Thursday, May 20, 2010

How Old Would You Be If You Didn't Know How Old You Was?




The title comes from the eminent American philosopher, Satchel Paige. It was asked of a reporter, in response to that reporter having asked Mr. Paige his age (which was always somewhat of a mystery since Satchel had a tendency to make himself younger or older as he felt the situation warranted.) It's a great question, isn't it?

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?

Some of you may have had the following happen to you already. If not, you will.

I was 35. I was standing on a street corner in Downtown Boston, leaning up against a light pole and smoking a cigarette. I was wearing some fairly tight jeans, a skin-hugging black t-shirt, a herringbone scally cap, black high-top Converse All-Star sneakers - pretty much the way I had been dressing since I was in my teens, Dorchester never-going-to-amount-to-anything chic. I was in decent shape, and as I puffed on my smoke, watching lots of teens and 20-somethings stroll by, I was thinking to myself, "Not too shabby, Jim. You could probably pass yourself off as 20-something if you wanted."

Just then, a 20-something slacker walked up and said, "Excuse me, sir, do you have an extra cigarette?"

Whuthfuh... SIR? ME?!?

Somewhat stunned by having been called a name with which I might have addressed somebody's grandpa, I pulled out my pack of Kools and proffered one to the miserable young fuck. He took it, gave a smile, lit up, and said, "Thank you, sir." Then he walked away, puffing, headed towards his next innocent victim.

I slumped against the light pole. Bags immediately formed under my eyes, and my skin took on an ashen gray hue. I could actually feel the remaining hair on my head recede an additional inch. I decided there was no point in sucking in my gut now, so I just released it on its own recognizance and it flopped slightly over my belt. I knew the war was over and I was defeated.

I often wonder, when I'm all dressed up in one of my softball uniforms, how ancient some people might think I am. I'm in reasonable shape, but it's obvious, by the graying hair that shows from under my cap, as well as the very whitish sideburns and beard, that I'm not 30-something. I like to imagine that my teammates see me as a grizzled veteran of the wars, awash in the knowledge of 45 years experience in the game, and that my playing into a fifth decade is admirable and an inspiration. The likelihood, of course, is that there are some who see me as a relic who should be sitting on the front porch of The Old Ballplayers Home, whistling at the nurses and trying to remember why.

(I imagine that people other than my teammates might think I'm either a horribly out-of-shape 40-year-old or maybe a tremendously in-shape 65-year-old.)

Back to the question...

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?

When I get a hit, I'm 19. When I draw a walk, I like to think it's because of my acquired experience and knowledge, so I'm 53. In either case, while I'm running the bases, I'm 42. When I make an out, I'm 88.

This weekend, The Bombers open their Sunday season. Here's hoping I'm 19, 42, and 53 more often than I'm 88.

(Satchel Paige, pictured above when he was 58 years of age, appeared in one game that season - 1965 - for the Kansas City Athletics. He pitched three innings, giving up only one hit and no runs. I just today found out that Satchel wore #29, which is my number. Now that I know, I couldn't be prouder to wear it.)



So, how old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?

Soon, with more better stuff.

[This post was inspired by this post, by Craig.]


39 comments:

TechnoBabe said...

Shucks, I would be probably maybe around thirty. Yeah, thirty. Sounds good.

Christina LMT said...

Wow, I pitied you (and YOUR WIFE) when I misread part of a sentence. I thought you said "88 when I MAKE OUT". Glad to see that it was merely my old eyes betraying me. And probably my ancient brain, too. ;)

I'm 27 most days, on others 55.

My birth certificate states I'm 40.

Craig said...

Good stuff, Sully.

Even today, when I really know better, I'll occasionally be out on my bike, pounding the pedals on some back-country road, when I'll spy another rider ahead of me in the distance. And I'll get down on the drops, and up-shift a gear, and set about the task of reeling him in. In my head, I'm always imagining myself pulling up alongside the young whippersnapper, and coolly saying, "Good day for a ride, eh?" as I pass him, while my brain is high-fiving itself and jumping up and down (which isn't as painful as it sounds), screaming, "YOU JUST GOT DUSTED by a fat old geezer, kid!"

