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The humility of aging

For my husband’s 70th birthday I had dressed to please him, even wearing heels.  The waiters at NoMad had spoiled us silly, and now we were at the intermission of 700 Sundays, Billy Crystal’s one-man show on Broadway. The evening was going perfectly.
At intermission I headed toward the ladies room on our balcony level. There was a line which stretched across the lobby and down the stairs. I stood at the top of the stairs pondering whether it would be better to post myself at the end of the line by going halfway down the stairway, or to wait for the line to reach me. The calculation was changing as more and more ladies joined the line from the bottom. I would have to go down, and was briefly assessing the steepness of each step before heading downward. The unfamiliar heels were making me feel unsteady, and I was still feeling the aftereffects of a broken foot.
I sensed a rustling to my right, a whispering of women, then one said, “She needs the railing. She wants to go down but needs the railing,” and she started to move the women away to give me access.
I was mortified. Did I look so decrepit?  This was the first time someone had addressed me as an object, “she”, instead of merely addressing medirectly. It was disturbing.
“Oh no, no, no, no,” I said, and pranced down the stairs, hoping I didn’t fall and break my neck, the victim of a misconception of myself and of the many times people had falsely said, “Seventy?  You’re seventy?  I would never have believed it.”
My now disproven illusion had been that the conditioning of daily yoga was magically bathing me in the Fountain of Youth. A flashback exploded in my head. I was 60 when a man gave me his seat on the crosstown shuttle in New York.  At the end of the short ride I thanked him, and he replied, “My pleasure. I hope that when I’m your age someone will do the same for me.”  He didn’t look much younger than I was! I was so stunned that I didn’t even smack his fresh face. That was my “60” moment, and I’ve now had my “70” moment.  With luck, I’ll have an “80” moment as well, and at that point, I might well need the railing.