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“Seniority” by Robert Fulghum

I don’t think Senior, act Senior, dress Senior, talk Senior, or live Senior. I don’t belong to the AARP and don’t take Senior Discounts. Not my style.

I just don’t do Senior. Not back then. And not now in my 85th year.

Culturally, when you pass 65 or retire you are a Senior Citizen. Which means old or elderly or over the hill – subject to pity and jokes.

One is free to accept the status or not. It’s a choice – an attitude. Not a number – a state of mind. A personal, internal decision, no matter what the culture says.

And the culture says to men over 65:

“Get in the box – get a lounge chair – plant yourself in front of the TV – get a walker or a cane – let your hair and beard grow – including what’s sprouting out of your ears and nose. Get some beige orthopedic walking shoes with Velcro straps, a baseball hat, a silly T-shirt about aging, and baggy cargo shorts.

And learn to shuffle, wobble or duck-walk, mumble and eat the senior fodder specials at the local cafe.

Use a toothpick to scratch away at your teeth as you go out the door.

Wear baggy sweatpants and your house-slippers to the grocery store. And pass gas or belch whenever and wherever you please.

Change your underwear once a week and your socks when they fall off.

Get the moves, the outfit, and the attitude.

Get in the Senior groove – and talk non-stop about it: Carry on about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, vitamin supplements, doctor visits, medications, aches and pains, and coupons.

In sum, just go to seed.

You can probably buy a Senior Citizen Kit at Wal-Mart – with a manual.

And get Senior Citizen apps for your I-phone, I-pad, and toaster oven.

The transition into seniorhood can take less than a week.

I’ve seen it happen. And some men do it quite willingly – they’ve looked forward to Senior. They’re done and don’t give a damn. And that’s alright – it’s their business.

Not me.

Not yet . . .

RTWT AT: Seniority – Author Robert Fulghum


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Richard February 28, 2022, 9:27 AM

    They’re done and don’t give a damn.+++

    Not for me, bub. Still wearin’ my 32 X 34 Wranglers, shit kicker boots, and leather coat. When I start wearing old man clothes, I’ll figure the hour glass is nearly empty. Not letting the Old Man in.

  • BillH February 28, 2022, 9:29 AM

    Timely, considering I just this AM finished demolising a section of wood deck that had rotted out after 45 years of service. Now to get it rebuilt before the summer heat arrives. It will take about $500 worth of treated lumber at today’s prices. Sign me 90+

  • James ONeil February 28, 2022, 9:54 AM

    “You might ask, “Fulghum, have you looked at yourself naked in a full-length mirror recently?”
    No, I avoid full-length mirrors.”

    Words to not grow old by.

    & by the way, if you haven’t read his Third Wish…

    • Vanderleun February 28, 2022, 10:05 AM

      I have. Amazing really. Beyond just a book. Have to revisit my old Fulghum post.

  • Mike Austin February 28, 2022, 10:28 AM

    I am 68. I’ve had a good run. No complaints. I do not pretend that I can do today what I did at 48. That would be biologically impossible, and biology is a harsh mistress, red in tooth and claw. I am retired, and gratefully so. The way I behaved in the classroom became obsolete, incorrect, illegal. So be it.

    I pay attention to the happenings of my body. I ask of it daily for yoga, dumbbells, push-ups, pull-ups, crunches and such. I ask of it daily for a 3-mile walk with a day pack. I ask of it daily for a 16 mile bike ride. It responds, grateful for the attention, and it is never sore the next day.

    Some weeks ago I rode 28 miles on one of my bicycles to my doctor. He is in private practice. I refuse that Medicare ‘B’ crap and all the government nonsense that comes with it. Had all the usual tests done. All went well. It seems I’ll live another six months until my next exam. And then another 6 months after that. And so on.

    I’m heading out in a month or two for a solo bike ride to Idaho from Oklahoma City—around 3000 miles all told. I will be camping all the way, a tent, stove, sleeping bag and Smith & Wesson my constant companions.

    Yeah, I’m a “senior”; and I’m 68. But I am not dead yet. And the show will go on until it doesn’t. Getting older has been a revelation and a great gift. I revel in it, and never once have had a desire to relive what has already passed. For in those years gone by are ghosts and demons and shadows.

