Blueprint for Boomers


Joe Arnstein

I’m older than you are.

Well, probably.

The great population bulge called the Baby Boomers refers to the seventy-eight million Americans born between 1946 and 1964.

I was born in 1944.

As a result, I’ve always felt ahead of your curve. Or perhaps on the crest of your wave. Or breaking the trail for your footsteps.

I graduated from high school before you did.

I drank legally before you did. That’s ‘cause I went to high school in New York City where the age was eighteen.

I drove illegally before you did. That’s ‘cause I went to high school in New York City where the age was eighteen.

I completed college before you did.

I got drafted before you did. Or maybe before you didn’t. Especially if you’re female.

I got arrested before you did.

I smoked dope before you did. Which had nothing to do with my being arrested. Think Amsterdam.

Oops. Forget the previous admission. In as much as I am a teacher, I did not ever smoke dope. Or at least I never exhaled.

Anyhow, now I am getting older before you do. Therefore, with considerable thanks to my students at Portsmouth High School, who just won’t stop reminding me about my advancing decrepitude, I have prepared the following guide so that you may know some of the things you have to look forward to as part of the aging process. I will try to list them quickly l as I find I have a slight tendency to forget things that I haven’t written down.

Most obnoxious: old people talk about their health. Or lack thereof. We do this a lot and some of us go to the doctors just to have some fresh grist for the conversation mill. It’s a fact that nobody at all wants to hear about our colonoscopy but other oldsters will pretend to care just so they can try to top us with their own disgusting “procedures.”

Hah. Just see if you can beat me, a serial hypochondriac. In the past five years I’ve had Parkinson’s, AIDS, a brain tumor, degenerative arthritis, an embolism, and a coronary. All of which somehow went away without medical intervention. One of the unsung miracles of modern science is that faced with sitting in a waiting room with a bunch of other patients for a doctor who is always behind schedule, some of us just cancel our appointments, go home, and get better on our own. Besides, what if one of the other patients is contagious? Those old People magazines look so bad that they might be carrying Ebola or the plague or terminal acne or something.

Of course, on occasion there are real and serious medical problems. My brother had one recently. I was so shaken by his condition that I almost forgot to ask who would get the Mercedes.

Didn’t matter. He got better. Anybody who has watched TV for more than six seconds knows that we now have pharmaceuticals for conditions that even God didn’t know existed. Of course, one of the side effects of your athlete’s foot cream may be suicidal actions, but so it goes.

Males, just please avoid any of those “performance enhancing” pills. You know, the grandma rape drugs. You should never ever be in a situation where someone can see you naked. I myself had my eyes lasered, and, as promised, can now see the clock when I wake up in the morning. Unfortunately, I can also now see myself in the mirror when I step out of the shower. I keep meaning to buy a sleep mask to wear until I get my clothes on but I haven‘t done this yet. For some reason I keep forgetting it when I’m at Rite Aid.

By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, we also get shorter. It’s gravity. Same thing that causes hairs to disappear from our heads and sprout lower. One of my students even mentioned something about eyebrow waxing. Yeah, thanks. At least no one has suggested I start shaving my ears. That I can recall.

Anyway, the previous generation didn’t spend their whole vehicular lives peering under steering wheels. This is something that occurs gradually.

When I was a kiddo, my dad had a height chart nailed to the kitchen door frame. It went up to six feet, so that was my goal. Eventually I was able to reach 5’ 10” and ¾, but only if I blew myself up like a bullfrog in heat. Now I’m down to somewhere around 5’ 8” and I don’t try to blow up anymore. That might cause tuberculosis or glaucoma or something else that I’d have to get over on my own.

Okay. We are going to become shorter and need booster seats for our cars. We will also drive much slower. This, of course, seems counterintuitive. In our sunset years, we should be in a hurry to get to as many places as possible before our sun actually sets. Eventually a road trip is going to be the one way kind. Nevertheless, there is a good reason for the decline in our velocity.

Though it escapes me at the moment. Don’t worry. I just had it and I’m sure I’ll think of it again.

Now if we’re on the road as pedestrians there is another golden age activity that I’ve found to be kind of fun. Sometimes when I’m waiting at an intersection a driver will stop to let me cross. I immediately take a few quick steps as if I’m going to repay the favor by hurrying out of his way. But every time I move a foot, I go slower and slower. By the time I get to the opposite curb it looks like I’m wading through saltwater taffy. I just imagine that I’m fighting a losing battle with a giant bungee cord. Looks cool as anything.

Again with thanks to my students, two other suggested activities are golf and bingo. These tend to depend on gender, though not necessarily. However, being male is an asset in golf because I may know more four-letter words. As for bingo, a friend of mine won an iron the last time she played, but it was one you use to make your clothes flat, not the throwing in the water hazard kind. Big deal.

Old people also complain. About our kids. When we’re not bragging about them. How come they never come to visit? How come they do come to visit? About the grandchildren. They never write. Even after I send them a dollar on their birthdays.

Did I mention that we sometimes forget things? Pretty understandable; our heads are kind of cluttered up with memories, many memories. Which probably explains why there isn’t a lot of room for all this tech stuff. Anything that has a battery should also come with a cord. The cord should be connected to a teenager.

Speaking of adolescents, the clothes that looked cool back in our day are no longer in style. Something about a granny dress on a granny just seems strange. Guys, an On the Waterfront t-shirt? No. Likewise anything from our hippie period. Ditch the ponytail. Long bald hair just doesn’t get it.

Finally, or almost finally, let’s move to Florida. Where we can add the heat to our list of complaints.

There was something else, but at the moment I just can‘t think of it. Probably not important anyhow.

Joe Arnstein is an old high school friend with whom I have recently reconnected.  He teaches Latin at Portsmouth (NH) Senior High School. This article originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in the Portsmouth Herald. For those who might like to catch a glimpse of Joe in the classroom, check out this YouTube video.  In it, he takes on the role of the wife of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus wishing to alert the populace that the king has been assassinated.


Issue Twenty Two