Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

How Old Are You?

Jackie K. Cooper

The other night I was at my favorite fast food place waiting in line when a friend of mine's son came in with his family. While we waited to place our order we talked. He asked me what I was doing these days and I answered I was doing some writing, doing my movie reviews on TV, and anything else I felt like doing.

He thought about that and then asked me if I had retired from my job with the government. I said I had. He looked at me closely and then said, "How old are you?"

I laughed and replied I was the same age as his Dad. "Gosh, I didn't think you were that old," he answered. Suddenly I felt the skin on my face start to sag and the few remaining hairs on my head start to drop out. Inside I had to face the fact I am "that old." And to add insult to injury, tomorrow is my birthday.

The unfair thing is that people do judge you by the numbers of your age. They don't look at how healthy you are, or even how good you look. If they can find out those numbers that is how they peg who and what you are.

I remember clearly when I was a teenager looking at my father and thinking he was old because he was forty-six. I remember wondering what it felt like to be that old, and being stupidly young I never even considered I would be that age and plus one day.

Still I do have to say that back when I was a teenager people looked older when they were in their sixties and above. They were all gray headed and wrinkled. My in-laws are in their eighties and they look like people in their sixties used to look.

I hate to think of your age determining how you are viewed. I think you should be judged by your outlook, your productivity, and your joy of life. I have known people who never grew old. They stayed active and interested in life, as well as interesting to other people right up to the day they died. They were healthy and happy and an integral part of society.

Some people dismiss anyone who is over the age of sixty. They seem to think "senior citizenship" is contagious and don't want to get infected. Don't they realize if they are healthy and continue living they are obviously going to get there one day. Are they going to put on the brakes at fifty-four and refuse to age? Well, it won't happen. The years just keep on ticking by and there is nothing you can do about it.

Maybe my friend's son was paying me a compliment when he said he didn't think I was "that old." Maybe he thought I looked so young I couldn't possibly be that age. Maybe he did. Yeah, and maybe not!


Jackie K. Cooper was born in South Carolina and now lives in Georgia. He is familiar to people living in the middle Georgia area as the "entertainment man" since his entertainment reviews run in newspapers and are shown on television there. His short stories have been used as commentary on Georgia Public Radio. He also keeps active appearing as an after dinner speaker for various events.

Cooper has lived an exceptionally interesting life and portions of it are contained in his first book Journey of a Gentle Southern Man. The journey continued in Chances and Choices.

Jackie's first two books, Journey of a Gentle Southern Man and Chances and Choices, were reprinted and published by Mercer University Press in July 2004. His third book Halfway Home was published by Mercer University Press in October 2004.

Cooper is currently at work on his fourth book, The Book Binder, which will be published in the fall of 2006.

Visit his website, or email Jackie.

© Jackie K. Cooper

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012