Growing old is not for sissies, or so the saying goes, although a viable alternative has yet to be proposed. Other than dying young of course, an option singularly lacking in popularity. But seriously, from the age of about 50 most people begin to suspect their “best before” date has gone, and if they were lettuce they’d be pretty limp by now.
Eggs no longer sink like stones but yo-yo a bit before slowly descending, fruit gets soft, bread used to get hard but now it just gets mouldy – much the same with cheese – and although meat gets tender it also starts to smell a bit. Supermarkets remove such items from their shelves, but no benign deity does the same for living creatures.
Dogs, cats, horses, and humans – most of all – live long past our average sell-by dates: domestication has doubled the life expectancy for pets, while modern medical and nutritional advances have extended mankind’s average to near-Biblical proportions. We’re not quite on a par with Abraham and Sarah, let alone Methuselah, but give us time…
Ironically, we live in an Agist world which values youth above almost everything, including qualifications, experience and a proven track record. The average life expectancy for the educated middle class may be in the mid to late 70s, but ‘old age’ today begins today at 50, and the retirement age is diminishing to meet it.
Now, while I live in the Republic of Rosebank, my best friend and her daughter – my God-daughter – live in the south. The DEEP south. No judgement. She is well-to-do, but if you want to keep a menagerie of dogs, cats, goats, Alpacas, peacocks, poultry, and lots and lots of horses, it’s not going to happen in Houghton. Or Hyde Park. Or any of the usual monied enclaves.
So this pub quizz to which I was invited was in The South – my God Daughter wanted to win tickets to attend Rocking the Rhinos or some such music event, and since her dad was not available, I was invited to join the team of two. My second oldest friend lives in the vicinity and was easily persuaded to join us.
Age is not something that has concerned me much since I was retrenched: my young black colleagues regarded me as being in triple digits and were amazed at my ability to get myself to the office every morning.Plus both my children are abroad so I no longer see the polite glaze when I offer an opinion an they and their friends smile politely while thinking “WTF do you know, at your age?”.
My best friend still works though: she has a high profile job in an industry that values youth, but has the sense to realise her experience is invaluable. She also has her children around her often, and their friends.
She was concerned, she told me, about how people would react to us. The pub was in the south, in the Alberton vicinity, near the Mall of the South, and at first I thought she was talking about the language or the culture distinction. But no. Sundowners attracts a young crowd and since we are both closer to 60 thn to 50, we can no longer be called Young. Or even Middle Aged.
In my four months of solitude, I’d forgotten I was old. I have a couple of freckles on my hands which I choose to blame on not having worn sunscreen. They are NOT liver spots. I am no longer a redhead: I am a faded ‘didn’t you used to have red hair?’ head. And I have some laughter and some frown lines.
But it was not until I walked into that pub in the South that I understood why my friend was uneasy. I may feel in my thirties but I no longer look it: We do not have Zimmer Frames or Walkers but we may as well have. Three geriatrics and one teenager walked/hobbled into the bub, and we were noticed.
Our table was at the back, in a dark corner, and so we named our team The Dark Horses. Written off as an Old Age Home outing, courtesy of one kind teen, we decided to surprise everyone with the wealth of general knowledge we had retained – despite our senility.
A financial information specialist/librarian; a picture editor/columnist/photographic librarian; a professional photographer/dog sleigh champion/farmer, and a first year university student, we were the smallest and oldest [average] team, and the quizz master treated us with the kindly patronage he probably gives to his grandparents.
We were soft-spoken, old, quiet newcomers: Our single male member was one of the few men who did not sport a Viking [the tv series] hair do, none of us has a visible tattoo, we women showed no cleavage, and I was the only person in the pub not wearing trousers.
But what a team! The Screaming Orgasms and the Hairy Butt-Scratching Dicks and others with similar names were left in the shade as we oldsters quietly and sedately galloped toward the finish in first place.
But alas, none of us follow sport. Or, it materialised, contemporary music. From leading in the fifth round, we dropped to fourth place in the sixth and final round, which was about music: the questions dealing with pre-1980 music we nailed, but the recent stuff? Forget it. The post 2015 questions [or 90% of them] were beyond all of us, including our teenager.
So we went from hero to zero: general knowledge, history, geography, literature 0r even natural sciences – we were good. But as soon as contemporary culture in the form of sport, and music was introduced, we bombed, we sucked, and we dropped from first to fourth.
GOLDEN LADS AND GIRLS ALL MUST
LIKE CHIMNEY SWEEPERS COME TO DUST