She Comes On Like a Dream

As I have ranted about more than once in the past, I don’t think much of this 60 is the new 40 racket.  It gets filed away in a corner of my mind marked Deluded Baby Boomer Bullshit.

I mean, come on.  Do you read the obituaries as avidly as I do?  Some of the aforementioned New 40s are going down like they’re really 60-year-olds.  Even with all the euphemisms rampant in almost every obituary, none of them seems to mention that, “although born in 1948, Geraldine, who never met a stranger, was actually only 42 years old.”

I know, I know.  We all look pretty good, we take care of ourselves, we exercise, we moisturize, we rationalize, blah, blah, blah.  Unfortunately, nobody seems to have apprised my individual body parts that they are 20 years younger than they think they are.  Worse, in acts of open rebellion and sheer spite, they sometimes loudly and painfully insist they may, in fact, be 90 years old.

All of which was occurring to me, in my usually jumbled frame of mind, when I turned 61 on Thanksgiving Day.  I’m pretty sure I minded sharing the day with a turkey more than I minded turning another year older, but you can probably file that notion under delusion, as well.  As usual, I pondered this whole aging dilemma in a very confused way, wondering why I’m far happier than I was when I was younger, but I’m still not that enthusiastic about crow’s feet and imminent death and ageist condescension from smart-alecky teenage store clerks who are going to be really sorry when all their tattoos are wrinkled, ha, ha, ha.

But anyway, I’d already warned my husband that I required a birthday cake with good icing.  “What’s good icing, exactly?” he asked, which almost sent me into a total swivet.  Where have I gone wrong? I wondered.  We’ve been married all those years — and he’s still not clear on what’s required for good icing? It reminded me of the year he got me a German chocolate cake for my birthday at a time so long ago I wasn’t even the original 40.  God.  I don’t think even Germans like German chocolate cake.

After we settled that matter, I ended up changing my mind and got a key lime pie and a cheesecake, both of which were divine.  That’s when it dawned on me that the only problem with turning 61 is that nobody ever writes songs about that age.  All the songwriters are focused on 16 or 17, for some reason.

In fact, the only song I could think of about reaching a far higher number is When I’m 64.  Funny to think of how old and unreachable that once sounded, sad to think that only two of the Beatles lived that long.

I don’t think I’m young, I don’t think I’m in my new 40s, I just think referring to my age as Sweet 61 has a certain whimsy and defiant glow to it.  Carpe the rest of it, however long.

(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read a post I really like called The View from the Backseat

25 comments… add one
  • Cindy A Link

    I hate it when I make a comment about something a little too far in the past and a tattoed young renegade who needs to be surgically removed from his i-phone looks at me like I need dusting.

  • I love that you paired moisturize with rationalize. Made me giggle.

  • Belated happy birthday, Ruth, and many, many happy returns. One good thing about sharing a birthday with a turkey is that someone at the festive table has worse wattles. Unfortunately, my birthday is in May, when everything is young and in bloom, tra-la. Bah humbug, say I.

    Please, enlighten your devoted readers: what is ‘good’ icing? xo

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    My God, Tessa. It has to be butter-cream.

  • Loved this!
    And Happy Birthday!

  • when i turned 52, my daughter marnie said “52 is the new 51 mom.” it made me laugh.

  • Happy Birthday. You know there is no rule that you can’t have cake with buttercream icing the day (or week) after your birthday. Just sayin’.

  • Ah, the rest of the story…
    I was intrigued that your hubby had once bought you a German chocolate birthday cake and that he still needed to be told of the correct kind of icing. Those bits of info rounded out your The Birthday Cake posting of 3/9/09, which remains my all-time favorite among your humorous posts. (See

    Loved the category, Deluded Baby Boomer Bullshit. Speaking of which, I saw a story about divisions surfacing within the ranks of Baby Boomers in yesterday’s USA Today newspaper. I think the later Boomers are growing jealous of the emphasis being placed on the memories of earlier Boomers– that’s us. There may be a schism!

