People age all at once. Nobody gets old gradually. One day you look at yourself and — whoa.
Let’s say you’ve looked more or less the same since 2002, or 2012 or 1996: Just pick the year when you last chose to sing along to a brand-new pop song on the radio, and let’s consider that year the time you put your age on “pause.”
But suddenly, overnight — through a combination of the kind of nefarious magic found in cheap time-traveling fantasy novels blended with the rudimentary technology found in episodes of “Star Trek” (which you are old enough to remember) — you are transported into Elder World. You’ve fast-forwarded with a vengeance.
You wake up wondering why you’re surrounded by old people only to realize that you are one of the old people. You might call yourself a boomer, a rocker, a legend or a classic, but at a certain point you realize most respectful people are calling you “Ma’am,” “Sir” or, most unnervingly, “Hon.”
Now that Ringo Starr is most properly and without irony addressed as “Sir Ringo” and Meat Loaf has been referred to as “Mr. Loaf” by The Wall Street Journal as far back as 2004, we need to reassess how we think of ourselves and consider the best forms of address.
During a Q&A after a recent event, I was asked by a member of the audience how I react when called a syrupy “Dear” or “Hon” by a server or sales associate who might be slightly condescending because I’m the same age as the bad grandma who never remembered their birthday.
I told the audience that I always say, “Hiya, Toots,” and promise to let them know when I’d like their assistance.
Look, I worked retail when I was in my 20s and remember all too well how weird it was to think that anybody over 35 could want, well, anything.
When I worked at Bloomingdale’s, there was a dainty and beautiful woman, easily in her 70s, who regularly used to buy carefully fitted suits from the designer section. I got nervous every time I saw her because I was scared she’d have a heart attack in the dressing room.
Thinking back, however, what I remember most vividly is how fabulous she looked. I now wonder what her story was and wonder about whom she was meeting in those flattering, charming and elegant clothes.
Maybe you’ve got a different response to sudden aging. Maybe when you wake up and see that you’re older, you don’t think, “Whoa,” but instead, brush it off and think, “So what if my hair is a little wild? I’m only going to the mailbox.”
The only trouble is that this can lead to thinking, “Nobody will notice if there’s a stain on my shirt. Or that it’s misbuttoned. Or inside out. After all, there are only a few people in the studio and, sure, I’ll be on air discussing international politics, but it’ll only be for a couple of minutes.”
Or maybe one day you catch yourself thinking, “You know what would make a great Valentine’s present this year? Matching compression socks.” And then, especially if you can find a coupon, you actually buy them.
As we grow older, we need to adjust to the changes in the world and in ourselves. We need to update our playlists, our vocabularies, our ideas and our expectations.
Aging well is like riding a Harley: It’s important to keep up a steady speed and lean into the turns. We have to adjust our center of gravity.
Nature helps most of us with that last part whether or not we make the request. The rest of the tuneups we need to implement on our own.
Yet my Facebook friend Linda Thompson argues, “Old is a transient state: It comes and it goes. All one needs is a new love, any love, to become young again.”
OK, so you probably shouldn’t buy the new love compression socks until the relationship has traveled a few miles into the journey.
But almost anything can be made intriguing by those of us who understand what it’s like to go to sleep as Annette Funicello and wake up as Bea Arthur.
Say “arch support” like you mean it, Toots, and — whoa.