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Gary Borders: On signing up for official 'geezerhood' status

I took a break from working on a magazine story recently to peruse a packet just received from the American Association of Retired Persons. Yup, I relented and joined AARP. For $16 a year, I figure the discounts will more than pay the price.

The cost to my ego is something else, however. I am not actually retired. I must stay busy writing, taking photographs and poking a few other irons in the fire. The rocking chair remains unoccupied. There are bills to pay.

I have steadily resisted the slow slide into geezerhood. The first time the ticket taker at the movie theater automatically assumed I qualified for the senior discount proved an outrage. That was five years ago. Until she told me to hush as the movie began, I fumed to my wife about the nerve of that cashier. Being wiser and Scottish, she was happy for the price break. The next domino to fall was ordering the “senior” coffee at the McDonald’s drive-through. Once I figured out a cup of pretty good Joe costs only 53 cents — including tax — pride was swallowed, along with the coffee.

I have long resisted AARP’s entreaties, which began when the organization figured out I had turned 50. I am still searching for the snitch who provided that information. A friend, who is several years older, warned against joining. He had signed up at 50 but then decided not to renew. Apparently there is only one way to leave AARP once you have joined, the same way gangsters leave the Mafia — feet first.

I am kidding, AARP people, so please no nasty emails. I joined of my own volition. So, what prompted this sudden urge to join AARP? One of those round-number birthdays just passed. I have turned 60. I have been trying to wrap my head around this fact since, well, when I turned 59.

I Googled “famous people who are 60” to see who else has boarded the same cruise to Old Town. Not that I’m famous, but still. Actress Kim Basinger turns 62 in December. Dennis Quaid is 61. George Strait is 63. Lynda Carter, aka Wonder Woman, just turned 64. Richard Gere turns 66 at the end of this month.

All these famous people have something in common. They all look great! Of course, they ought to since they get paid to look like movie stars. They have people… I have Burt’s Bees. If I had to make a living on my looks I would be living in the back of my car.


It has been a fascinating run thus far. I have been blessed far beyond what I ever imagined. Turns out I am still trying to figure out what to be when I grow up.

The thing is, I never quit plugging away. I can’t. I am just built to not stop writing, working, doing whatever. Thank goodness for that. It is probably a New England thing.

A 1975 New Hampshire license plate sits on my study’s fireplace mantel. I bought it at a yard sale while visiting my native state a couple decades ago. It sports the mantra that raised me: Live Free or Die. That slogan has been co-opted by rednecks driving around with flags planted in the beds of their pickup trucks. A Stars and Bars flag on one corner, a “Live Free or Die” flag on the other.

That is a universe away from why I keep the plate on my mantel. We are free, remarkably free, to make or break our futures, to reinvent ourselves again and again. I am itching to explore other options.

Life at 60 feels pretty darned good, all things considered. Plus, it’s hard to beat 53-cent coffee.

Gary Borders has been an East Texas journalist and editor for more than 40 years. He works now as a freelance writer, editor and photographer. You can see his work at garyborders.com. He has written for World Wildlife magazine, Texas Monthly, Texas Observer and Airstream Life.