Being Old Is Not An Insult

I’m not 44.

I mean, I am 44, but I don’t think of age that way anymore. Saying it out loud surprises me and writing it down looks weird. I hardly ever think about it.

Saying your age by number is something for young people to do. They’re the ones who have to keep track of that stuff.  For them, it’s a constant state of waiting to vote or drink or rent a car. Once you hit like 30, none of it matters until 65. Even then, it doesn’t matter much anymore.

Rather, I think in terms of things I’ve seen. I go back to the totality of my life and try to piece together the memories I have while wedging them into the reality of today. Things in modern society have definitely changed.

I come from the era of Andrew Dice Clay and Speedy Gonzalez. The only people who canceled anything were the TV networks, post office, and principal. Your only safe space was maybe in your head and everyone smoked everywhere. The only trigger warning we got was “remember to take the safety off first.”

Our toy guns looked like real guns and kids ate Sea Monkeys. Diffr’nt Strokes scarred me for life and the single heads-up they offered to the ensuing trauma was Mr. Drummond telling us it to watch the episode with our family. Of course, there were no DVRs so if you missed that opening minute, you had a big surprise ahead of you. Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Bike Shop Man?

The Challenger, a space shuttle adventure pitched for weeks to kids, exploded on television and everyone remembers where they were when they found out. For me, I was at 3rd grade recess. Once the bell rang, we marched back in to the news blurted at us by the meanest teacher I would ever had in my life. The Challenger news made Punk Brewster cry. The same news gave my teacher a reason to yell at us for “not being respectful” when watching the footage on an old roll-in television set stand. Wouldn’t want the eight year olds to miss that fun video. 


My world was a bit more raw and a bit more confrontational. People were offended, but didn’t have the Internet to connect them to other people who are offended too and come back for revenge. The closest we got to anonymously insulting someone was writing it on the desk at school. Nerds on TV played on the computer. I wore snow pants and Freazy Freakies. We blew our fingers off with fireworks.

Then again, I’m pretty sure kids are still doing that.

Let’s be honest. People are nicer today and a little more self-assured. It’s not the worst place to be a part of. A lot of what today’s generation is doing flies in the face of mine. Also a lot of changes that the current generation are making are things that mine sometimes wishes we could have done. ourselves. Other parts, maybe not so much.

Granted, I don’t act like someone my age might. After heart surgery, I’m in better shape now than I was at 20 and would rather go rock climbing than golfing. I try to learn about Youtubers and TikTokers to relate to young people in the same way I learned about Bewitched and The Honeymooners to relate to those older. I fit in because I don’t feel above anyone or below anyone else. I’m here. I’m good.

Being old isn’t an insult. In many ways, I can look back on past mistakes and see them in others. Time has brought stories and stories have brought lessons. There are things I know now that I didn’t know then. I see them in other people and I try to avoid them myself.

I’ve watched some young couples interact and thought to myself, “Run! Run now!” I know kids who are well on their way to being delinquents because I know delinquents I grew up with as kids. I’ve kicked myself for choosing pride over friendship, knowing now that everyone dies. Every single person.

Most of all, I survived. I made it through a lot of dark times and risky choices. I’ve trekked on as many who walked through the same tunnels of self-doubt faded to the wayside. Survivor guilt is a real thing and it’s something that any of us  who have ever outlived anyone else has gone through. 

I never thought I’d live this long. What’s funny is that, now that I have, I can imagine myself much older. I don’t envision some hobbled down old man. I just see me with maybe a little more salt than pepper and grandkids who say, “My grandpa does the exercise bike every day and watches wrestling.”

At the end of the day, old is not an insult. It’s just a thing. I’m old. If you’re young and reading this, know that you’ll be old someday too. At least, you better hope so.



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