'Course, half the time, I never do catch the guy. The other half, I pull up alongside to find it's a 60-year-old grandmother, who smiles and waves as I pass her. . .

And my first 'Sir' was from the checkout clerk at the grocery store. Sweet young college girl. You know, I'm smiling and getting ready for some mildly flirtatious banter. . . and she goes and drops a 'sir' on me. . . Brutal. . .

Craig said...

Oh, and thanks for the link-love, too. By the time you're being called 'grampa', 'sir' is no big deal anymore. . .

That last appearance by Satchel Paige blows my mind, just a little bit - three scoreless innings, allowing one hit (meaning he went thru the whole order) at age 58!!!

Really makes me sad, and a little angry, that guys like him were kept out of the major leagues for so long. . .

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

"Released on its own recognizance." Outstanding.

Usually I' in my mid-30's but today I'm 50-something.

Chronologically, I'm 45.

Were those the two weirdest back-to-back Yanks-Sox games this week or what?

IT said...

Good question.
I don't think I've ever felt as old as I am chronologically. Mostly I'm eight years old (I even have a birthday). Physically, I am probably all of the six plus decades I have been on this side of the grass, but emotionally eight is about right. Someday I may actually show some maturity. That is if I can have fun, too.

jinksy said...

Don't think I've ever made it higher than six, mentally, and about 101 physically on a bad day...

Mushy said...

It's certainly relevant to the time of day.

Jazz said...

I know the feeling. In the past 4-5 months people have been offering me their seat on the bus (it's happened at least 3 times). The worst part, these aren't 13 year olds practicing their manners, these are twenty-somethings.

Ouch.

Cricket said...

I don't know... I was 22, playing some club. A bunch of the bass player's friends had come out who didn't know me. Said to him: Hey, you guys sound great. Who's the old guy? He was 23, mind. Yow.

I will say I looked a lot like Jerry Garcia then. Hair, enormous beard and all. Lived a lot like Jerry, too. I'm sure that had something to do with it.

I'm often tempted to take the opposite tack on questions of age. I'm 41. I'd love to tell someone, if it were to come up "I'm 60." Ha! Don't I look good now?

By the way, if I didn't know how old I was, I'd still be 41.

Michelle H. said...

18 on good days, 70 on bad days, and 50ish on in-between days. It depends who I'm speaking with or around. Some people make me feel younger/older depending on their personalities. Otherwise, when I'm by myself, I throw the number out the window. Who cares?

Michelle H. said...

Oops, forgot to mention. I'm 35, but nobody ever guesses that by how I look.

lime said...

like the other michelle, 18 on good days, 80 on bad days, most often somewhere right around thirty-eleven which is my true age.

i handled being called ma'am without too much horror but when i was 39 and traveled to TX for a friend's wedding then was constantly asked if the 27 year old next to me was my daughter i was annoyed greatly. when someone asked me if i had grandchildren i wanted to smash the guy in his mouth. part of the issue is my refusal to dye my hair. dammit, when did grey hair on a woman become a moral failing? even though it makes people think i am older than i really am i won't dye it. i'll just compensate by acting like i am 10.

Expat From Hell said...

I'm the American version of Keith Richards.

Thumbelina said...

I would LIKE to be 19 again, but then again, a bit more wisdom might help so maybe 32.
Then again, I guess I'll have to settle for 44 like you have to for 53. ;0)

slommler said...

I wouldn't want to be a teen again. That is a definite no!!!! And my 20's and 30's sucked too. So I like the age I am now...60....soon to be 61!! I am having a blast!!
Hugs
SueAnn

saz said...

well l always say l am 15 inside...but if l could choose l would be 33 again...in heart beat!


saz x

Matt Conlon said...

Dammit, a softball post in disguise! I've been tricked!

Well, let's see, you said, uh...

Some of you may have had the following happen to you already. If not, you will.

Let's see which category I fit into...

