My girlfriend Jane just learned of my actual age–wheedled it out of me, actually–after I had carefully spent nearly six months dodging the nasty subject.
I never lied about my age, just steered clear of all topics that might lead to an admission. I hid my Medicare card in my wallet and held my thumb over the birth date on my driver’s license. My policy regarding age has long been, Don’t ask, don’t tell.
The reason, of course, is that my new girlfriend is almost 20 years younger than I am, though it sounds pretty silly to refer to someone of 47 as a “girlfriend,” but “lady friend” sounds dated, if not antique. At just what age does a woman segue from girlfriend to lady friend? Feminists used to object to “lady,” which always sounds to me more like the name of a pet dog (i.e., “Lady and the Tramp”) or a Margaret Dumont type.
A “lady friend” is how I refer to my 87-year-old stepfather’s companion; “woman friend” seems sort of bloodless, and “significant other”–which always had a musty sociology textbook ring–has happily disappeared. We clearly need a new phrase. Designated lover, perhaps? Friend of the female persuasion? Gal pal? Femme sidekick? On the other hand, “girlfriend” (as in, “You go, girl!”) has become a term of endearment among women of all ages, and now races, so maybe “girlfriend” is undergoing a facelift.
In any case, while out walking said feminine person’s dog, the subject of my age raised its gruesome head, and Jane confessed that she had sort of figured it out. I had tried to deduce her age, but she was equally (if far less purposely) vague, so when friends asked me how old she was, I would estimate somewhere between 45 and 50, hoping it was closer to 50 but fearful she might be nearer 40, too tender for the mangy likes of me.
When I reluctantly revealed the cruel figure, she was greatly relieved, saying, “I thought you might be even older, like 70 or something.” For many years I reveled in the fact that I looked younger than my age, but something really bad seems to have transpired about five years ago when people stopped saying how young I looked for my age. Then I realized that everyone who complimented me was my age.
I think I look about my actual age, but now I worry I might look even more crusty after hearing Jane’s remark that I might be “even older.” It turns out that I’m just about as old as she figured and that she is about as old as I calculated through a complex formula involving her daughter’s age, her marriage date and the year she got her degree.
Now I’m troubled by the realization that I’m closer by five years to her father’s age, 81, than I am to hers–not a pretty thought at all, and I only pray it hasn’t occurred to her yet. I’m only slightly encouraged by the fact that her former boyfriend was seven years younger than I am–and a lot of good that did him.
For years, being coy about one’s age was something I assumed only women of A Certain Age practiced, but now that I am a guy of A Certain Age I understand how little old ladies feel. It turns out that I’m a bit of an old lady myself. I enjoy tearooms, rocking chairs and strawberry daiquiris, just for starters. The fact is, I’ve sort of been an old lady for years. Any day now, I expect to start watching “The Guiding Light” and Lawrence Welk reruns, wearing shawls and collecting Hummel figurines.
But I’m still far from ready to become a little old man, and I plan to remain secretive about my age to outsiders, who don’t know that, behind this Civil War veteran mask, I remain a rakish, boyish bon vivant. Indeed, one of the few things that sustain me in my approaching dotage is that, aged as I may be, I’m a decade younger than Hugh Hefner and am doing fine, even without the aid of a Playmate on each arm to prop me up.
And while I may be older than absolutely necessary, I can claim that, thanks to Jane, my shelf life has still not quite expired.
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