Okay, you know that forgetting what you were about to, uh, say or eating dinner at 5:30 makes you old. But what about the other, subtler, yet just as revealing ways of acting old? You may not be aware that what you're doing and saying pegs you as over the hill (wait: is that expression over the hill?), but the young people around you certainly are.
Here are the top ten ways not to act older than you want people to think you are.
1. Don't Leave A Message
Crazy, right? Yet the fact is that young people, accustomed to cell phones, never use or listen to voice mail; they just look at the numbers in their missed calls and trust that their callees will do the same. Urgent message? That's what texts are for. So don't even bother leaving a message for your child or your 12-year-old boss: They won't listen to it.
2. Don't Lust After The Lifeguard
Imagine the hot lifeguard, the one you've been eyeing from beneath your hat and behind your sunglasses, wanting to hook up with you. (And yes, hook up means what you suspect it means.) Now imagine me slapping you across the face and crying, "Snap out of it!" Unless we're talking about the world's Oldest Living Lifeguard -- you know, the one with hair like dune grass and skin so weathered you could make a purse out of it -- that lifeguard is too young for you.
3. Don't Live In Greenwich Village
It used to be, in New York, that young people lived in the Village, and old people lived in Queens. Young people lived on the Upper West Side, and old people lived on the Lower East Side.
All that's changed around now. Why? Money, honey. Young people want to live where it's cool, but they have to live where it's cheap, which forces them to move to places that are less cool, which makes those places more cool, which makes the rents more expensive, whereupon all the young, cool, poor people are forced to move even further out to the frontiers of Brooklyn.
Following this reasoning, Greenwich Village was last marginally affordable in the beatnik era, and now you need to be Graydon Carter to live there. Cool, maybe, but still old.
4. Avoid Direct Confrontation
Maybe it's this silent, desktop world we inhabit. Maybe it's the new culture of positivity and anti-depression. But instead of having a big dramatic (read: old) confrontation, the young way to fire or break up with someone is to stop responding to their messages, or defriend them on Facebook. Pissed off? Blog about it. Or send topless pictures of them from your cellphone to everyone you both know. I'm not kidding.
5. Don't Listen To Springsteen
Dear Bruce: I'm so sorry. But if there's anything I've learned from you, it's to say what's deep in my heart, so here it is: Loving you makes me old.
Don't worry. I'll still (secretly) buy your CDs. I'll still dance (alone) to Born To Run. I'll listen to you through my earphones at the gym. But in public, I'm afraid I'm going to have to act like I don't know you.
6. Don't Talk About Your (Grownup) Children
It's not the fact of having adult children that makes you seem old, it's talking as if your kids are the most interesting thing about you. As if your children are the ones with the noteworthy lives now, your own life beneath mention. Sure, admit the kids exist; of course, answer questions about where they go to school or whether they have a boyfriend. But then firmly and politely change the subject back to you - or better yet, the person you're talking to.
7. Don't Smoke Pot
Maybe you play Robin Hood by removing the marijuana from your teenager's room and donating it to somebody more deserving: You. Fair enough. Just don't call it "pot." Pot was the term we used when we actually knew where to buy it. Now, it's called "weed." Or so my connections tell me.
8. Stop Using Email
Leave it to the evil young to get us addicted to email, and then to abandon the form in favor of texting and Facebook. Like waxing, email is proving to be one of the Great Age Divides. Old people can't figure out why anyone would text, IM, or facebook (wait: is that a verb?) instead of email: How do you type with your thumbs? Why would you want everyone to read your posts? And young people hate emailing because it's.....old.
9. Enough With The Seinfeld, Already!
Okay, you're the Biggest Seinfeld Fan Ever. But listen, the real-life Jerry has moved on. He's got a young wife, little kids, a struggling new career as a voice-over actor: When you've got that much money, you can not only buy yourself a twenty-years-younger life, you can actually enjoy it. Larry David has moved on with his new family, the Blacks. And although I'm sure you can relate everything that happens in your life to an episode of Seinfeld, it's time for you to move on too.
10. Break That Saturday Night Sex Routine
I totally grok (If you know what that word means, you are old) assigning sex a special time and space so it doesn't get lost completely in the business of life. Yet every-Saturday-night-whether-you-want-to-or-not sex (I know you do it) has a way of making you not want to. Has a way of reducing what once was fun and thrilling and satisfying and relationship-building to just another duty, like taking out the recycling on Monday morning.
Sorry, I was going to wind up with something pithy, but I have to go sit in the corner and sob.
Pamela Redmond Satran writes How Not To Act Old .