Who Says I’m Getting Long In The Tooth?

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By Bruce Buschel

As you exit a gourmet market with a chockablock shopping bag in either hand, an employee holds the door open and says, “Have a great day, young fella.”

You halt in your tracks. The tone is polite and the intention well meaning, but the doorman knows full well you are not a “young fella.” You are a 72-year-old fella who knows the definition of sarcasm is the use of irony to mock or convey contempt, and the definition of irony is stating the opposite of the truth for humor or emphasis.

You wonder if you should say something like, “If I were African-American, would you have said, ‘Have a great day, Caucasian dude’? Or if I were morbidly obese, would you have said, ‘Have a great day, Beanpole’?”

You say nothing. Anything would sound like “Get off my lawn!” Even though you have a song in your heart and a pretty good hop in your step today, you fear he sees no more than crow’s feet encroaching on a white unironic mustache perched above a smile. If the doorman needed to add an unnecessary honorific to “Have a great day,” couldn’t he have found a visual target other than your sags and wrinkles?

After all, you are wearing a gray jacket with epaulets, ludicrously skinny blue jeans, new white New Balance sneakers, and an old black Eagles cap. (That’s right: I’m from Philadelphia and Philadelphians are a particularly sensitive lot, especially when unflattering words are hurled in their direction or snowballs whiz by their heads.) You would like to hear, “Have a great day and congratulations to the Eagles.” Or, “Have a great day. Go Nova!” You hear only a sophomoric wisecrack about being a senior citizen.

To the millennial at the door, you wish you had said: One knows when one is getting old, young friend; one is reminded often and dramatically, consistently and subtly, and one need not be reminded when one is shopping for dinner with friends in a blissful, if temporary, bubble that obviates the passage of time and the nearness of the grim reaper.

You have a hankering to explain all this in complex detail, but you realize folks of so few years prefer snappy lists to protracted essays, so you produce a baker’s dozen of the ways you know you are getting long in the tooth.

1. You use terms like “baker’s dozen” or “long in the tooth.”
2. You were offered a seat on the subway by a pregnant woman.
3. You watch “Jeopardy” (and excel with questions about the ’50s and ’60s).
4. You talk to more doctors than bartenders any given week.
5. You do not know one musical group in the Billboard Top 10. (You do not know if there still exists a Billboard Top 10. Or if they still ascribe a bullet to an ascending song. You hope not.)
6. You have Apple products you still don’t know how to use.
7. You receive glazed looks when you mention Tony Curtis or Norman Mailer.
8. You find yourself brushing your long teeth with warm water.
9. You take a nap when you have no intention of taking a nap.
10. You meet someone new and her first question is, “Are you retired?”
11. You get a senior citizen discount at the movies without asking for one.
12. You hear “Sir” and look around for your Uncle Joe or Father Xavier.

Baker’s Bonus:
13. You are younger than Ringo and always will be.

Bruce Buschel is a writer, producer, director, and restaurateur who lives in Bridgehampton, New York

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