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Nov 14, 2022

Age Isn’t “Just A Number”—It Is a Number

On the cusp of a birthday, his cusp runneth over

By Ed Goldman

Since we use numbers to indicate so many things in our lives—from baseball scores to body weight to the cost of gasoline—why, when it comes to our age, do we feel the need to insist, “It’s just a number”?

I’ve never heard of stockbrokers telling clients whose earnings have just plummeted, “Look, a 133 percent decline is just a number. It’s how you feel about losing everything that really matters!”

Edgy Cartoon

Lard of the Dance

I’m at the point where people feel compelled to remark, upon discovering my age, that I: (a) “really don’t look it;” (b) “still seem quite spry, considering”(note: using the word “spry” is a dead giveaway that I do look it); or (c) “must be enjoying retirement.“

Let’s comment on each of these—and quickly, just in case the actuarial charts are correct.

I: a) do look my age but am still either energetic or immature, depending on how you perceive it; (b) am about as “spry” as you’d expect someone to be whom you characterize by using the name of a once-popular vegetable shortening (apparently, “the Crisco Kid” was taken); and (c) have not retired and have no plans to do so.

To address the latter: I’ve worked for myself, in my home, for more than 38 years, set most of my own deadlines, generally sleep and eat when I feel like it and have healthcare coverage. In short: What would I do differently if I retired?

I don’t play golf and have never been (nor feel a current need to go) to Hawaii or Las Vegas. I spent a number of years volunteering as a member of, and even presiding over, several nonprofits but finally realized I was becoming increasingly board. (Note to retired English teachers: “Board” was a hopeless pun, not a fatal grammatical error. And if calling me on it is how you’re spending your retirement, maybe you should go back to work.)

I’ve found that aging makes me more “mindful” but I’m pretty sure it’s not the concept derived from Buddhism. But Zen again, it could be.

For instance, if I drop something on the floor I now rarely bend over to pick it up at my previous Mach speed—although, my slow-mo method of exertion probably resembles the technique they used on “The Bionic Woman” when she supposedly was running or jumping so crazy-rapidly that only by slowing down the playback could our naked eyes perceive her motion. Maybe I should tape myself picking up something in my actual, deliberate way, then play it back in fast-forward mode. I think it would get at least 50 views on YouTube (but only because I’m dating someone with an enormous family).

The first time I was aware of the fact that time wasn’t hitting the pause button on my behalf was on my 60th birthday some years ago.

I had just paid for my groceries at the Natural Foods Co-op when I saw a little tent card on the checkout counter that said, “10 Percent Discount Today for Customers 60 and Older!”

I plucked the driver’s license from my wallet and showed it to the cashier who’d just rung up my purchase. “Hey, look! I qualify for your discount,” I said. “Today’s my 60th birthday!”

Already busily ringing up the next customer, he said in a judgment-free monotone, “I already gave you the discount, sir.”

I hope he noticed how spryly I slunk out the door.

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).