Gray hairs– I got ’em. I find them amusing and hope they will come in wiry so my hair will finally have a little bounce to it. They don’t make me feel old; they make me feel transformed.
An aching back– I have that too. It’s way less charming than my 4 gray hairs, but it makes me think of loving those fat-ass children of mine who love to be held and carried.
Failing hearing– Eh? What did you say? Oh, you said you love my blog and want to offer me a book deal? No? You just want me to shut up? Ok. Sometimes it bugs me that I can’t hear very well, but it’s probably less about getting old than it is about listening to my headphones entirely too loud during some angsty times (say, that decade between ages 23-33).
Children I used to babysit are old enough to be physicists and prisoners. My former teachers have passed to the Great Beyond. But none of this made me feel old. It took a 1998 Illinois court case to make me feel every inch my age.
Have you heard of Greenlaw v. Dept. of Employment Security, 299 Ill.App.3d 44, 1st Dist., 1998? I bet any of my vital organs you haven’t heard of it, because it’s not ground-breaking in any way. In fact, it’s a wholly unexceptional employment case where an insubordinate employee ultimately loses her eligibility for unemployment benefits because of her outburst in her supervisor’s office.
What did she say?
In the white-hot heat of the moment, she told her supervisor, “You can kiss my grits.”
That’s all you need to know about this case to understand my subsequent existential crisis. In a public setting today, I was discussing this case with some adults. We were having a lively legal debate about old Ms. Greenlaw and her “abusive” language. Offhandedly, I said to my interlocutors, “of course, we all know where Ms. Greenlaw got this insult, right?”
* crickets *
* blank stares *
Maybe they didn’t hear me. “Remember, Flo and her contentious relationship with Mel? How hot was their sexual tension? The precursor to Bruce Willis and Cybil Shephard in Moonligting and Sam & Diane in Cheers!”
* more crickets*
Not one of the nine people to whom I was conversing had ever heard of Alice, the 70’s sitcom featuring the one and only Linda Lavin.
Can I really be standing before almost a dozen people who have no idea what TV show I am talking about?
The answer is yes. They had never heard of Alice, or Mel, or dizzy Vera. I feel really sorry for them. No wonder their generation is so self-obsessed– they have never seen realistic depictions of what it’s like for a single mother to raise her teen-aged son in the big city while waitressing for a tyrant: those sexist pink uniforms, those little cows they had to pour the cream into, the lack of customers. Those were hard times! It was hard to watch, but I did because this was before moms had to entertain their children 24/7 with organic snacks and environmentally friendly hide-and-seek games.
I toyed with asking them if the names “Mork” and “Mindy” meant anything to them, but I was too depressed. As the conversation broke up (probably because I was sobbing about my impending death because I am so old), I dismissed them all, but just under my breath I was humming, “There’s a new girl in town, ’cause I’m feeling good! Got a smile, got a song for the neighborhood.”
But, I was singing to myself, because none of them knew the inspiring anthem that was the theme song to Alice.
And I may be old, but I have memories of great TV. What do they have– besides youth, Mad Men, and Apple products to stave off the fear of death?