I was mad. Fuming actually. Could not believe that the envelope I had just pulled from the mailbox was “an invitation to join AARP.” Certainly this was meant for someone else; someone really old. Not ME, the ponytailed girl who had just put in her ½ mile daily swim. But no, it really WAS me. “Can you believe this?” I practically choked to my husband. “AARP sent ME an invitation to join, like I’m 65 or something.” “Well,” he replied a little too calmly, “I believe you qualify at age 50.” “Ah Ha! There! You see? They’re obviously confused. I’m still 49 and plan to stay that way for a long time.” He just chuckled. I fumed.
My grandmother had been an AARP member for as long as I could remember. THAT made sense. What has never made sense to me is what AARP stands for: the American Association of Retired Persons. ‘Retired,’ if you look it up means: “secluded,” “shut away,” and, “withdrawn from working or a professional career.” You gotta be kidding me. In this day and age who can afford to stop working at 50? Who wants to? Not only that, who wants to be associated with a bunch of withdrawn, no longer working people? Not me. I tore up the invitation.
That was then. Now, however, I have come to enjoy the lovely discounts on hotels and rental cars my AARP membership offers—when I am travelling for WORK! However, I abhor their acronym. EVERYONE I know over 50 is STILL WORKING—STILL ACTIVE—and STILL HAVING …um… SCINTILLATING CONVERSATIONS!! Here is what some of my “retired” friends over 50 are doing: a photographer with a recent showing in Seattle, a heart surgeon with a full caseload, an author, who just returned from a book tour in Europe, a singer-songwriter presently on a 30 city US tour, a college professor, about to publish a new book, a lawyer actively litigating the FDA, and an actor starring in a TV series, which recently won a Golden Globe. Another just returned from a 3 month volunteer stint as a doctor in Nigeria. This doesn’t even begin to include the less glamorous professions where ALL of my other friends are still gainfully employed.
When my grandmother was the age I am now, she had recently earned a masters degree , was working as a high school guidance counselor AND she was caring for me all by herself. I actually said these words to her: “Granny, what does it feel like to be SO old?” * Okay, so I was only five, but trust me, I’m still kicking myself over that. (*Excerpt from, “Kissing Tomatoes,” by Helen Hudson. http://www.helen-hudson.com.)
Even at 58, I remain fully committed to denial of my AARP eligibility. A professional actor who, for 30-some, relatively successful years, has worked far fewer days than he’s had “between jobs,” I struggle to determine what, exactly, I’m meant to retire FROM. If all my acting peers and I were to fold up our careers when we reach traditional retirement age, who’d be left to play us, to tell our stories meaningfully in film, tv, and theater? Nope; I’ll claim that privilege as my contribution to public awareness of the triumphs and travails of us “oldsters.” I, for one, plan to keep at it as long as I can move around and memorize lines, or ’til I can’t remember what “retirement” means. In the meantime, I take pleasure knowing that AAA discounts match those of AARP, and that they’ll rescue me the next time I lock my keys in the car. Again. When’s the last time AARP did that for its members?!
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