First Words — 18 April 2014
You can run from the AARP, but you can’t hide

By Mark Gauert

I knew what to watch for in the mail last month because we’d just celebrated a Big Birthday at home.

Nobody had prepared me for the letter I received a few years earlier after celebrating my Big Birthday. One day, it seemed, I was trading love letters with my sweetheart, the next day I opened the mailbox and our kids had been accepted to college, and the next day there was a letter from AARP, notifying me that I had reached a Big Birthday.

Nobody prepared me for that letter. Nobody had my back.

Thinking fast, because I still can, I knew exactly what to do with it. AARP may be ready for me, I thought, but I AM NOT READY for AARP! I run marathons. I ride 100-mile bike rides. I stay up way past 9 p.m. – sometimes 9:15 on weekends!

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Uh,” I said, red-handed with scissors, a wastebasket and my letter from AARP.

“Why are you cutting that letter into tiny pieces?”

“Oh,” I said, turning the letter so she couldn’t see the return address, “it’s just one of those credit companies, sending me a card I didn’t order. And, you know, you can never be too careful with identity theft and all. So, I’m cutting it up.”

“I think you can stop cutting,” she said. “It looks like confetti.”

Nobody was on the lookout after my Big Birthday a few years ago to intercept my letter from AARP. Nobody cut it into tiny pieces before I could see it. Nobody had my back.

But I was watching out for hers last month when she celebrated her Big Birthday.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Uh,” I said, with scissors, a wastebasket and her letter from AARP.

“Why are you about to cut up that letter?”

“Well, I wasn’t going to tell you,” I said, thinking fast. “But you got a letter from AARP, because it was a Big Birthday last month. So I thought I’d cut it up for you, before you saw it. Because, you know, I’ve got your back.”

“A membership card from AARP?” she said. “I want that!”

Wait. What? AARP may be ready for her but I AM NOT READY for her to be ready for AARP!

“You’re younger than I am,” I said. “You use an elliptical. You tear around in a sports car. You can stay up way past 9 p.m. – sometimes 9:15!”

“Look at the deals you get,” she said, reading the letter. “‘Access to discounts on hotels, car rentals, cruises, home security, cell phone services and more.’

“I want these,” she said. “I’ve earned these.”

And here’s where we separate those who run away from Big Birthdays from those who embrace them. Those who learn nothing from their many years, and those who use their years to learn.

This is a special issue of City & Shore devoted to the latter. (If you are younger than 55, stick around, see what’s coming for you, too.) You’ll see some familiar faces here, entertainers – such as our cover star, Michelle Pfeiffer, 55, – who’ve reinvented their careers for a second – sometimes third – act. Sit down with 63-year-old Jane Pauley, as we did last month in Boca Raton, and you won’t just feel good about getting older – you’ll look forward to it. We’ll show you how downsizing can be better than upsizing, how it’s possible to reverse damage from a lifetime of poor eating habits with clean eating, how to balance caring for an elder family member, how to score cheaper dinners than your younger peers (just don’t call them Early Birds), where to travel, what to wear, how to look younger, what to read, how to live as if the best years are ahead.

Because they can be.

This is an issue full of knowledge and wisdom, earned honestly, one Big Birthday to another.

Reading it, I began to feel less like someone running away from birthdays, more like someone embracing them. Someone who could even accept, and appreciate, the benefits of a letter from AARP.

I might even join now, but my card is confetti.


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