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The Elder Revenge: ‘Senior Discount’ My Ass

The Elder Revenge: ‘Senior Discount’ My Ass

Hissy Fit

On July 27, 2022, I become a 60-year-old woman. What in the bloody hell? En serio? Vraiment? My mind wants to butt in: Pas problèm!, because thoughts randomly pass through in languages other than English due to my pandemic-birthed foreign Netflix obsession. (Escapism is my favorite.)

But fuck that shit, it is a problem! I’m a toddler stomping my feet, palms smashed against my ears: I! Don’t! Want! To! Be! Sixty! 

There. Said it. And fuck you, anti-ageism movement. I wanna stay in my fifth decade forever. Or better still, wish I was back in my 40s, being offered a do-over—boy would things look different today. Two steps away from 60 and I’m throwing a hissy fit. 

Go ahead and fire me, Ashton Applewhite. I’ve done my best. Actually, I quit. I can’t take it anymore. It’s real—ageism is real, and I’ve lost the battle. I surrender. I’m going to France, or Spain, or wherever the hell itsn’t here.  

Okay Boomer

Here’s what’s really going on: Every day I think about something that’s actually a feeling, a squeeze in my chest that blocks my breath. In six months my Gen Z daughter applies for a driver’s permit. In six weeks, my Silent Generation mother turns 90. Three months from now, Baby Boomer me trips into her sixth decade. And, this situation has left me untethered. Like a balloon at the mercy of a nervous child, I could be let go of any minute now. Into the unknown I will fly. Not knowing when, or if, I’ll touch down again. I’m near the end of something, yet teetering on the edge of a beginning. I’ve never been here before. I’m somewhat numb. Unable to feel excited. Or even terrified (both reasonable, in my opinion). I need a mentor, a dedicated, proud Baby Boomer who made it out alive. Yet all I have is me.

Having waited until age 45 to become a mother (through international adoption), I’m now an accordion: I’m being squeezed on both sides. I spent my 20s and 30s wandering about, solo and seeking, and ended up becoming mommy to an infant at a time when most women are preparing to send their kids off to college. I succumbed to Botox at 53 in attempt to avoid other parents asking why my daughter needs her grandmother to pick her up from school. When six months ago I was given the senior discount without asking for it by the checker at a local market I told the image in the mirror that it was over: I’d lost the battle, and it was time to accept reality. I’m almost 60 with a 14 year old daughter, an 89 year old mother and an unquenchable desire to run away. Like it’s 1985 with the future smiling at me, its palm reaching out, an invitation to come away, journey to find out what it is I want to do next. 

Except that luring, with the winking eye and the serious chuckle only mocks me now. The paradox of being both stuck and untethered. Stethered: the feeling that one’s feet are cemented into the earth while the heavens reach down for an upward leap. 

So, as the perpetual graduate student in me persists, I’ll do what I know how to do: research how others have done it. I’ll find my mentors from history, or from anywhere I can, and I’ll don a new me. My choices are limited. You, Road Fork, are gonna feel some boots walk all over you. My patent leathers are pulled up. I’m ready to go. 

Mentors to the Rescue

Ashton Applewhite

I gave you bum rap earlier, but in truth, I adore you, admire you, wanna be you! Dear Ashton, your website describes you as someone who journeyed “from apprehensive boomer to pro-aging radical.” Though I’ve known about you since you self-published This Chair Rocks in 2016, it’s taken me six years to admit I need you. Forgive me my hubris, judginess, and the way I silently mocked you and your movement. (Me, on my knees, kissing AA’s feet.) I may not yet be quite ready to cancel my bi-annual Botox appointments, but I promise I’ll put it on my to-do list. Soon. 

Miyoko Schinner, CEO, Founder, Miyoko’s Creamery

“There is no deadline for success or fulfillment, just as there is no one path everyone needs to follow.”