I was 35.

Nope. I'm out. I'm just 30 now... But let's move on seeing as the post is about being only as old as you feel... Cause sometimes, I dunno...

I was standing on a street corner in Downtown Boston, leaning up against a light pole...

Ok, I'm with yah.

and smoking a cigarette.

Lost me.

I was wearing some fairly tight jeans...

No. I was always... Huskey. We fatso's avoided things like that...

a skin-hugging black t-shirt,

See above

a herringbone scally cap,

If only I could find one that would fit!

black high-top Converse All-Star sneakers - pretty much the way I had been dressing since I was in my teens

Well hell, didn't everyone wear those at one point?? Of course... I think I was 10 at the time, but...


ust then, a 20-something slacker walked up and said, "Excuse me, sir, do you have an extra cigarette?"

Ok, yes, this happened to me all the time, but I was almost always younger than these people. This happened clear up until I was at least 25. Very odd to be called "sir" by someone who had at least a few years on you. By the age of 14, I could have passed for 28. I'm only just now aging into my appearance.

Great post my friend, even if it was about softball in the end! :D

Uncle Skip, said...

Super post... it has Satchel Paige, ageism and softball.

I always felt kind of like an impostor because I was carded up to the age of 40... and that was for cigarettes. I may look near my age (66) now, but that's not my call.
I quit playing softball when it was more like trying to climb out of a hole than running from home to first base. The ol' wheels just fell off the bus.
Most times nobody was interested in bumming smokes from me because I smoked Camel non-filters.

I do believe that I can pass for a tremendously in-shape 65-year-old.

To answer the question How old would I be? I don't think it really matters because who'd believe it?

Teacher's Pet said...

Jim...I remember how devastated I was when I was called 'Senora' (when we were in Spain)...a title reserved for the elderly, I was told (I hope whoever told me that was a liar!...but I'm thinking they were telling it like it is.)
I smiled...as I always do when I read your blog.
I'll be 60 this summer. I guess that's an OK age for me.
You look good...and I'm so pleased that you enjoy baseball and are playing so well.
Smiles to you, my friend...
Jackie

Kathleen said...

I am, and always will be, 12 years old. My body, however, keeps trying to convince otherwise. To which I say: "Lalalalalalala...I can't hear you." And very soon thereafter, I seem to need a visit to the doctor. But I have fun, boy howdy, I have fun!

Shrinky said...

Oh, I felt your pain as you were "Sir-ed", I truly did. I got very fat in my thirties, looked and felt 50! It turned out I had an under active thyroid, so now it's medicated, I find I'm now skinny again (woo-hoo). Hubby says I've changed (du-uh, ya' think?) and am acting out my teenage years again! I don't care, I feel 25, sadly, the face refuses to play along (shrug), but you can't have everything, eh?

Moannie said...

Good question, Jim and one that takes some pondering. For many years I felt I would never catch up with my chronological age...felt ten years old till twenty, twenty at fifty and now...?
On a good day [getting fewer and far between] I'm riding backwards towards twentyfive, or even second childhood...though why I would want to go there when the first was so awful, lord knows.
Guess I'm at the 'day at a time' stage, and grateful.

Sandy Kessler said...

if the Celtics win., you'll see a young girl running wild in the streets !!

The Good Cook said...

Hmmm... let's see.

When I'm with my husband we are both 18.
When I'm with my kids I am 52 (real age)
When I'm with my sisters we all 12
When I'm with my girlfriends we are 22 (seniors in college)
When I'm with my parents I am 6.
When I'm all alone - I'm ageless.

Carolina said...

The older you get, the more variable your age becomes I find. When I was 12, I felt 12.
When I was 30, I felt 18.
When I was 40, I lost all hope of ever becoming a real grown-up.
I'll be 45 soon. People who don't know thát, but know me, always guestimate my age at about 35 but never older than 38. What can I say. Good genes. I have an aunt who is 102 and doesn't feel a day older than 80.

Daryl said...

