THE GREAT THING ABOUT BECOMING an old geezer is that you are allowed to be outrageous and blame it on senility. More on that later, but first, the other big thing you notice upon reaching the threshold of the elderly years is that you start to become invisible.
Back when I had just turned 55, I told a TV executive mate of mine that I had recently enjoyed a documentary screened by his channel. He looked at me with faint amusement and said, “That’s a pity – we don’t really count you,” he said, his lips dripping with condescension.
Turns out I was now just one year beyond the upper end of the demographic his network actually cared about.
That same week I went to speak at one of those new-fangled churches where everyone calls you ‘bro’ and they ask you what snacks you’d like in the special speaker’s lounge before the service.
Snacking on dried apricots, I idly flipped through the church’s weekly newsletter. It had one of those tear-off thingies with age-range boxes you can tick to register whether you’d like to be contacted.
The last box on the list was for people aged 39-54.
I suddenly felt very ancient and even more invisible.
I have attempted to fight back against such ageism by pretending I am slightly mad. My daughter – aged about 16 at the time – came with me to a conference on Christian philanthropy, and I persuaded her to pretend she was my Bulgarian concubine whom I had met over the internet.
She carried it off perfectly, even telling one concerned woman that my wife had run off with the pool-man.
I was never invited back.
When all else fails, I seek advice on how a geezer should behave from my life-long mentor, Mr R.F. Greenwood, aged 65, of Geelong, Australia. He wrote recently to me advising …
Do not contribute to conversations with the general populace. Your time has passed. You have nothing remotely interesting to say, you are slow and inarticulate, you are boring and prone to repeat yourself. Your short term memory is rubbish. Your short term memory is rubbish. Listen if you must, but keep the mouth shut. People will think you wise and interesting.
Men, shave your head immediately. You do not have an attractive head of hair. You are a wreck. Get a life. Each time you shave the head, have someone do the nose-hairs and the ears.
Do not go “ughh” every time you get up from a chair.
And do not ask people to repeat themselves. You missed it, move on. There will be other opportunities.
Your ailments and inadequacies are deeply interesting to no one.
Give away all your stuff. Keep a bed and chair for each person, and a huge TV. Make the move soon enough that you can reap the benefits while you are still partially mobile. You will be saving angst later, and your children won’t have to fight over the family home, because you spent the remaining money in the south of France.
Stay up late, and get up at lunchtime the next day. Watch all of Wimbledon and the Tour de France. Refuse child-minding duties on the basis that you must go out to lunch that day.
Eat what you like. It will take 10 years or more for obesity or cholesterol to catch up with you, and you’ll be ready to go by that date.
I’m tired now, and I need my nana-nap.
Rob Harley is a celebrated Kiwi journalist, documentary-maker, story-teller, Harley-Davidson-rider, and author of ‘The High Voltage Hedgehog’.