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You’re only as young as your last tattoo

I try not to dwell on age, mine or anyone else’s. Once everyone hits 25 or so, I get really bad at guessing anyway. 

As a result, being in the upper-middle end of the population catches me by surprise now and then. This week I discovered an entirely new opportunity to feel truly old. It is when both parents of an incoming kindergartner are sporting visible tattoos.

For various reasons, the grown-ups who surround me on a regular basis are at least a decade younger than I am, and in many cases, two or three decades. But thus far, a flashy tattoo was a rare thing indeed. A flashy tattoo with a 5-year-old in tow makes me want to head for the rocking chair.

As if to compound that message, the entire gaggle of nail care staff at the beauty college spent my entire pedicure talking about which tattoo artist was the best and what body part they were going to have done next. It gave me a whole new insight into what motivates Cher.

Hanging with the young whippersnappers is wonderful in most ways. It forces your brain to keep a certain pace. It keeps you somewhat in touch with what upcoming generations love and loathe. (This is not always pleasant, but it is invariably interesting.) It gives you perspective and they rarely complain about their health.

The young cuties with which I share office space and other life activities are generally very tolerant, sometimes even flattering, about my crone status. But on occasion, the gap yawns, bringing me up short. If I start thinking I might actually be a little bit hip or with it, I remember earlobe plugs and tongue piercings.

I swear I got a new gray hair when I made a reference to a 1970s “Saturday Night Live” sketch with Lily Tomlin, and drew blank looks. Even worse, I was trying to reference Ruth Buzzi and absolutely no one else in the office had heard of her or “Laugh-In.”

The same applied to my singing a snatch of Perry Como’s old jingle, “Letters, we get letters. We get stacks and stacks of letters.” This really baffled them. So did some reference to Jane Russell.

I have begun to avoid discussion of anyone or anything before 1990, but it rather limits my conversational skills. If I don’t watch a few episodes of TMZ and quiz them about YouTube, I have nothing to contribute to the conversation, except questions like, “Is that a band or a new flavor of Fruit-by-the-Foot?” and “Is he a rapper or someone from ‘Survivor’?”

Playing 20 questions is only fun when you’re not the only one asking.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who is finally down with pink hair. Contact her at [email protected]