Humor and aging go hand-in-hand

By Deborah Mitchell Contributing Columnist

May 30, 2014

We celebrated my mother’s birthday on Monday. She doesn’t usually let me tell her age. In fact, for years, she instructed me to say she was 29. When I turned 16, I said to her, “Mother, do you really want your students to think that you gave birth to me when you were 13?” She looked at me silently for a minute, and then the next thing I heard, she was 39.

When she was about to turn 80, though, I convinced her that the smart thing to do was to tell everyone who would listen that she was going to be 80. They would all look at her in disbelief, and say, “You COULDN’T be 80!” The week before that birthday, Emily and I took her on a shopping trip to Kansas City, and she told everyone who would listen that her birthday was coming up and that she was going to be 80.

Of course, every darned one of them did exactly what predicted. Each one looked at her, open-mouthed, and said, “You COULDN’T be 80!” When we were in Banana Republic, all the sales clerks brought her anything they could find in a size 4, telling her that she would look SO cute in this or that. At one point, no fewer than five salespeople were congregated around her dressing room cubicle waiting for her to say yea or nay to the most recent offering. We left that store with a really good haul.

You know I am telling you this story for a reason. It happened today. Relying on my own advice, I have told just about everyone how old I am, because I just know that most people, upon hearing that information, will say, “You COULDN’T be 60!” And so far, that has worked.

Over the past year, after I hit that mark, I made promises to myself, one of them being that I would not skimp on exercise, walking two miles a day on the treadmill (or outside, weather permitting), and doing yoga a couple of times a week to keep my muscles, such as they are, flexible. So far, I have done pretty well with those promises. Which brings me to today.

One of the things this age has brought with it is something I never expected: whereas I used to be cold most of the time, I am now just like my good friend Susan Sanders – almost always hot. This is not the “hot” that teenagers use to describe nubile young women; it is the “hot” that causes me not to glow, but to perspire – or, if you really must know, sweat. In the humid summer months, I can become quite uncomfortable pretty quickly. And when I am walking on the treadmill or doing yoga, I become really hot within five minutes or so.

So for today’s yoga class, I decided to wear shorts instead of long yoga pants to keep me from being really miserable. It worked; however, my clothing choice had an unintended effect. We were doing our gentle stretches, and I reached up high, bent at the waist, and rested my hands on the floor. I was feeling really smug. Here I am, 60 years old, and I can bend over with straight knees and put my hands flat on the floor! That’s pretty good!

Then I opened my eyes, and came face to face with my knees. I almost fell over. Suddenly, I remembered one of my conversations with Ginger Swearingen. I don’t remember where we were or why we were discussing our knees, but she said, “It’s all over for me. I have elephant knees.” I looked at her, not quite understanding, and she said, “Wrinkles, Debbie. I have wrinkled knees.”

So today, in my smug “I am exercising and therefore I am not, nor will I ever be, my age” mentality, I opened my eyes and saw elephant knees. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I decided to laugh, and re-evaluated my advice to my mother. I think that tomorrow I will start telling everyone I am 40.