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Small Talk

Dare to be 100? No thank you

Every time I hear of another breakthrough that lets you live 10 more years, I wince.
Heaven knows AARP will have my hide. So will all the purveyors of health stuff now on the market. Apparently, so would Dr. Walter Bortz, author of “Dare to be 100,” a little book my parents and their friends discovered. For all the personality traits I share with my father, I am not even a little tempted by this physician’s “double dog dare.”

I may be in the minority, but I stick by my skepticism. Life has its times of exquisite sweetness, but in the immortal words of Rosanne Rosanadana, “If it isn’t one thing, it’s another!” It’s a tough go for most of the population. Why, pray make me understand, would anyone want to fight that fight forever? I can relish a sunset without needing an endless supply. The thought of hitting 100 gives me the whim-whams.

I glanced through the book, noting the highlights. I suspect that he is talking to 80-year-olds, not 60-something-year-olds, but I was still appalled.
Number one, “Take a coffee break.” Well, OK. I can get with that. I even manage to do that from time to time. Next, “Beware of free radicals.” I had to laugh at this one, since my career military father was pretty leery of radicals, free or otherwise, since the 60s. Of course, I know the good doctor was actually referring to those creatures that ricochet around our otherwise healthy bodies. I could nod approvingly over his further advice to recharge yourself, be necessary, keep a creative spark. This is great advice for any age, but then he added, “Keep working.” This part may need some modification. How about “keep reading and eating bon-bons”?

The suggestion I really disliked was “keep exercising.” Of course, I know you are supposed to, but it is a real drag to run, bike, aerobicize, climb stairs, chase dogs or even walk a country mile with the need for knee supports, a back brace and an industrial strength sports bra. I am really looking forward to planting myself in a rocking chair on a lovely porch and getting up only to hug grandchildren or fetch another box of bon-bons.

The final faux pas was his advice to “stay sexy.” Does this man have even the vaguest idea how much effort it takes for women to do that? It was a struggle when I was 25. Now I have far better things to do with my time. The thought of older men “staying sexy” brings to mind bad hairpieces and leering smiles.

No matter how much energy you possess, the need to paint, pluck, shave, buff, moisturize, clip, arrange, spray and fuss is endless and exhausting. Strutting and flaunting is just too humiliating to contemplate at this point. My current goal, which I just barely manage, is to stay presentable enough not to embarrass my children. Give me freedom from shaving my underarms or give me death.

I am relishing the strands of gray that are beginning to streak my hair. I feel content that I have seen, done and experienced everything important. Sure, I’ll take my vitamins.

I’ll climb those stairs and carry my own groceries, but if it means I have to live to be 100, I’m heading for the elevator.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer and semi-old, crabby person. Contact her at [email protected].