“Paper Shredder,” by Sh4rp_i, licensed under CC by 4.0

Free Gift! Raise Your Hand if You're Over Fifty

Free Gift! Raise Your Hand if You're Over Fifty

Free Gift! Raise Your Hand if You're Over Fifty

Own your age, grab a gift, and get over it already.

The cheery greeting reminded me of an overly helpful salesclerk trying to sell me on a living room sofa (with fabric guard!) when I hadn’t even measured the room yet. “Thanks, but I’m really —honestly — just looking.”

AARP’s first enthusiastic invitation snuck into the house snuggled between a grocery flyer and Valpak envelope. Wrong address? I looked for my former husband’s name, but nope, this was all about me. AARP was sooo excited to invite me into its club and dangled a very practical looking trunk organizer as the goody bag favor. Still in my late 40s at the time, I decided they’d tapped into bad data and shoved the invitation towards the to-be-shredded pile.

But it happened again the next month, and when I furtively examined the list of benefits beneath the insulated lunch pack!, it was startlingly clear that this was no accident. I’d made the mailing list because of my upcoming eligibility for discounts, deals & benefits! once my heels crossed the 50-year mark... a birthday that didn’t sit on my calendar so much as it loomed over the last half of the year. I’d emphatically dug my heels into year forty-seven, upped my running miles, and begun applying copious amounts of anti-aging anything to my face and body, but nonetheless...

Side note: Shallow? Absolutely. But let's talk about the older woman's super power of invisibility sometime. And yes, I’m fully aware and appreciative that “birthdays are better than the alternative,” that shoulder-shrugged consolation tossed at celebrants by well-meaning younger friends who secretly know they’ll beat all of it with better nutrition and exercise. My parents died at age 61, and I am deeply grateful to be annoying my three kids, live and in person. When I’m gone, they’ll surely focus on my better qualities, instantly forgetting all the potentially useful information I’ve faithfully slipped into forwarded emails and ill-timed texts that at least one of them never reads... “annoying” is a two-way street, Matt!

But AARP...!  Are you talking to me?!

I finally asked my aunt who has wisely and stylishly navigated a couple of extra decades on me. Wrong person. Turned out twenty years is long enough to get over the shock and simply appreciate the discounts. I then imagined myself listening to an almost thirty-year old version of me moaning about a grey hair and cringed a little. Sorry Sue. A high school classmate, ahead of me on the timeline, echoed my aggressive shredding strategy, but he scoffed with a little more confidence (men over the age of fifty versus women of the same age is a snark for another day).

So... ten (gulp) years later, I’m still dancing around AARP. It doggedly followed me when I downsized to my condo a few years ago. The Valpak coupons and grocery flyers remain its mailbox buddies when it checks in with me, but other things have changed; namely, the economy is sputtering, and discounts are as welcome as dim lighting in a changing room. Several of my friends are embracing their naturally gorgeous grey, and from where I now stand, fifty-year-old Heather begins to look a bit young and unexperienced.

So... maybe we can finally be friends, AARP. My next decade swoops in for a landing this fall. Older friends have moved on to talk of retirement and Medicare. So, maybe I’ll at least open the envelope. I’m driving a smaller car now, so maybe, if they’re still offering that trunk organizer, I’ll at least scan the benefits on my way to the shredder.

And honestly, if it’s still not for me, I’m almost old enough to just toss it into recycling now.

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