This 2021 Forbes’ 50 Over 50 list-maker, founded her vegan cheese company at the age of 57, and started it from her home kitchen! Not only that, she’s managing more than 200 employees, and her superior cheeses can be found in 29,000+ stores in North America and Australia. What’s even better than clean, delicious vegan cheese though? She’s put her position and power to use as an animal rights activist. Miyoko runs Rancho Compasión, a sanctuary where neglected farm animals can live a peaceful, protected life. Their mission? “To provide a loving, lifelong home for rescued farm animals, and to change public perception about animals typically as food. …” Okay, now I wanna be Miyoko. Two for two.

Sue Monk Kidd, author 

I tell myself the bereft feeling that washed over me means nothing– I’m jet-lagged, that’s all. But that doesn’t feel particularly convincing.

“I close my eyes and even in the tumult of the museum where there seems to be ten tourists per square inch, I know the feeling is actually everything. It is the undisclosed reason I’ve come to the other side of the world with my daughter. Because in a way which makes no sense, she seems lost to me now. Because she is grown and a stranger. And I miss her almost violently.”  Traveling with Pomegranates 

Sue Monk Kidd was formulating her first novel during these journeys with her daughter, and this fascinates me. Though she published the internationally acclaimed and beloved The Secret Life of Bees in 2002, it was seven years later that she and her daughter co-penned their memoir, Traveling with Pomegranates. It seems to me now that she needed to journey deep into herself, with her no-longer-baby-daughter as her companion, so that she could come to the place where her fiction could gestate. This prolific and profound writer did not see her most well-known book in print until 2002 when she was 54, and it is this first work of fiction that shot her to international fame. But what I see so clearly now is that she needed to feel bereft, perhaps even untethered, needed to face this thing that I surely am going through before the global sensation of “Bees” could emerge. 

When a Woman Feels Alone”

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Old Woman I meet you deep inside myself.
There in the rootbed of fertility,
World without end, as the legend tells it.
Under the words you are my silence. —May Sarton (from Traveling with Pomegranates)

I too must meet the old woman inside of myself. I must touch the rootbed of a fertility that feels too dried up to resurrect. Because if I don’t, how will I survive? 

It is these kinds of questions that I must ask myself now. It is through those who have come through the rough patch of this middle space, between what was and what will be, that I will find my way. I need to immerse myself in honesty and courage, and the certainty that it’s not over yet. 

Susie McGowen

You don’t know Susie. I didn’t either, really. She was my mother’s childhood best friend, and she died from complications of M.S. at the age of 68 when I was 38. This soft-spoken, seemingly frail woman, who was my mother’s original soul-sister, was anything but frail while she was alive. She never let M.S. get in the way of her travels, her artistic endeavors, her love life, or how she joyfully experienced motherhood. Susie showed up in a dream I had while writing this piece. I had never dreamed about her before, or even really thought about her. Yet Susie must have been thinking about me, because when she visited me in the night, it was as if she’s been with me all along, an invisible mentor ready to come to my rescue at just the right moment.

“You cannot let the human body be a hindrance, my dear,” she said to me. 

I took in her smiling words and collapsed. Relief swept through me, as I fell into her arms and begged her not to leave. But she had to go. And as she walked away, her kindness turned and assured me that all is well. Nothing to be concerned about. She told me to carry on. And then she disappeared, and I woke up.  

What about you?

Now it’s your turn. Have you had a mentor in your life to show you the way? Has your cycling through the stages of womanhood left you feeling powerful or pained? Confused or congratulatory? Are you pleased with where you’re headed? Where you’ve landed? What is it about your mentors that inspired you to flourish? If you too feel an inner inadequacy to navigate your unstepped-upon path, what’s your plan? I want to know, and I’m sure so do your besties, your daughters, your colleagues. Send me your notes so that I can share them with the teens in my workshops. I know for sure that if I had been privy to these kinds of discussions early on, I would not be searching for the map that never was. Let’s write this ship together, and heal our jittery big hearts together. 

Dina McQueen is a writer, mother of a teenage girl, and TESOL MA student. She founded Girls Write San Diego, a teen writer’s collective whose mission is to encourage and develop the expressive voices of young women through the practice of writing. She lives with her husband, daughter, and twin rescue kitties in Carlsbad, California. You can find out more and contact her at: