
We were planning a family trip to Saratoga to have breakfast at the track, play the ponies, and visit the Thoroughbred Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. Kimberly and our daughter, Grace, were looking into the details.
“The good news,” Kimberly says, “is you get a discount to the museum.”
“What’s the disturbing news?” I ask.
“You’re a senior citizen!” Grace gleefully announces.
“At 55?” I ask. Kimberly, also a bit more gleefully than seems appropriate, says, “Yup. The museum gives senior discounts starting at age 55.”
“Just breathe, Dad,” Grace says.
I breathe. Deeply.
My first reaction: righteous indignation. I ain’t no senior citizen, I sniff. I don’t fit the profile. A “senior citizen,” Wikipedia says, “is a common polite designation for an elderly person in both U.K. and U.S. English, and it implies or means that the person is retired.” Elderly? I have a daughter in middle school, for cryin’ out loud. Retired? I’m in the prime of my working years and retirement is still just a pipe dream. Polite? Don’t patronize me, mister. I’m in excellent physical shape — mostly. Sure, my lower back sometimes feels as if rigor mortis has already begun. I have more forehead than I once did. And, yes, I sometimes forget my neighbor’s name, or where I put my cell phone, or what we had for dinner last night — chicken, I think… no, we had chicken on Tuesday… I wonder if Tuesday Weld is still alive… What was I saying?
No matter. The point is this. Wikipedia (see how young I am? I use the interwebs!) also says the common age for this designation is 65, not 55. I’m not 65, pal — not that there’s anything wrong with that — and I have been smugly ignoring the AARP mailings for years. Our collective vision of “senior” is all messed up. No one retires in his 50s anymore, except government workers, and few people are “elderly” in their sixth decade. Fifty is the new 30, right?
On the other hand, I’d have to be senile to turn down free money, also right? I’ll take their discount if they want to give it to me. In fact, maybe I should reframe this whole deal. Just because someone says I’m a senior doesn’t mean I’m a senior. I’ve been called lots of things that I am not. (Never mind what.) Perhaps this is an opportunity to exploit. The game is afoot.
I begin digging around to see where else I can cash in on my newfound seniorhood. The Senior Citizen Journal (“Your Partner in Productive Aging”) lists many restaurants that cater to me and my allegedly over-the-hill peers. Sadly, I would never eat at any of them. Sorry, Arby’s. (Ben & Jerry, however: I’ll see you when I’m 60.) Likewise retail stores. Wait, here’s one: Regal Cinemas. They dominate the Albany market. I give them a call to confirm; no, they only discount 60-somethings. The Spectrum, my theater of choice, starts at 65. Ageists.
There must be something… the Albany Tennis Club gives me $25 off membership, but I don’t play tennis. I qualify to move to some retirement communities, but my wife couldn’t join me for another decade. Hmmm… no.
I need some help, fellow pentagenarians. Where in the Hudson Valley can a 55-year-old brother get a what-what? Post some ideas below. In the meantime, I’ll just take my $2 discount from the Racing Museum and treat myself to one of those fancy coffee drinks the kids seem to like.
If only I could remember where I put my wallet.
» More from writer David Levine