At forty-five years old, I am almost three times as old as my youngest classmate in construction school. That’s really old. So old, in fact, that simply calling me “old” doesn’t cut it for my colleagues. Apparently, to express how incredibly aged and decrepit I am, one must reference my brittle bones, my leathery skin, my imminent dementia. When we talk about Pythagorus, they ask if I knew him. When we order lunch, they ask which flavor Ensure I like. Someone used the school lathe to turn a cane for me.
Recently, after inquiring whether I had read about something in the Dead Sea Scrolls—you know, because I am so unthinkably old—one of my classmates followed up rather earnestly. He wanted to make sure all the ribbing wasn’t hurting my feelings, that I knew it was all in good fun.
I can’t remember exactly how I responded, but I probably said something like, “Don’t worry. I’ve got thick skin.” Then he probably said, “You’re telling me.” That’d be about par for the course. Because, you see, I am crypt-keeper-from-the-dawn-of-time-with-skin-like-a-saddle old.
I could cry uncle and ask them to stop, but, truth be told, I appreciate a well-wrought ageist synecdoche more than the next girl. The creative elder-bashing reminds me of the scene in Roxanne, when Steve Martin as the latter-day Cyrano de Bergerac rattles off twenty clever jabs for his own freakishly long nose. The jokes just keep getting better.
In fact, today was a high-water mark in the flood of Carrington-is-so-damn-old jokes. Referring to the rectangular framing pencil that I keep tucked in my ponytail, one of my colleagues explained to the rest that I have to keep it close at hand, you know, so I can redraw my eyebrows.
I did my part to sound vexed. But in my head, I raised a glass of Ensure and thought, “Well played, sir.”