My body has no shortage of devices to tell me that 18 was a long, long time ago. “In your dreams” is literally the last vestige of my physical youth. But my mental youth? That’s a more complicated story.
This week I turned 64, which is old enough to make me grateful that I actually made it to 64. I’m a card-carrying old man. Well, maybe not card-carrying, but my plastic SMTWTFS pill box is close enough.
The retort “It’s better than the alternative” takes the fun out of groaning that “I hate getting old” when my bones don’t want to leave an easy chair. Especially when I catch myself saying, “Oh, yea.”
But tucked inside my gray head is a handsome teenager with boundless energy to gambol though my dreams. I like that guy. And whenever I can, I invite him out into the daylight.
Act your age. The person who came up with that stupid phrase had to be a centenarian at birth. Why in the world would I want to act like a 64-year-old. I am a 64-year-old, for God’s sake. I don’t have to act to be one. Any day of the week, I can be a doddering old fool who can’t hear and who doesn’t get half the jokes of TV comics.
I’d prefer not, however. As a college professor, I swim in a fountain of youths every day. I watch gangly freshmen grow into strong men and beautiful women. I hear the current term for “good” (cool, bad, bomb, etc.) change each year. And I delight in using the newest technologies and stumping my students with references to pop culture (gleaned from the Web, of course).
I like being around young people. Sure, sometimes they seem as dumb as a post, but I’ve learned to forgive the lack of life experience as I collect more than I can use. Their smiles are still untainted by mortgages and bosses from hell. They shoot secret glances across the classroom like fishing lines of love. And they blush when they realize I saw them.
Most of all, they keep me young.
If I am young, but I am 64, then I have no appropriate age to act. So I don’t. I tell weird jokes that elicit more groans the guffaws. I listen to music from any era. I dance when there is no music at all.
And if it turn quickly, I catch glimpses of 18-year-old in the mirror. Acting the way he darned well pleases.