  • Thanks for your post. I know another song–Koko Taylor sang a blues song titled “63 Year old Mama.” I’m gonna turn 70 in April and the process of aging continues to be a fascinating, instructive and sometimes humbling experience. But then, youth was also fascinating, instructive and sometimes humbling. Difference is, all those decades of life experience. Happy birthday!

  • ***LORI

    I think your daughter, Marnie, has class!

  • The aphorism I like is, “you’re only as old as you feel”. It’s so flexible! Some days we feel older than others (and some days younger!).

    I love that you set out cake boundaries. My older sister was with me for her birthday last year. I called her husband to secretly ask about her favorite cake. He told me she really likes Rice Krispie treats. I ended up making her a layered cake of her favorite treat. That’s one of the good things about getting older; we don’t mind saying what we like!

    Happy Sweet 61! Have a great year!

  • I hope it is not too late to wish you many happy returns of the day — sans turkey, I reckon, until 2021. Something to look forward to.

  • Craig Link

    It’s not like you are ice skating on the lip of the grave Ruth- you’ve got a long way to go. Happy birthday to you.
    I always thought it was you are only as old as you smell

  • Happy birthday, late, and thank you thank you! Now when I encounter those particular tattooed store clerks you mentioned, I will be having a good laugh at their future of wrinkled tattoos. Of course, if they insist on texting and driving, wrinkled tattoos will never bother them.

  • Steve Link

    1) Happy Birthday. I wish I was better at keeping track of such things, but I know I won’t ever make the effort.
    2) Good icing always means cream cheese and powdered sugar. You could ice road kill with it and the combination would be delicious.
    3)My days as a Deluded Baby Boomer ended a couple of years ago when, while buying my bride’s Christmas present, I was (admitedly) flirting (just being charming) with the lovely young clerk, who responded to my amusing story about my need for clear directions as to the purchase with, “My dad’s the same way!” I did not want to hear about her father or to be compared to him.

  • It’s great that you asked for Key Lime pie. It’s one of my top five favorite pies. And happy very belated birthday.

  • Butter Cream! Want. I like coconut, but have never been a fan of German Chocolate Cake. Too sickly sweet for me.

  • This is a song that needs to be written. An album. Just think of the gifting potential alone.

  • Well Ruth, it sounds like you need to become a songwriter–you already have some rhymes going–moisturize, rationalize.

  • Happy belated birthday to you. I can’t be clever and witty like you…so will just leave it at that. Besides, it’s late right now and my old (non-40) brain is craving some shut-eye.

  • I love your writing, Ruth. And, ok, I basically love you. Is that creepy? Not to worry, it’s the “love in the non-creepy, adoring, you’re freakishly talented and witty” way.

    I think we should put the call out for a super song about sixty-one-year-olds. Let’s contact Paul McCartney and see what he says.

    Sing it, sister.

  • But there is the Beetles song about turning 64 (tee hee.) Will you still need me …

    Happy belated birthday!

  • *** Jane, et. al.

    Well, y’all can contact Paul McCartney if you like, but at 68, he wouldn’t even try to wing it. He’s moved on and no longer remembers 61. Michael Nesmith, now at 68, surely wouldn’t want to monkee around with it. I doubt Barbra Streisand, also 68, would even want to record a cover of such a tune– but then, she has James Brolin, so why bother. But there’s always Twiggy, currently 61. She might dish up the real skinny on it. All said, perhaps y’all should contact some fresh, young mind for a different take on rockin’ 61. Perhaps Lady Gaga? Nah. Well, Ruth, go for it! At 61, prove it’s not too late to add songwriting to your roster of talent.

  • Merr Link

    I would be interested in hearing that song – but far more interested in being that age someday and many ages beyond that!

  • I would be interested in hearing that song – but far more interested in being that age someday and many ages beyond that!

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