Twenty or so years ago, when I was doing a fair amount of television, an older and presumably wiser performer told me to stop telling people how old I was. Why? I wondered. I was young, what’s the big deal? You won’t always be, she replied, and in this business, people, especially women, have a best before date. No need to let everyone know what that date is.
It wasn’t bad advice, and I took it. At the time, there were hardly any women over 40 in media, let alone 50 or 60. Now there’s Ellen. Oprah. Katie Couric. Madonna. Barbara Walters retired this month at the age of 86. Jesus, there’s Betty White. She’s been old longer than I’ve been alive. I don’t lie about my age. I’m not sensitive about it. I just don’t think it defines me. I mean, I have the knees of a 75 year old, and the sense of humour of a 14 year old.
Which I needed last week when I went for a massage. I hurt my shoulder when I fell off my bike (like an 8 year old), and bruised my rotator cuff (like a 50 year old). The masseuse, a woman seemingly older than me, was quite adept, and we chatted about the upcoming Ride to Conquer Cancer, which, I informed her, I was doing with my husband and children. How nice, she said! Who’s going to look after the grandchildren?
It took me a second to realize she was referring to MY grandchildren. The ones she thought I might have. I was stunned. I mean, it’s biologically possible. Even socially, I suppose. Aidan, after all, is 21, and quite capable of fathering a child, even if he’s not capable of cleaning his room or negotiating a mortgage. But to assume that I was in that wheelhouse was presumptuous. And, let’s face it, not very flattering.
But then it got worse. A few minutes later, trying to make conversation (because I had dozed off, as we seniors are wont to do), she asked me if I was still working. STILL WORKING? Are you KIDDING me? This was literally a case of adding insult to injury. It took all I had not to hit her with my cane. Instead, I put on my orthopedic shoes, hitched up the depends, and drove home slowly in the left lane.