Monday, January 26, 2009

The Old People's Circus

AARP Bulletin arrived in the mail the other day. I glance through the Bulletin, which is smarter than Parade magazine and Reader’s Digest, though it seems to want the same audience, printed as a tabloid on cheap paper with a jumble of ill-matched colors. AARP also publishes a magazine, called AARP The Magazine, that has higher production values and a design that recalls Esquire of the late 1980s, early 1990s. I read the mag thoroughly.

I’ve been reading AARP’s publications since I was thirty-three.
AARP is reserved for those fifty and older, and when Sheri turned fifty AARP sent an invite. As her spouse, I could join, too.  But she was reluctant. To her, membership in AARP was an unwarranted admission of age, a hastening of the calendar for a fifty-year-old who felt ten years younger and still had lots of life and career left. “C’mon,” I said. “We’ll get motel discounts!”

My eagerness to join AARP was more impulsive than thoughtful. I looked forward to the gag, that I, not even middle-aged, could tell people I belonged to AARP. Sheri could joke, too; to my mind she didn’t belong with the retired folk, either. We’d be kids sneaking under the tent flap to join the Old People’s Circus.

Now, seems the only time I admit to AARP membership is late at night at roadside motels when Sheri is in the car and cranky after a long day of travel, and we need a less expensive room. “Triple A?” asks the clerk. “AARP,” say I, sounding like a seal barking. Every time I hope the clerk’s eyes will widen, her mouth shaping a surprised “O,” and she’ll say, “You’re kidding me?” Then I’ll show her my membership card.

Instead, the clerk gives me the discount and room keys.

So now, the real benefit to AARP is reading its publications. Some of what I learn is trivial but interesting. The recent edition of the Bulletin contains an item about a
Japanese crime wave perpetrated by those over 65 (thrill-seeking shoplifters, mostly). I’ve also learned more than I thought possible about chronic pain, the healthiest cities in America (and why I should retire to one of those), who I should vote for to protect Social Security (answer: not the guys who want to give a big chunk of our retirement safety net to Wall Street), and the best movies for grownups. The latter is an annual issue timed around the Academy Awards and includes flicks like The Bucket List.

It’s been an interesting peek underneath the tent, but now, I’m six years from enjoying membership privileges on my own. And then I’ll need a new tent. But won't it be creepy when I post my party photos on MySpace?

No comments:

Post a Comment