Modern Ages of Man

Posted on August 16, 2007
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(with apologies to William Shakespeare)

Many of us were forced at one time or other to memorize Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage,” also known as “The seven ages of man.”

The poem, which follows this piece, is a speech from “As You Like It.”

There is no word for it better than brilliant.

It is universal and timeless.

In recent years, I’ve realized that we all have other age milestones in common.

As little kids, we usually want to be older but without any particular reason. We’ll say, “I’m going to be six,” shortly after our fifth birthday.

Our first year of school is a milestone but not one we eagerly await.

We are all, of course, very excited about the age of our first romantic kiss. That’s not a fixed age but it sure dominates our attention.

For most of us, the first fixed age we really look forward to, is 16. It was a purer joy in the days when driver examinations were casual and sometimes non-existent. In the town where I grew up, Art Neff sometimes came out of the pit at his garage to take you out for a road test. Sometimes he just signed the form.

Cars had bumpers that actually protected the driver’s car and others from the rookie driver. I bumped into Wayne Lunn’s old Model T. We fixed it with a ball peen hammer.

Somewhere, in around there, are two ages that are significant but not specific.

One is the day when we first get into a drinking establishment without being asked for ID. I was 15, when the drinking age was 21. I was with a group of older men. It was dark.

The other is the day (night?) when we lose our virginity. We usually remember that to, at least, the closest year and season.

There’s a lot of, in Shakespeare’s words, “sighing like a furnace” then.

I once asked Hubert Sweezey, then principal of Miramichi Rural, if kids were getting crazier.

“Not really,” he said, “There were always a couple of years when you couldn’t get their attention. It just happens a little sooner now than it used to.” That was about 15 years ago.

His words rang true. In grade 10, I sat at the end of the row nearest the window. Lilah (short for Delilah) Hobbs sat at the end the row two over. She was remarkably voluptuous for her age and very intelligent. She wore very form-fitting skirts. Her father was a Pentecostal minister. She never could (would?) go out with me. She’s about all I remember about grade 10. By grade six, Georgia Hewitt and Dianne Longworth had my interest but I could still think about other things for minutes at a time.

Graduations, marriage, and first jobs are all very important but often not things that dominate our thoughts and feelings for years before they happen. They are milestones but not entirely related to age like voting.

Another significant age is when you can legally walk into to a licensed establishment and produce an ID if challenged.

There is an age that is special to women. Oh, wait a minute, better make that two. I suppose birth counts although I’m not sure how age enters into that.

The one I’m thinking of is the last time they are asked for ID on entering a licensed establishment. When that happens to a woman who in her 30’s, it is a very happy and memorable day indeed.

Ages begin to cluster up again in our mid to late 50’s. We gradually realize we are invisible to a new generation of mature members of the opposite sex. For some it can be earlier or later. For a man, someone said, wearing a cardigan sweater is enough to trigger it at any age. On the plus side, the range of age groups, we find attractive, broadens with each passing decade. I have regular flirtations going with a woman of 75 and one of 90.

From 55 to 65, some senior citizen discounts kick in. Nicer than the financial incentive, is the true or just polite claim by a young cashier that she would never have guessed you were old enough for the discount. I don’t know if young male clerks do that or not. If they don’t, it is because they are too stunned to know how well a woman of 55 and on, loves the game and knows the score.

Henri Estienne, in the 16th century, said “Ah, if youth knew! If age could!”

One of the things youth doesn’t know is that, these days, age can.

At 60 or a bit earlier, ships we’ve sent to sea begin to come in. There are gangs of them going out too. By that age, many of us are cruising.

We get the mortgage paid off. We begin to collect a company pension. We have the option to begin collecting the Canada Pension Plan and, at 65, Old Age Security.

Sadly, in along there somewhere, no one asks us if we qualify for a discount anymore. On the plus side, the generation currently becoming senior, is the boomer generation. It has the votes and the money to make sure its interests are protected for life.

In Shakespeare’s time, life went downhill toward the end.

“Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

All that is going to change for us, isn’t it?

The words of Mary Hopkin’s pub song “Those Were the Days,” will come true for us.

“Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we’d choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.”
They’ll never end. We’ll have our way.
On we go!


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