It was a summer evening of the kind Los Angeles is famous for -- hot and busy. On that night, as I approached the street-front restaurant door, I was struck by lightning, metaphorically speaking.
From the window of an SUV packed with giggling girls, one bobble-headed boy hung out by his waist, flailing his arms. “You old biddy,” he shrieked. “You should be dead.” The giggling girls giggled, surely impressed by his alcohol-induced courage.
It may have been a worm-hole in time, but, for a moment, there was no one on that L.A. street but that teenage-filled vehicle and me. That’s how I knew the “old biddy” was me.
Death threats don’t bother me unless there is a weapon involved, and the juiced-up teen with too much air in his lungs was gone before we could discuss the matter. With time to think, I might have yelled back that “with your mouth, you’ll be lucky to live to be my age.”
Of more interest was his language. The slang term “biddy” generally refers to an irritating old woman, and “old” biddy is probably redundant. If the kid had stuck around, I might have proved just how irritating I can be by explaining all this to him. Still, the presumption of being “old” surprised me.
Not that being old is a problem; it is being considered old that is the problem. That is a problem a friend, who has reached the magic age of 40, wants to solve for everyone. She sells cosmetics and apparently believes her generation invented the cure for old age. I am indulgent with her. After all, my generation thought we invented it.
In tactful phrases, she pushes expensive lotions that promise to turn back the clock. But I do not fear the lines that decorate my complexion. Furthermore, I am a promiscuous shopper and tend to buy the cheap brands at such places as Rite Aid and Wal-Mart, where the shelves sag with substances labeled anti-aging, age-defying, etc.
I am aging -- but old I am not -- and I am happy with who I am. My cosmetics-selling friend doesn’t seem to understand the concept. Perhaps she does not realize that she is no spring chicken herself, which that mouthy boy in L.A. would gladly tell her too if he rode drunkenly past her in the street.
Age does not guarantee wisdom, but it does provide perspective, and I have no desire to revisit the stresses of youth. I have reached a place in time where I am free to enjoy life as I choose. I am improving my karma with volunteer work. I ski, swim, hike and work out at a gym. I wear a size smaller than many women half my age and, when I dress up, I can still turn heads -- OK, gray ones!
In L.A. as everywhere, growing older is a fact of life, but getting old is an attitude. For this old biddy, life has never been better.
Joanne Law is a retired writer-editor who lives in Chatsworth.