On Sundays, a ten percent discount is given to seniors at Garden of Eden, a Manhattan market. Last Sunday, I was there, buying tomatoes, cucumbers, and red peppers. Another shopper, picking tomatoes, said, “They could do better by us, don’t you think?”
“Sure,” I said. “I usually buy my vegetables at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday, but didn’t have a chance yesterday.”
The woman went on, “I don’t mean the quality. The 10% discount they give us isn’t bad. 20 would be better, but hey, let’s not complain.”
Ouch! “So I guess you can tell I am a senior then.” I glanced at the slightly stooped woman with white hair and a very lined face. It was the first time someone who looked significantly older—a stranger yet—included me in her club.
It wasn’t the first time someone assumed I was eligible to reap the benefits that come with age. Two years ago, on a road trip through the southwest, I asked for a senior pass at the Zion National Park entrance and got it. No identification was needed.
A few weeks ago on a crowded bus, a young man got out of his seat. For me. “Here Ma’am,” he said. “You sit.” Guys used to occasionally give me winks and smiles. Now it’s ma’am and seats.
Until recently, I passed for young. Or younger than my age. In my twenties, as a new teacher, I took my class on a field trip to the Museum of National History. The guard at the door asked, “Where’s the teacher?” “Right here.” I held up my hand. He and the guard beside him cracked up. One afternoon in my late-twenties, at a butcher’s, I bought a brisket, steaks, and lamb chops. While wrapping everything, the butcher said, “Your mother must be doing a heap of cooking or stocking up her freezer. Nice you run her errands.” In my thirties, more than a once I got, “You don’t look old enough to be a mother.”
Sweet-talk of that nature continued for another fifteen years. Now, despite my wearing the same kind of clothes I wore in college in almost the same size, and my ‘almost daily’ work-outs, except from my husband, I don’t get regular oh-how-young-you-look comments nowadays.
Time waits for no one. Not for budding or fading superstars. Not for the previous generations. Or for our children and theirs. And not for us: the once-invincible baby boomers, who no longer sing with our Sir Paul “When I’m 64.”
The year I turned 8, my Aunt Yetta turned 50. My father and I used to visit her on Sundays. On our way to her house two days before her 50th birthday, Dad told me she received a letter from Golden Agers, a club for senior citizens, saying she was eligible to join.
“That depressed her,” he said. “Wish her a Happy Birthday, but don’t mention her age, Golden Agers, or her eligibility.”
The second we walked in, I said, “Daddy told me you’re eligible.”
Fortunately, my aunt laughed.
So now I am eligible. Very eligible. My family’s last generation is gone except for my 93-year-old Aunt Dora, my first babysitter and Scrabble opponent, now in hospice care. When I call her, I tell her about my newish husband, whom she never met, and about my better Scrabble words. “You taught me well,” I said on Sunday, not wanting to hang up.
Now it’s my turn to laugh at comments and wisecracks about my eligibility, and as the Garden of Eden shopper reminded me, about my fading youth. A 10% discount for us seniors isn’t bad. I still get my vegetables. I still get my kicks. Enormous ones, too. So as the lady in produce also said, “Hey, let’s not complain.”