On being ... older than I feel

By Ingrid Sapona

Like most folks, I look in the bathroom mirror as I’m flossing and brushing, or doing my hair. It’s a funny thing – even though you may look at yourself every day and you know changes are happening – you don’t notice signs of aging as they occur. Instead, they kind of bonk you in the head from time-to-time. One day as you’re putting on your mascara you notice a few gray eyebrow hairs, or you notice that when you smile those crow’s feet around your eyes are becoming pretty pronounced. By-and-large, I’d have to say that so far, the physical changes are no big deal.

The truth is, I feel great. Sure, a few aches and pains, but nothing out of the ordinary and when I look in the mirror I’m ok with what I see. But, despite my relative youthfulness, more-and-more these days I catch myself saying things that sound like something my mother or (late) father would say.

A classic example occurred just this morning when I was reading about Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s decision “to spend $40 billion a month to buy mortgage-backed securities.” The quoted text I just typed is exactly how the newspaper put it. But, this is how the voice in my head read it: “Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s decision to spend $40 BILLION – that’s with a B – not an M…”

That emphasis on the billion, and the little added comment about it starting with a B, not an M, is something my father used to do all the time. He’d say the amount and then, as if he thought someone would call him out for being mistaken or exaggerating, he’d reconfirm by emphasising “that’s million, with an M!” It was also his indirect way of pointing out how out-of-control prices were getting.

I know it was sometime during Bush 43’s presidency (with two wars going on) that millions became billions without many folks taking note. More alarmingly, it seems that lately, billions (with a B) are all-too-frequently giving way to Trillions (with a T). Maybe that’s why I’ve sort of assumed the mantel of my father – trying (in vain) to draw attention to these astronomical figures. I’m afraid that it’s only a matter of time before I start spouting an updated version of one of dad’s other money bon mots: “that’s when a billion bought something”.

But it’s not just money matters that have me channeling my parents more and more. Recently I was working out in the gym in my condo building when a young man walked in. As is my habit, when the door opened I turned to see who it was and, though I had never seen him before, I politely said “good morning”. To my surprise and irritation he didn’t acknowledge me or the fact that I had spoken to him. Yes – it occurred to me he might not have heard me – but I said it fairly loudly and I before I spoke I looked to see whether he had any ear buds in. He didn’t.

Next thing you know, I stopped what I was doing and walked up to him. I waited until he looked up at me and I sternly repeated, “Good Morning”. Though he was clearly surprised at my persistence, he quietly replied, “good morning” adding (by way of explanation, I guess): “Sorry, I’m a low talker”.

I’m relieved to report that on hearing his explanation, I didn’t blurt out: Low Talker? What the hell is that? – Even though that’s what I was thinking. Instead, I meekly smiled and resumed my workout, hoping my behaviour didn’t seem too much like a grouchy senior who thinks it’s her job to instill manners in folks of a younger generation.

Mind you, I wasn’t so embarrassed by the incident that I kept it to myself. Most who I told the story to (mainly other residents who frequent the gym) got a laugh and said they would have had a hard time not commenting on the “low talker” response. One friend, however, explained that she thought the “low talker” reference was to something in a Seinfeld episode. That news didn’t thrill me either… nothing like realizing you’re out of touch with pop culture references to make you feel even older.

It’s little incidents like these (which seem to be occurring more frequently) that remind me that, no matter how good I feel, I’m definitely getting old. That said, I take some solace in the fact that at least I’m still young enough to notice these quirks!

© 2012 Ingrid Sapona


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