Heather's Columns ....

A Very Merry Un-birthday

(This birthday greeting is reprinted with the permission of my friend Euan who is still not quite sure what to make of it — or me.)

Dear Euan,
Happy Fiftieth Birthday!

Except, well, (and I hate to be the one to break the news to you), you are not fifty, my friend.

The International Society of Geriatrics (or some such self-important organization) just declared that “sixty is the new forty-five”. I’ve done the math and, according to this new paradigm, you are actually around thirty-five or so.

Bummer, huh?

This means that your kids are still young (maybe even — ack! — adolescents) and therefore your budget remains unbalanced. Your sweet wife will once again recycle through menopause, just when you thought it was safe to allow her to wield sharp instruments in the home. It also means that your pecs and abs really should be in much better shape than perhaps they are (Looking great for fifty, my friend — but thirty-five?).


All because some international group of busy-body social scientists gathered at a luxury hotel for a “working conference” (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) then ran around with nametags looking for something to justify six full days out of the office. “Oooo! How about this? Why don’t we tell everyone that the age they are is not really the age they are because we, after careful deliberations and several margaritas, say so.”

Okay, so I’m fifty-five and that means I’m what? Thirty-nine? Forty? Forty-one? Recently, I took one of those How Old Are You Really? physical assessments. It lasted forty-five minutes, testing my strength, flexibility, and patience with surveys, exercise equipment, and electronic stuff hooked intimately under my underwear and jauntily on one earlobe. The cheerful youngster who administered these tests concluded that I am actually forty-two — though if I start eating breakfast and pumping iron twice a week, I could be thirty-eight. She could not, however, answer the most critical question: “But if I do that, will they rescind my AARP membership?” (The whole issue is totally confusing to my mother who simply does not remember giving birth to a child in the mid- 1960’s.)

This age recalculation thing apparently comes under the auspices of Revisionist Theory, a theory academics constructed to allow anyone with a PhD or higher to dig up whatever they want so that what you know isn’t so any more. For instance, the International Astronomical Union (obviously a bunch of PhD’s with job security issues) recently declared that Pluto is not really a planet after all (instantly creating decades of job security for themselves since no one else can follow the obscure logic behind the decision). Historians (who obviously get bored dealing with old stuff all the time) are infamous for invoking Revisionist Theory to re-write history, ruining some really good poems in the process: “Listen, my children, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. . . and Dr. Samuel Beckett who, after a tryst with his married girlfriend, actually rode farther than Paul.”

I do sympathize with Pluto and Paul (though as I understand it, Paul’s dishes are still selling quite well despite his demotion to secondary rider), but frankly I care more about me! (Well, and of course, you, dear Euan, since it’s your birthday that is in question.) I don’t want to be thirty-eight or forty-two! I lived through that last fifty-four years specifically so I could end up being fifty-five! At fifty-five, I get senior discounts (not that I can ever actually remember to use them) and have built-in excuses for a variety of incompetencies and inadequacies that simply were not available to me in my thirties and forties. (The excuses, that is. The incompetencies and inadequacies have always been present.) I don’t want to be revisioned out of my right to become saggy and crotchety! I refuse to be forced to know my “real” age when I can just barely remember my birth age! And I will not eat breakfast!

There. I feel better.

And so, dear Euan, though the well-deserved honor of turning the Big Five-O has been rudely ripped from you, I stand firmly against the scientific tide to wish you a heart-felt: Happy Fiftieth Birthday!!

Your (probably) older friend - Heather