    I am living the best time of my life.

  • Hyland February 28, 2022, 10:28 AM

    Robert has written some good stuff. I see he used to rock out with Stephen King. I wonder who is still talking to whom. These past couple of years aren’t just a line in the sand… it’s the Grand Canyon.

  • ghostsniper February 28, 2022, 10:35 AM

    It’s just a number, I mostly ignore.

    • Sam L. March 4, 2022, 10:29 AM

      I’m 78. I wish I had my folk’s 78 records and player, but I’m keepin’ on keepin’ on… but CDs are OK, too.

  • azlibertarian February 28, 2022, 10:36 AM

    …You can probably buy a Senior Citizen Kit at Wal-Mart – with a manual.

    The transition into seniorhood can take less than a week….

    As I’m about to retire in, **checks watch**, 60-ish days, I gotta say that the whole idea of being handed a “manual” for retirement is appealing to me. I’m finding a whole world of terms and ideas that I had been able to not think about for the previous 4 decades are suddenly becoming important to me.

    But I don’t intend to get old. For years, I’ve been telling Granddaughter#1 that for every year that she gets older on her birthday, when I celebrate mine, I’m going to get a year younger.

  • jwm February 28, 2022, 10:39 AM

    I’d say the commenters here at AD are pretty much in the same refusenik basket. Casey is painting. Mike A. is planning a bicycle trip. Dirk is seriously doin’ his own thang. I just got done spitting rock dust all over the yard as I start another project. Most everyone here is up to their eyeballs in the business of life rather than sucking up television. And our host is maintaining the finest site on line.
    The kids are all right.
    Even if they’re no longer kids.

    As a side note: As one of the many who stops by here several times a day I noticed that American Digest has become very like a college class:
    Read this.
    Give me five hundred words on it by the end of the period.
    Be prepared to back up your arguments. Post evidence for your assertions. Your work will be subject to review by your peers.
    How we hated that in school!
    Now we’re doing it for fun.
    Life is good.


  • John Venlet February 28, 2022, 11:05 AM

    I’ll be 62 in 30 days, so I’m a definite youngster, so to speak, but as others have noted, here, age is just a number, and I really don’t think about the number, just carry on day to day doing what I like. I do admit to farting and burping without any compunction, though I do say excuse me, most of the time.

    • Mike Austin February 28, 2022, 11:39 AM

      One of my examples of doing whatever the Hell I want to—and “seniors” can get away with all kinds of weird stuff—is having not cut my hair for 3 years. It already goes down half my back. Yeah, it’s mainly gray now, and it scares some folks, but that’s life. It is a throw back to how I looked 3 years after my military service (1978).


      And by the way John: you’re only 62? Just a kid!

      • John Venlet February 28, 2022, 12:15 PM

        Yes, Mike, a mere babe in the woods. Thankfully, I have elders to emulate, learn from, and occasionally throw an 0l’ man barb at. I’m still learning.

      • ghostsniper February 28, 2022, 2:52 PM

        Well, tomorrows the day that I lose the grizzly bear. Or maybe it’s the tactical assault santa clause.
        I’ve had facial hair since the day I got out of the army in 1978 and my wife and son have never seen me without it. Cept in older pix and they say the pix don’t look like me. whatever.
        My facial hair is always moderate and well groomed but last Nov 1 I went into winter mode and nothing was groomed til tomorrow. I can only tolerate so much of the Casey look. Guess I’m weak. So tomorrow I break out the heavy equipment and mow everything down to about 1/4″ and prepare for spring. Maybe our cat Sparkle won’t fear me now. Everytime I come into the house she flies so that the hairy animal won’t kill and eat her.

        • Mike Austin March 1, 2022, 6:18 AM

          Casey’s beard looks good on him. Because I am half-Chihuahua Indian—actually Mexican on my father’s side—growing a full beard is a risky project. After a few months I look like some homeless guy. I went to Confession once with a beard, and a nun directed me to a side of the Church where free food bags were passed out. There was a conga line of hobos waiting for their daily meal. She didn’t want me in the Church looking as I did.

