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The Worst Part About Aging is the Awful Birthday Cards

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Aging isn’t for sissies, as Zsa Zsa pointed out.

A few years back I started getting mailers advertising cheap, though high-quality cremations. That was definitely off-putting. Then I got a letter from social security estimating my measly retirement benefits. I wasn’t too happy with these reminders about my age.

But the final straw was receiving a really stupid birthday card saying something that was supposed to be funny about the term “geezers.”

Perhaps the cards could comment on interesting things we’ve seen for the first time in our lifetime: “Aren’t you lucky to have made it to the computer age?”

Now that I’m 68, the so-called humorous birthday cards about aging are getting on my nerves. I really would prefer a card that was just about the birthday, and not about the age the birthday is marking.

Occasionally, one that is funny does come my way—like a Maxine cartoon saying, “Reach for the Stars! It keeps your chest from sagging”—but usually the cards’ messages are as predictable as April 15th taxes.

I became obsessed with cards about aging and what I’ve found isn’t encouraging.

Some cards attempt to make jokes about the worst possible scenarios about aging: baldness; flatulence; impotence; dentures; knee replacements; incontinence; sagging skin; declining memory; constipation; menopause and even dementia—the list of horrors is endless.

And there are truly dreadful cards about what I call “creeping infantilism” with jokes about how the recipient is now going to bed at the time he or she used to set out to party.

The more cheerful cards are little better, trying to highlight the advantages of being old: you are aged like fine wine or cheese; you no longer have to flatter your boss; you can sleep as late as you like; no worries about what others think of you; you get the idea. The advantages are merely less grim than the downsides.

A few cards do say something along the lines of, “You are now a member of the wise elder tribe, looked up to by humanity.” Or, “You can now volunteer, mentor, and save the planet from humankind’s follies.”

And a few take a positive view of forced leisure, “Now you can be a couch potato without guilt” or “Now that you’re a senior, relax in a hammock with a margarita while reading a juicy novel.”

These cards are certainly an improvement over jokes about flatulence, but I wish that the birthday cards were more like congratulations cards: congrats on graduation, your promotion, your new house, new baby, new husband, new job, trip around the world.

For those of us over 60, the cards I have in mind could say, “Congratulations on outwitting the grim reaper, keep up the good work!” “Congratulations on retirement and on to new frontiers,” or, “Congrats on still having an inheritance to pass on to your kids.”

And if age has to be mentioned at all, “Keep on trucking and best wishes for the next third of your life!”

Perhaps the cards could comment on interesting things we’ve seen for the first time in our lifetime: “Aren’t you lucky to have made it to the computer age? Many good years of net surfing to you!”

Or “Isn’t it great that you lived to see the plug-in car and micro-breweries!”

Or “How fantastic that you were around long enough to have your face on Facebook!”

Since so few decent cards, perhaps buy a blank one and write your own message.

What? Send an actual snail mail card? Isn’t that passé? And stamps are now $.45 and rising (although hopefully, we’re not too pessimistic to buy a forever stamp.)

But the way I see it, when I am 90 I would rather look at 50 great paper cards I have saved than turn on the computer to see 30-year-old e-cards (assuming my current computer lives as long as do).

What I’m trying to say is: come on, Hallmark, hire us Baby Boomers to write for you and we’ll revolutionize this pathetic senior birthday card market.

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