Last week I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner: at 5:30 p.m.
I can still recall dinners at eight, though it’s been years since I attended one. Most of my friends invite guests at seven. Six-thirty is my preferred start time when I host. If there’s a movie or performance wrapped into the evening, people might gather at six. But 5:30? Never before.
Anyone who came of age in the 1970’s knows the measure of getting old. Janis Ian laid it out for us in ‘Tea and Sympathy:’
Lunch at Half-past noon,
Dinner prompt at five
The comfort of a few old friends long past their prime
When we’re twenty, we consider being old is a diminution, a litany of all we’ve lost. But on the far side of sixty, the list of all the things I’ll never do again liberating. With no further need to prove myself I can decline cocaine and cigarettes, shooting guns and tequila, arm wrestling, support groups, charity runs, company parties, lobster, candied apples, and cotton candy.
A few years ago I might have included marijuana on that list, as reefers only render made me withdrawn and bemused. But I retain the right to toke up again if pain kicks in.
I plan on being a great old person; it’s a period of life that plays to my strengths. The early bird special pairs two things I love: good value without a crowd; my personal attitude grows sunnier every year: just ask anyone who knew me back then; and I’ve always spoken my mind. It will be bliss when those nuggets get burnished as wisdom.
I’ve also prepared well for growing old. I cut ‘Over 60: A Healthy Obsession will Keep You Busy’ from the Boston Globe back in the day of print news. These days, it’s yellower and wrinklier than I am, but its advice still rings true. I am a man of many projects—borderline obsessions—most of them healthy.
Although I only have a half hour uptick in my evening meal to be officially old, I suspect it may take ten, twenty years to breach that gap in time. Just because I am looking forward to something doesn’t mean I need to rush it. I’ve got a great gig going: plenty of time, plenty of interests. If I’m lucky, getting old will simply shift active engagement into more passive pursuits. By then, dinner at five won’t be an absurd concept. It will be welcome nourishment before that long, long night.