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M Stevens-David

The Age Game
By Martha Stevens-David
Dec 29, 2013 - 12:23:17 AM

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It really started when I was about sixteen, this little harmless game that I played with myself and others. One would think that one ages fast enough that one wouldn't want to make oneself seem chronologically older but the human mind often works in funny and inexplicable ways. It is a kind of psychological game that I have carried with me throughout all the years but alas, it has finally come to an end. I can understand at sixteen, wanting to appear older but as I aged, well, it all went a little bit like this.

By the time I was in my early twenties, I was already married with two small children and it had began when I was visiting my older sister in New Hampshire with my family and I had gone to church with her. As we were leaving the Catholic Church, my sister introduced me to the old priest who'd just given the service. He extended his time-worn hand, grasped mine and slid his age-filled eyes over my slender figure and said, "Oh, this must be the "child-bride."

Surprised, humiliated and somewhat offended by his offhand comment, I looked at my sister for an explanation but she'd wandered off to speak to some of her friends. I had been the exact same age as she when she'd gotten married. "So," I wondered to myself, "how did that make me a "child-bride?" I smarted and chafed over that remark for the next couple of months and I finally came up with a plan.

Looking back, I now realize that it really wasn't a conscious plan, it kind of just evolved. Whenever I was out in public and the subject of age arose, I consciously made myself older by five or so years. Or, I'd casually bring age into the topic in little ways like this.

While paying for my purchases at a store, I'd hand the clerk my personal check and say, "I can't believe it! In a couple of months, I'll be thirty." Usually, the clerk, who was older than I, would slide her eyes in my direction and say, "Really! You don't look a day over twenty!" In fact, I was really only two years over twenty but she didn't have any way of knowing that. It was just like Freud said when writing about Pavlov's Theory, give the right stimulation, and inevitably, you'd get the response that you're looking for. Smiling and happy that I'd gotten the correct, flattering response, I'd head for home with my children and my packages, older but younger.

As the years passed, I grew to realize that I had come up with a solution to aging that other women hadn't happened upon. I hadn't gone through the "aging crisis" that every other woman I knew had gone through. Unconsciously, my little "age game," had mentally prepared me for growing older without my even realizing it. By the time that I actually turned the age that I really was, I'd already been that age for five years or more. No big surprises waiting for me there in the aging game. No sir-ree!

Age and aging was often the topic with all the women at any family gathering or social function that I attended. If it was a family affair where most of those gathered knew my exact age, I'd simply smile and say, "Well, you know, I'm really getting up there." And leave it at that. But for gatherings where people really didn't have a clue, I'd always make myself several years older than I currently was. I never made myself younger. I figured that that was totally stupid. I'd seen too many women who'd tried that tactic and failed miserably.

As the years slid by, my little age game slid by right along with them. There were occasions when I couldn't play the game though, like visits to the doctor or having to show my driver's license. But, I found that with a little subtle manipulation, I could still interject my game. If the doctor said, "So, how old are you now?" I'd smile sweetly and say, "Doctor, it won't be long until I'm forty." Hearing my reply, he'd look up, smile in return and say, "You certainly don't look it" and then he'd examine my chart closely for several minutes more. Pavlov's Theory.

In 2005, I was notified by the Maine Motor Vehicle Department that I had to renew my driver's license so I took myself off to their office to get a new one. After waiting in a very crowded room for about two hours, it was finally my turn to talk to the clerk.

I walked up to her window, looked into her weary eyes and smiled my brightest. I've found that over the years, it never hurts to attempt to make a good impression especially when you are dealing with someone who has access to your vital statistics.

I slid my old license through the small window and she deftly nabbed it with her pencil eraser and drew it over to her. She slowly looked it over, punched my number into her computer and read the information that came on her screen. She swiveled in her chair looked me over and asked," have you gained/lost weight since this license was last issued?" Trying to interject some levity into the situation, I lifted my chubby arms, turned slightly so that she could see my ample derriere and replied, "What do you think?"

She never even looked at the fool who'd said that to her. She simply began typing out my new information. When the new license came sliding out onto her desk, she never even glanced at it. She simply picked it up and slid it out onto my side of the window. I thanked her profusely and left, happy that that ordeal was ended for another seven years.

Upon arriving home, my husband asked how my license renewal had gone and I hurried to tell him all about it. Imagine my shock and surprise when I read through my vital statistics and found that she'd made me two inches taller and sixty pounds lighter! I love that woman!

Then, one day, my game was over, age finally caught up with me but in reverse. By the time I was fifty-five, I'd made myself sixty for about five years and I was still getting the correct responses. "Really! You don't look it!" Or, "You're holding the line very well!" Or, "Boy! You sure look good for your age!" Or, "Guess you won't be needing any little nips or tucks anytime soon now will you?"

But, somehow, somewhere, my mind forgot to play the age game. So, by the time I'd turned fifty-six, fifty-seven, fifty-eight and fifty-nine, I'd really aged but I hadn't extended the "five year rule." Somehow, I'd outsmarted myself. I'd been living in la-la land too long!

Now that I'm nearing sixty-five, I just can't play the "age game" any longer. Every time I contemplate being sixty-five, I shudder. The hateful words, sixty-five or seventy don't slip off my tongue quite as easily as the younger ages did. I guess "old-age" has finally caught up with me after all.

Martha Stevens-David

Martha Stevens-David Column Magic City

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