          I didn’t take the food bag. But I couldn’t get into the Church either.

  • Bunny February 28, 2022, 11:32 AM

    Don’t be a numnutz. Take the Senior Discount.

    • Mike Austin February 28, 2022, 11:43 AM

      I do—always. Typical is when on my bicycle I pull in to a state park to camp. I always get at least 5 bucks off the usual fee. Enough for a six-pack of PBRs.

    • jwm February 28, 2022, 12:01 PM

      Even at the dispensary.
      I get 10% off on bud at the local speakeasy. Can’t complain about that.


    • James ONeil February 28, 2022, 12:58 PM

      The only ones I generally take are from the government; property tax reduction, old fart free hunting/fishing license, free borough park pass, free license plate on my Jeep.

      If a cashier offers me a discount at a concert or some such I take it, but I don’t bother to ask for such.

  • rabbit tobacco February 28, 2022, 11:35 AM

    Want to get older,
    but not old.

  • jhs February 28, 2022, 12:03 PM

    Agree with most of that. I’m headed for 79 and have transitioned from road racing (cycling) to gravel racing. I train 6 days a week for the entire year and have four major races this year. 50 miles/5000 feet of climbing is the standard fare. I do it because I love it and still can.

    • Mike Austin February 28, 2022, 12:17 PM

      Freaking awesome! What is your gravel bike? I just acquired a 2018 Trek Checkpoint. It was given to me! My other bikes are a Surly Karate Monkey and a Surly Pugsley heavily modified. Ride on bother!

      • jhs February 28, 2022, 1:11 PM

        I have a Parlee Chebacco LE, Shimano GRX and Di2. I just treated myself to a B’day present (last one or next?) with Rolf Prima Hyalite carbon wheels. I still use my Parlee road bikes but on a limited basis. Connect with John Stuart in VT on STRAVA if so inclined. Ride on (ZWIFTER?) as well.

    • John Venlet February 28, 2022, 12:19 PM

      Never stop moving, jhs. I’ve seen too many folks who wear their years tiredly, and have no outside interest/activity to keep them engaged, and I swear one can tell they are fading away. My brother, who is two years younger than I, promised me 30 years ago that he’d give me a hand up out of the stream at the end of a day of flyfishing, when we reach out late 80s. Failing that, my son’s will reach out their hands. I plan, with God’s blessings, to keep flyfishing until the day I die.

      • ghostsniper February 28, 2022, 2:57 PM

        “Git busy livin’ or git busy dyin’.”
        –Red, Shawshank, 1994

    • Bob Wilson February 28, 2022, 3:51 PM

      Glad to hear of others working against the onset of old age. de senectute. Writing as a 79-year-old bicyclist just moved to the PNW from the SE, confined to quarters in the Cascades during this season by precipitation. Lots of cardio and circuit training at gym in the a.m., riding indoors on an old-fashioned trainer in the afternoons in front of the tv, vicariously riding with the big boys in the TDF and the Vuelta, etc. Two a day until I can get outdoors to regain form for at least one more season. At 79 though, recovery from training becomes a paramount desideratum, though almost 40 years of past training and racing is the blessing that allows me to take an occasional break. Kick it oldies!!

      • jhs March 1, 2022, 2:23 AM

        Check out WHOOP as a fascinating training device that helps with workout recovery.

        • Bob Wilson March 1, 2022, 3:05 PM

          thank you. i am researching WHOOP. thx. bob wilson

  • julie February 28, 2022, 3:24 PM

    Meanwhile I, a mere child by comparison (haven’t quite hit half a century yet!), am taking careful notes. Right now I’m older than all of you, but only because my kids are still young; it’s their turn, for now. Someday when I’m older I’ll be younger than them, and ready to play with grandkids.

    God willing, of course.

  • borderbill February 28, 2022, 4:22 PM

    Am 81- Got married 30 years ago (29 Feb Leap year) to the only girl I’ve ever been in love with-she’s a hottie. I’m an Old Bastard-not an old fart—-. Semper Fidelis

  • John the River February 28, 2022, 5:39 PM

    No coincidence that so many ‘oldie’s’ here are riding bikes. Takes the pressure off the knees and the back. I can’t walk very far any more since the spinal stenosis set in, but I can still bike. And bowl.
    In the Spring I’m thinking of getting one of those ebikes, here in New England the hills can be steep and after last July’s heart attack I’d be wise to accept a little help getting over the top.

