The Dreaded Invitation

Dear Laura,

Our records show that you haven’t yet registered for the valuable benefits of AARP membership, even though you are fully eligible……

P.S.  You will receive your FREE WEEKEND DUFFLE BAG along with your new membership cards when you join.  This is a limited time offer.  To ensure availability of your free gift, please respond by the date on your membership form.

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First you say to yourself, I’m not old.  Then you wonder, where the hell did AARP get my address? Then you ask, when did I get so old.  Then you realize you’ve got more than 10 years before you can retire and question your eligibility for the American Association of Retired Persons.  Then you wonder how it is you ended where you ended up, working a government job, when all you ever wanted to do was write.  Then then you walk over to the recycle bin to dispose of your invitation and gift voucher for your free weekend duffle bag, hesitating for just a second, and sit down at your computer to sign up for a writing class.

*******************************************************

I wasn’t yet fifty when I started receiving these little harbingers of my impending old age, declining health and subsequent death. Every time the offer comes in the mail, my husband thinks it’s funny to take a picture of the letter and text it to me, this last time pointing out the words “fully eligible”. My younger husband, although also in his 50s, has yet to receive his AARP invitation. The comedian Janeane Garafolo joined.  She advised my husband and I directly (we were in the front row of her show) that’s it a good deal, but to “hold out ‘til they offer the backpack.”

As I write this, using google docs, the google research bar has popped up to graciously provide me with a list of related topics:

Old age
Increasing age as a risk factor refers to older adults and the elderly

Also known as
Aging dog

Diseases with this risk factor
Cellulitis

There you go. Make of it what you will.

I don’t feel old.  I’m certainly many years away from retirement, and from being classified as elderly.  I look in the mirror and I still see the 20-year-old, the 30- and 40-year-old, but I also see the wrinkles getting deeper and longer, and in areas on my face that make me wonder how often I frown in a day – or in a lifetime.  The gray hairs, that up until recently have been very few, have increased to the point that makes me want to run to my hair stylist for color, my resolve to never dye my hair again shot to hell.

Somewhere along the way, I became the oldest person in my office and I really don’t know when that happened.  I feel I’ve entered this strange, ethereal place, somewhere between young and old, where time travels faster, and I have nothing to hang onto. My body is doing all sorts of things of its own accord and I have no control. I have no idea what to wear anymore – what’s too young, what’s too old, what looks good on my ever-changing body, how to look sexy in comfortable shoes.

They call this middle-age, but technically I am passed middle-age, as I have considerable doubts I’ll reach the age of 110. Yet, according to Merriam Webster (thank you again, google research bar) middle age is the period of life from about 45 to about 64.  Therefore, it appears I am in the middle of my middle age, and, I suppose, this entitles me to a mid-life crisis.

But like I said, I don’t feel old.  In fact, in many ways, I feel like I haven’t grown up yet.  I still have many of the same neuroses and insecurities I did as a young adult with more to add.  I still have issues with my mother and she’s been dead for over 10 years. I ask my therapist, so when do I get all cocky and confident and no longer give a shit what others think.  But she really doesn’t have an answer for me.  Her approach is to have me figure it out for myself. What do I pay her for?

Maybe I can find some insight into my existential angst at AARP, so I take a look at their online magazine. There is a section on cruises, not my style of vacation, and a profile of David Hasselhoff – the Baywatch Star is Still Hot.  The last time I saw David Hasselhoff he was in a car that talked to him and I didn’t really care for that show either. There is also an article entitled: Rock and Roll Recovery – Worried that your misspent youth could affect your long-term health? Here’s how to assess the damage and make a comeback.  Well, that seems to be a lot more useful.  A headline reads: Get Thinner, Put Your Home on a Diet and I have no idea what that means.  There’s even a special style edition featuring beauty tips for women 50, 60, 70, and beyond! But, alas, I must be a member to access any of these tips that could change my life.

Of course, there are the discounts. Isn’t that why people join AARP?  They offer 10% off at the Outback Steakhouse; I am a vegetarian.  They offer a free Dunkin’ donut with an extra-large beverage; what about healthy living to fight old age? But they do offer a wide variety of discounts and I’m sure I could find some I would use.  Still, I must admit, I am not yet persuaded to fork over the $16 a year to join, even with the free weekend duffle bag.

I know there must be more to AARP.  I scroll down the website, past all the visual noise of advertisements, membership pitches, and discounts, and finally get to the About AARP link. AARP was founded by a former teacher and principal, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, who witnessed retired teachers struggling to make ends meet and without health insurance. In response, she became an elder rights activist and founded the National Retired Teachers Association, the precursor to AARP, to help secure affordable health insurance for her colleagues, a humble and honorable origin. Politically, the organization has been vocal against the repeal the of the Affordable Healthcare Act and actively lobbies for affordable housing and healthcare.  These are issues I can get solidly behind, and Ethel Percy Andrus seems to be a good role model for aging women.

Here’s what I know. Growing older is an unknown and scary journey, but it’s exciting too, because there is so much to yet to do, and I do know more now than I when I was younger, and that little bit of wisdom is a gift that only requires membership in life. So, I focus on health and love and living a life of value, creativity, and generosity, because that’s really all I can do. And there’s more to AARP than meets the eye, so maybe, one day, I’ll join.  But I’m holding out for the backpack. Thanks for the tip Janeane.

 

 

Author: 2 black dogs

Laura Preftes

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