Hereís the story as I heard it ó though it was told to me in confidence, so donít spread it around. At first I only heard it third hand, a rumor ó and we know how distorted rumors can get. Most people just canít resist embellishing them until they donít come close to resembling what actually happened. The second time I heard it from Uncle Bod himself. However, as he is the most accomplished liar I know who isnít actually holding public office, we may not be able to trust his testimony.
The bare bones of the story go something like this: Bod went to Wendyís for lunch. He ordered a double-decker something or other, fries, and a Frosty. The clerk took a look at him. (I wonít describe what he saw. Just think old. Then add a few years. Think wrinkled. Think gristle and grey stubble.) On second thought, donít think about those things. Just take my word for it. Bod looks every bit his age, and a little of mine as well.
The clerk looked at Bod and took 10 percent off for the senior citizen discount. Now, this is the point where what should be so mundane that it doesnít bear repeating at all becomes a story that will be told at family reunions for years to come.
Bod had a twenty in his fist. He was ready to pay. The clerk told him the amount. And Bod froze, unable to move, in the very act of the act of handing his money over. Unfortunately, his arm was already stretched out, so the clerk, innocently enough, took hold of one half of the twenty. And Bod wouldnít let it go. The clerk tugged. Bod held on. The clerk tugged again. Bod held harder.
Bod was caught between two worlds: his vanity and his miserliness. He wanted that 10 percent discount. But he didnít want the clerk to automatically give it to him. Instead, he wanted the clerk to ask for full price so Bod could ask for the senior citizen discount so the clerk could act surprised that Bod was old enough to qualify. You might recognize this as the same pantomime a cougar who has turned 29 for the fifth year in a row wishes to go through when she walks into a club to celebrate her birthday. She is embarrassed when she isnít carded in almost exactly the same way she was embarrassed when she was eighteen and was carded.
Bodís face turned slowly red, but he couldnít let go of the dollar. (Think beat red. Add the wrinkles and the gristle and the stubble and youíve got the general idea.)
Bod is a skinflint who makes Scroog McDuck look like ó well, now that I think about it, they look a lot alike. The Scrooge McDuck part of him wanted the senior citizen discount. Unfortunately, this incident had helped him get in touch with his inner cougar. Who wanted to be carded.
Weíve all been there, not at that Wendys, but well past the minimum drinking age and willing to give the waiter an extra tip if he asks for an I.D. Weíre not fooling anyone. Least of all the waiter. (He knew we were old enough. He just wanted the extra tip). Weíre not fooling ourselves either. We know weíre growing older. (Not old per se, just older. Which may mean weíve developed an aversion to mirrors to match any vampire.)
Weíre supposed to grow old gracefully. And growing older does beat the alternative. And itís not botox. Thereís nothing graceful about trying to stop the clock by freezing its face.
Itís possible that growing old gracefully isnít all itís cut out to be. Dylan Thomas advised us, ďDo not go gentle into that good night.Ē Which might be taken by Bod and your average cougar as the recommendation to fight for the last vestige of youth, the last smooth stretch of skin, even if it has stretch marks. I like to think he meant we should go ahead and order a double and call for a taxi to take us home.
Letís get back to the cougar enjoying her birthday at the club. (Some of you may be wondering why weíre not getting back to Bod. I thought we might just leave him there. It gives me a chuckle to think of him in suspended animation. At the end of the day they could simply sweep around him and turn out the lights.) So, the cougar. The one we left embarrassed at the club? Once at her table with her friends she opens her first present. Itís a yearís supply of botox. She freezes, assuredly, more gracefully than Bod. She wants the botox, but doesnít want anyone else to think she needs it. Sheís in her own suspended animation. We can leave her there as well. At least she isnít getting any older.