I am and have always will be 27 ... it was the best year of my life and I dont see any reason to be any other age ..

Posted a new Yacobsladder on my blog .. the guys have new/different personea/personas but are still totally funny ...

Ananda girl said...

Funny you should ask. Last night the man and I were at the market, holding hands. He opened the truck door for me and followed it with a long kiss.
When he trotted over to his side, he looked at me and grinned... said "Teenagers." I laughed because I thought he was talking about the boys in a truck next to us who were watching the weird old folk. "No" he said, "Us".

Buck said...

The "sir" thing has never caused me any grief, being the military kinda guy I am. EVERYONE is sir or ma'am in my world and have been since I learned to talk. That's because my father was military, too, and the quickest way to get popped in the mouth as a child was to omit the "sir" conversational appendage. I have found, however that some women get seriously offended when I address them as ma'am. But fuck them... they're thin-skinned bitches with obvious self-image problems. (Ooh. Such LANGUAGE!)

I found buying likker to be the true test of how old you look. And... no shit, really... I was routinely carded until about age 42. Not so much since then. Not at ALL, actually.

These days my self-perceived age varies but it usually hovers right around my true chronological age. Unless I'm on the mo'sickle and then I'm considerably younger. That's why I love that bike. Kinda like you and softball, methinks.

~jill said...

the responses to this post were fun to read. best response (imho) goes to the good cook. =D

Jewels said...

16. Yep. 16 for sure.

Angela Christensen said...

Here in the south, we're doomed. Well-raised kids always call Old People "sir" and "ma'am"; when I had to move to the north at the age of 11 and was taught by nuns, they were deeply offended by the "ma'am" thing, to my astonishment. Now I have the same reaction you do: Dear God, am I old enough to have this clearly OLD person call me "ma'am"? I am, obviously.
One other note: I think the Satchel Paige reference also has to do with the fact that as slaves, people really might not have known their fates of birth and ages.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

I love this, Jim...such a thoughtful, and heartwarming post...I especially liked your use of repetition and Satchel's words...This had everything...with a bit of smile thrown in...You have the heart and soul of a 19 year old...and the wisdom of a man in midlife! Personally, I'd be happy if I were anywhere between 22 and 33 ...for the rest of my life...one can only dream...or perhaps, lie (LOL). Have a wonderful weekend! Hugs, Janine

Michael Leggett said...

55 Now/yet thinking like I was in my early 30s:

Videos now on my blog.

Chuck said...

If I wanted to look younger, I'd have to go the Just For Men route at this point. I did have my nephew's college friend call me "sir" this week at his graduation, but as he just got an Army commission it didn't really make me feel old.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Physically, some days, 90, most other days, around 40-45. Mentally? "If you haven't grown up by 35, you don't have to," so I didn't!

My favorite quote: "If wrinkles must be written upon the brow, let them not be written on the heart. The spirit should never grow old." - James A. Garfield

She Writes said...

Hard to say. I like what I know right now, but age is having its way with my face.

I got carded last night in a bar. It actually made me angry and I swear I hadn't had a drink. It seemed silly to me. I had to go get my ID from the car to even get in. This is a place I have been and never been carded before. Silly.

But, I'd take late twenties in a different life than the one I chose. Some days, I'd take a different life. Some days.

Jeni said...

There are days when I wake up and have all kinds of ideas racing around in my mind of things I need to do, things I want to do, things I have to do that day and in my mind, I feel like I am a youngster, even in my early 20s. Then I start tackling the various ideas and in short order things tend to change till by the end of that day I may be feeling like I am 85 going on 300! But then again, there are days when I wake up feeling before I even "rise and shine" that I am the latter age mentioned. Somehow, I'd much rather be feeling the former as opposed to the latter, ya know. As long as my mind feels younger -regardless of how much younger that may be -I figure I'm still ahead of the game then. Age is just a number anyway isn't it?

Hilary said...

I feel a good decade and a half younger than I am.. but feel like I look that much older.. on a bad day. I`ll be 55 in a few days.. so I`ll claim 40 for now. :)