Yes, Country For Old(er) Men

If you want to know how to get on my bad side, just try reassuring me in the manner that someone in an online chat group recently tried to when I remarked that I was having lots of trouble sleeping lately, most recently due to a persistent shoulder and neck ache.  “You’re getting old!”, this person exclaimed.  When I reminded this person that I also recently started a ritual where I’m pushing around more than 600 pounds of heavy metal equipment on a cart on a regular basis, said person scoffed and said “A younger person could handle it”.  I have no doubt many could, but in my experience we tend to call those people defensive linemen.

Look, I can’t help when I was born, or the realities of what goes along with it.  I’m comforted to an extent when I look at population spreads and realize that folks 65 and older currently represent 18 per cent of the more than 340 million Americans, a proportion right in line with those of African-Americans and Latinos.  And contrary to the historically prejudicial beliefs of the advertising community, we are far more likely to be open to brand switches and embrace new technology than our parents and grandparents were.  And according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Zoe Kaplan, we’re gonna be an even more significant force to be reckoned with going forward:

The U.S. population age 65 and over grew nearly five times faster than the total population over the 100 years from 1920 to 2020, according to the 2020 Census.  The older population reached 55.8 million or 16.8% of the population of the United States in 2020. The number will increase to more than 95 million by 2060, and the percentage will rise to 23 percent.

But as I’m unavoidably aging into a demographic that folks who haven’t reached it would dismiss as being thoroughly inconsequential, I grow less and less tolerant of the more ignorant representatives of our statistical majority who seem to believe there’s something to gain from playing the age card.   What Nikki Haley said the other night really ground my gears:

“Trump and Biden are both about 80 years old. Trump and Biden put our country trillions of dollars deeper in debt, and our kids will never forgive them,” she said. “Both lack a vision for our country’s future because both are consumed by the past — by investigations, by vendettas, by grievances. Americans deserve better.”

There’s plenty of good reasons to dismiss these particular people for their lack of electability, but sorry, Nimarata, their age isn’t directly correlated with it.  Particularly in the case of the person ahead of you in your party’s polls, since their alleged cognitive decline was from a very, very low bar.  He was an idiot even when he was your age.  But you and your advisors seem to think that playbook resonates.  Good luck with that; Lord knows you lost whatever scintilla of a chance you might have had to get my vote.

I’ve been very, very diligent in reshaping my diet and lifestyle and currently weigh less than I did when I was 10 years old.  And since I got rid of what was left of my greying hair, even the most cynical younger folks can’t possibly guess my age.  There are some that would scoff that I’ve been going through a belated midlife crisis, and since I can’t afford a Corvette this was arguably my version of that sort of statement.   Some of those people used to be a lot closer to me.

I honestly feel a bit sorry for people who embrace with a fervor the reality of aging.  Look, I don’t mind the AARP discounts; frankly, I need to watch every single penny.  And I won’t dismiss having an early dinner, though seeking out places that cater to that kind of crowd isn’t on my priority list.  For those that it is, well, again, good luck with that.

With age comes wisdom and experience, and I’ll put mine right up there with absolutely anyone at any level, Gen X, Z, or even A.  I know I’ve built successful businesses, and somehow survived commuting to a workplace nearly every step of the way.   Sure, I’ve failed a lot, but I, for one, learned from my mistakes, let alone those of the people who preceded me.  I also took the liberty of learning what they did RIGHT.  I did all I could not to repeat the exact things they did wrong.  Can the current crop of mid-level media and tech executives who tend to consider folks of my demographic irrelevant say the same thing?

So perhaps I’m overly sensitive to those who seem to celebrate and more willingly embrace their actual age.  Someone I used to be closer to is reaching that milestone today.  You don’t need to necessarily send your regards; it seems many people I was also once closer to already did that a couple of weeks ago, at what looks like a fun party that I somehow never even got an invitation to.

If anything, that’s one of the true downsides of growing older.  You have more chances to learn what tends to drive people you once thought were infallible.  Many younger people still think this person is.  Maybe they’re getting treated better than I am.  I know how I felt when I learned about that party.  Far worse than I did even after pushing that cart around.

And that feeling has been especially enhanced since I recently learned of the passing of someone who worked for me decades ago.  This person is the second of my first team of “young turk” researchers at 20th Television who didn’t live to age into the 65+ demo.  When I learned of this person’s passing, it brought back many memories, some good, plenty bad.  It’s been a long, long time since I actually crossed paths with this person and, to be honest, this person didn’t invite me to a lot of parties, either, and I am told was dismissive and insulting of me at times as his career trajectory soared while mine struggled.  I’d share a picture of him but, honestly, no one seems to have any, and I’ve long since lost my scrapbooks.

Right now, I’d put how I feel about today’s birthday person in the same league as how I used to feel about my prematurely deceased former staffer.  Ambigious.  More than a little hurt.

Incidentally, it’s the same feeling I get when an HR person, or the algorithm they robotically follow, concludes that I’m “not a fit”, as has been the case in more than 1000 situations in the last 47 months.  That reality check check is what really keeps me awake, even more than my aches and pains and my aging prostrate.

Black Lives Matter?  Of course they do.  Old Lives Matter, Too.

Nonetheless, the Census facts show that despite the wishes of so many, I’m not going away anytime soon if I can help it.  And yes, I’ll emphatically pray that the Ultimate Arbiter sees fit to have me make good on that threat–er, vow.  Every day I’m blessed enough to wake up, even if it’s to run to the bathroom and/or reach for another Lidocaine patch.

Because it sure beats the alternative that befell my former staffers.  No one–and I mean NO ONE–deserves to die young.

Besides, what the person we most recently lost and I did have in common was being lifelong Met fans.  We met when the Mets had just become World Champions.  They haven’t repeated.  And, darn it, he’s not gonna see it when it does happen again (and, yes, I know, it almost certainly won’t be this year).

That sort of quixotic and naive belief that I’ll somehow make it to seeing them win again has gotten me through more than a few very, very trying nights.  Including ones that the birthday person was “too busy” to help me through.

But even though I often feel like I’ve been thrown under a bus, I won’t let that stand in the way of wishing birthday person all the best today, and for decades to come.

Happy birthday, you know who.  The picture’s not crossed out, either.

Until next time…

Leave a Comment