The R-word has no truck among me and my friends. We are experienced and competent and capable and refuse to be assigned to the R-box by anyone, least of all ourselves.
We are mad because retirement is an artificial invention. Age 59 and 364 days and you are recognised as a productive member of society: age 60 and you are suddenly, and without due cause, assigned to that box labeled: pensioner, or that horrible euphemism: senior citizen.
I was first made aware of this as I was getting on a train with a lot of packages. A man reached out saying ‘Can I help you Gogo?’ For a moment i was insulted. Who was he calling Gogo (granny)? Me, who felt 30? Me who could manage packages just fine, (with a little maneuvering)? Me, with nary a grey hair, (also the result of a little maneuvering)? I remembered my manners because in Africa it is still the custom among some to honour elders, but it was an unwelcome moment of truth. The world viewed me as a Gogo!
We are mad because once you become aware of the phenomenon, you see evidence of the campaign to place you in the box, everywhere. ‘Pensioners discounts’ are the first insidious little way to buy your compliance.
- My train ticket is suddenly 60% of what it used to be
- If I shop on Wednesday I can take advantage of ‘senior specials’.
- And even some marginal necessities, like the telephone, qualify.
Who could not be a little pleased to find that?
But we are madder still because even the discounted gifts are negated by the fine print:
- I have to travel after 9am, so early business meetings are out.
- The ‘senior special’ chicken is the cheapest cut, injected with brine, and all the fat and skin hidden underneath.
- The telephone offer is so beset with qualifications, it needs a degree to make sense of them. In the end, most of us 60+ do not qualify.
We really should be mad at ourselves for falling for these cheap stunts and believing that when we are over 60 we are indeed in a different box.
But what we should be maddest about is that we are conned into this ‘senior state of mind by the conventions and language around us.
- Here is the default wiki definition: leave one’s job and cease to work, typically on reaching the normal age for leaving service. Bet you thought that was an accurate description? But ask yourself: what is the ‘normal age’. It assumes you know – and accept it.
- Here is a quote from an acquaintance speaking about a local official ‘Has he reached retirement age?’
If you were asked what that is, the number that may jump into your head is 60 to 65?
So, today, here and now, we take back our power, lean out of our windows and yell at the world which places us in that box:
We are as mad as hell and we will not retire!*
* With acknowledgement to the eponymous phrase in the movIe, Network (1976).