How Old Is Mr. T?
Remember when you were a little kid and you’d meet some other kid in the playground or at school or in a store?
One of the first questions you always asked was, “How old are you?”
You were a little obsessed with age. You certainly didn’t want to play with a kid too much younger than you, because that would mean you were a little bit of a baby. And you didn’t want to play with someone older, both because they would not want to (see above) or if they insanely did want to, they would probably beat you at everything. Because an extra year in those days meant tons of extra experience.
As you got older, that age-obsession went away.
Okay, so it didn’t exactly.
It just got re-routed into a more subtle measurement: Success.
Is this guy making more money than you?
Is this woman already married and having children?
Does she still have the same hairdo as in high school? – and the male corollary: Does he have more hair than you?
And secretly – to yourself only – you added the qualifier:
And are they younger?
Maybe you didn’t go down that he-is-more-successful-even-though-he-is-younger-so-therefore-I-am-a-failure road very often.
But holy cow, I sure did.
I compared myself to others constantly. With the age qualifier added.
In my younger days, the age qualifier often helped. I didn’t mind (too much) if a person was more successful, had a better job, or made more money – as long as they were older than me. Because, well, they just had more time at it. Just like knowing that my older sister was bound to beat me at crazy eights.
It bugged me more when I saw women marrying and having children who were younger than me. They were supposed to wait their turn, thank you very much. How rude.
Then I got into the stage, in my thirties, where I also worried about age as it related to looks. Was she older than me and looked better? Was I older but looked younger? – which is what I always somehow decided.
I can remember the day – May of 1983. The local paper listed all the famous people having birthdays. And there he was:
The A-Team was a big hit on television, and Mr. T was the larger-than-life (literally) star.
and that day he was listed on the birthday page. (no internet back then). He was 31 years old.
I was 32.
I left my office and threw that newspaper on my best friend’s desk.
“Mr.T is younger than I am!!!” I hollered.
She became hysterical.
But not in the way that I was hysterical, of course.
But I couldn’t see the hilarity of my situation.
I was furious.
I did not want to be older than Mr. T.
It was all downhill from there.
I could no longer hide my age obsession.
I need to know how old everyone is.
As it relates to me.
When I watch old movies, I look for the character actor. Was that humorous old sidekick actually my age? Did you know, for example, that Hattie McDaniel was only 44 when she played Mammy in Gone With The Wind?
How much younger than me was the heroine? Was I old enough to be her mother? Meg Ryan, for example, is ten years younger than me. Not so much. But when I saw You’ve Got Mail, and envied her hairdo and her simple but cute clothes, I wondered whether I was too old to pull that off.
Now I watch TV with Wikipedia open on my laptop.
How old is Vanna White? Should she start wearing pastel sweater sets?
How about Mark Harmon? Will he have a heart attack running up those stairs?
Should the NYPD have forced Lenny Briscoe to retire before the Law And Order ever started?
How is it that the guy playing Tom Selleck’s father is 78 years old and Selleck is 73?
How is it that none of the teenagers on Riverdale look like teenagers?
And Tea Leoni on Madam Secretary? I’m fifteen years older. Can I copy her shoes?
And most horrible of all – reruns of The Golden Girls. I’m older now than those actresses were then. Should I buy some flowy tops? Have fluffier hair?
And the point of all this:
What the hell does it matter?
Why do I care?
I’ve been trying to figure this out.
I don’t think I am unique – I am pretty sure there are plenty of other people with an age fixation. But I don’t think it’s universal either, since I see lots of people who truly don’t care what age anyone is. They relate on a different plane.
I think perhaps my obsessive focus on the continuum of age is rooted in the idea that I never really found my place in it.
I’ve always been a little unstuck in time. A little unsure. A little adrift.
I’ve felt too young. Or too old. The little kid that admired my older sisters and envied my baby brother. The baby-face flat-chested teen that the boys had no interest in. I bumped through years (and years) of college – one day childish and the next day older than the professors.
My work years were a mystifying but inexorable transition from the smart-alecky girl younger than her subordinates to the oldest person in every meeting, answering to younger and younger smart-alecks.
And now I am retired, and I still don’t know where I belong.
What do retired people look like? Should I go gray and buy sensible shoes?
Sometimes (often, to be honest) I feel more attractive now than thirty years ago. But am I delusional? Do I look like an old fool in my Zumba class?
I know it doesn’t matter. I should just please myself in what I do and how I look. The nice thing about being old is that you can truly disregard what anyone else thinks.
I know age doesn’t make much of a difference in how you feel. My mother at 94 says she feels like the same person inside that she was sixty years ago. The outside has changed, but she’s still her.
And I agree that she’s the same.
The problem with ME being the same – is that I am not sure who that is.
Except that it is someone older than Mr. T.
P.S. – Amazon is offering the Kindle version of my novel, LUCINDA’S SOLUTION.. for just $1.99 through October 6. Here’s the link.