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AARP letter comes to early

December 07, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

Sandwiched somewhere in the middle of the estimated 387 Christmas catalogues that came in the mail the other day was a letter.

That was the good news. The bad news was who it was from: The AARP.

Worse news, it was addressed to me.

This must be exactly the way the guys in the '60s felt when they got that letter from Uncle Sam that started out, "Greetings."

Forget that I'm years away from being an "RP," and forget that, technically, I am still years away from the age of 50, the standard age at which I was led to believe a person became eligible for membership.

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So what does this mean? That I'm a junior achiever? That my work routine as it stands now so closely resembles that of a retiree that I might as well cut the formalities and submit to the reality of the situation?

My first reaction was outrage, which is pretty much my default reaction to everything, whether it's genocide in the Sudan or a waitress who forgets to refill the water glass.

Hey, AARP, I still have all my hair. And it still has color. (Even though some wiseacre once gave me a box of "Just for Men" as an age-implication gag gift. Uproariously funny, that.)

What are you doing sniffing around my birth certificate like a buzzard after 10-minute-old road kill? That's great. Why don't you just send me a notice that says I'm now eligible for arthritis, or something?

I wasn't going to go without a fight. No way was I going to submit to this institutional grim reaper of accumulated birthdays just so I could get 10 percent off at some Econolodge. They're beating the bushes for recruits - who do they think they are, the U.S. Army? You be setting up a recruitment table at the next high school job fair?

Here's my gripe with the AARP. They get you to join by making you feel old, then once you've fronted the dues they try to make you feel young. Look, make up your mind.

Oh yes, I know all the clichs. Age is just a number, you're as young as you feel, or my favorite, you're "young at heart."

Young at heart. The mating call of the assisted living unit. I've got news for you. You're heart is probably just about as old as the rest of you - older if you smoke.

Young at heart is what they tell you about three years before they start telling you you're "spry." If someone says you're spry, cash in that life insurance policy now, because you can't spell "respiratory embolism" without s-p-r-y.

Of course, I fear that smart readers, especially older ones, will see through this tirade and recognize it for what it is: Denial. I'm just an aging Ulysses, lashing himself to the mast to steel himself against the siren song of Carol Channing.

I see hooked fingers all around, pointing to me and saying "This happened to me and it will happen to yooouuu."

Yeah, you're right. Fortunately I am a man of fast action, so after the initial shock and denial, I stampeded right past bargaining, fear, anger (well, I hung out with anger for a while; I like anger) and despair and went straight to acceptance.

After outrage, my second default reaction is, "What's in it for me?" I visited the AARP Web site to check out the benefits. Top of the page, right after "free shipping with Barnes and Noble" was this perk:

"Join music legend Tony Bennett on his AARP-sponsored concert tour."

Ouch. That was going to stick in the ole gizzard for a while. Come on, AARP, if you're going to ambulance-chase 40-somethings, the least you can give us is Jimmy Buffett.

But I'm accepting here, I'm accepting. Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean. Getting older is a natural part of life. It can be a celebration, a rebirth. It can be a beautiful time of discovery and wonder, a time of ...

Tony Bennett? AARP, what are you thinking? I'm trying to age gracefully here, and you're serving me up grist for some dead-or-alive Web search. Give me an AARP-sponsored White Stripes concert. I want to be part of your club, but you ain't helping, you Popsicle-stick-craft-making, blinker-light-ignoring Victrola mechanics.

Whoops. Slid all the way back down the ladder to anger again. Sorry. Guess I should have logged more time with despair.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com

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