Telling Time

I’m the wrong age.  I get that.  I know it because I read an excerpt from some book that gives helpful tips on how not to act your advanced age, so you can fool people 20 or 30 years younger into thinking you’re their age.  You know, really great ideas like never leaving a voicemail (only old people do that, it seems) and never, ever wearing a wristwatch.

Well, they lost me at wristwatch.  A year or so ago, at the tender age of only 58-1/2, I went ahead and bought myself a very swanky wristwatch for my 60th birthday.  (Life is uncertain, I figured.  I could get hit by a bus before my 60th birthday.  Why not celebrate early and die with an expensive timepiece?)  Sure, the watch created a few problems when I wore it for the first time when I was getting an MRI of my shoulder and had no idea how to spring the safety latch.  It took two tech people and an emergency phone intervention from my friend Lynn, who screamed instructions, to get the watch off.  I call that a fine safety latch, and plan to wear the watch for the rest of my life, whether it makes me look like an old bat or not, and you’ll have to pry it off my cold, dead arm.

Besides, I do have to mention that some kid a couple of decades younger than I am is not going to be fooled about my age if I don’t wear a wristwatch.  I mean, please.  I can’t think of anything more exhausting or useless than pretending to be younger than I am.  To me, all this blather about 59 being the new 39 is pure Baby Boomer bullshit, and I refuse to give in to it.

Anyway, this is all beside the very serious financial point of being the wrong age.  Twice, in the past few years, my husband and I have been invited out to dinner for a younger friend’s birthday.  How sweet! I thought.  He wants us there and he’s going to be paying.  Boy, was I wrong.

As it turns out, the younger generations have a new tradition of inviting guests to a birthday dinner, then having the guests pick up the tab.  I know this, because we’ve now split two birthday dinner tabs that veered alarmingly into the triple digits and practically gave me a coronary.

“That’s the way things are done these days, Mom,” our daughter informs me, impatient with my whining.  “Get with it.”

I tell her that we’ve gotten with it, that we’ve paid our share of the bill.  It’s just that we’re still reeling from the experience.

“So, invite people out for your birthday and have them pick up the tab,” she says.

But we can’t.  We just can’t.  It would be unnatural.  We wouldn’t enjoy it.  Besides, if we had other people of our own age at the table, they‘d sit there, waiting for us to pick up the tab.  Which we’d probably do, of course.  Who wants to scandalize people at a birthday dinner?

So, that’s our age: Young enough to be invited to guest-paying birthday dinners, too old and set in our ways to swing the advantage in our own direction when it’s one of our birthdays.  I could dump my wristwatch and my voicemails and still get nailed for being the age I am when it comes time to pick up the check.  You call it age; I call it maturity.  Either way, at some point, you are who you are.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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8 comments… add one
  • Cindy A Link

    Oh. My. God. I leave voicemails, wear a wrist watch, and would never expect invited guests to pick up a tab. I’M DONE FOR.

  • Everything you said resonated with me! My teen daughter thinks watches are outdated – and so are purses by the way. How, pray tell, do you carry that ever-present cell phone and your wallet then I’d like to know! She is always being invited to friends’ birthday dinners at restaurants where the tab is split. It seems nuts to me too – in my day if you had a birthday party, YOU picked up the tab for your guests. Email is also outdated by the way – you text or use Facebook for digital communication. My daughter’s AP English Lit teacher told us she talked to some college professors and asked what kids needed to learn before college. He said they don’t know how to send an email attachment because none of them use email! So now sending an email attachment is one of this week’s assignments – for a grade – in AP Lit.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    I am so out of it that pretending to be young would sap all my remaining energy.  But at least I can send an email attachment.

  • I have to say I don’t wear a wristwatch, hee hee, but I do carry a bag and I guess I don’t generally pick up the entire tab, but I totally would if I could. However, never would I invite people out to pay for me… Yikes.

  • _Guests_ … _invited guests_ pick up the tab?!!!  I’m out of it too, then.  Surely Miss Manners would consider inviting guests and expecting them to pay to be quite rude.  Oh, I forgot.  Probably no one reads etiquette books anymore, either.  Whatever happened to that old saying, something like this:  “Good manners are the grease that make the wheels of human civilization run smoothly.”

    Email is passe?  The post office will be delighted to hear that!


  • I am so mired in oldness that I don’t recognize many young people I should know. They all look alike to me, and they speak too fast and use funny words and talk about TV personalities and shows and ipods. They have no idea who Harry Truman or Lyndon Johnson were.

  • I would have to agree that some of the mental gymnastics used by Baby Boomers are amusing. BUT, I’m from Gen X, so that could be the cynicism talking.
    I haven’t worn a watch since about 1998 when my assistant editor told me it was like strapping anxiety to my wrist. There is a clock in my car and a clock on my phone, so a watch seems useless anyway.
    I must be stuck in the middle because I think leaving inane voicemails is a clear signal someone is older, but I believe concise, effective ones are good.
    And, I am indeed of the generation where everyone going out for someone’s b-day means we all pay for our meal, plus a portion of the b-day person’s too.
    I do find that as more pals use twitter and facebook that individual emails get less frequent. It’s like mass communication for our personal masses.

  • I’m proud to have found a bracelet watch so comfortable, I wear it to bed. I count out my change (another no-no, according to that book). I’ll be 60 next month. For what the party is likely to cost, I could probably go to Provence. But that’s the part of the price–and the reward–of living like a more or less grownup person.

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