    And with Biden gas prices I may be doing more shopping trips on the bike.
    At least ammo prices went down last month.

  • Jack March 1, 2022, 7:08 AM

    You guys are shaming me….! Nah, just kidding!! I was a healthy as a race horse until I hit 68. It was at that magic number that I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. The only good thing about it is that it comes with an expiration date and I’m probably 3/5ths of the way there. And then, to add a little insult to the injury, I’ve developed a condition that my orthopods are still scratching their heads over, that makes walking extremely painful. Every step feels like someone just stomped upon the top of my feet. And I’m not diabetic nor do I have gout.

    But it weren’t always like that. C’est la vie.

  • rocdoctom March 1, 2022, 11:34 AM

    Recently moved to Oklahoma. In Oklahoma at 65 you get a lifetime hunting and fishing license for $25.00. Think I will get my money’s worth by 95? Every day on the river or in the woods is a good day.

    • Mike Austin March 1, 2022, 3:57 PM

      Been here since 2004. Freest state in the Union.

  • Dirk March 1, 2022, 12:37 PM

    Hmm, we’ll life is good. I just came in from the ranch, was shooting. I’ve got an older Armalite 223/556: with a 26 in bull barrel, AR 15 package. Was one of my old agency’s sniper rifles. They sold it cuz they thought it was outdated, maybe, but just this morning, she was dead nuts on with 77g bullets, at 678y. Ringing steel. On the 100y line sub 3/4 in.

    I got lazy just didn’t feel like hiking out the 678y, yet again to move the target past 700y. Maybe next time. Zero wind, only thing I heard was the F 15s, flying. Unusually high number of sorties past few days.

    Think I mentioned we have an aggressor squadron assigned to Kingsley Field. Their the F5 Tigers and the T38 Talons? Both are said to be running the gen 4/5 avionics packages. I’m aware of Gen 4 avionics, gen 5, is new to me, have not done the research to try and determine exactly what that 5 package adds. I assume 5s better then the gen 4 package.

  • Galway Boy March 3, 2022, 8:19 AM

    You’re only down if you don’t get back up. I’m 70, 8 weeks out from a quadruple bypass and back on my stationary bike (up to 4 miles in 24 minutes) and walking as much as I can. There’s a big difference between aging and growing old. One is inevitable; the other is optional. I’ve been knocked on my ass with one health issue after another for the last 15 years or so. One of them is bound to kill me sooner or later but I don’t have to surrender voluntarily. Dying on my back in a hospital bed would suck. Keeling over on the golf course with a driver in my hand after striping my ball 250 yards (in my dreams) would be ideal although probably traumatic for my playing partners. If I have to use a golf cart with a handicap flag to be on that course, so be it. Better than not being there at all.

    I noted some folks commenting on the work they still do around the house. If you enjoy it, go for it. As for me, I have put in all the physical work on my property over the years that I care to. I worked hard for my entire life to get to the point where I don’t have to do that stuff anymore. My time is now far more valuable to me than my money and I have no interest in picking up a lawn rake or a snow shovel ever again.

    As far as cashing in on the supposed perks of old age – I’ll take whatever they’ll give me. I earned it and not ashamed of it. I paid into my Social Security and Medicare. I paid plenty of undiscounted Property taxes. If I can now get some small reward for not croaking, fine.

    I saw in the comments where someone made a dismissive comment about AARP. I hate their politics but they have some considerable benefits for seniors and I take full advantage of them from cheaper insurance of all kinds to discounted travel.

    I don’t understand why others will not take full advantage of the (few) benefits that seniority allows them. Are you ashamed of growing old? Embarrassed? In denial? Don’t think of them as handouts. Consider them frequent flyer rewards and grab them before the plane inevitably crashes.

  • Casey Klahn March 8, 2022, 3:08 PM

    I missed this fine post before, but my ears started burning. The following picture shows why I grow my beard.
    In old age, beard chooses you.