E S S A Y Now that I’m 68, the so-called humorous birthday cards about aging are getting on my nerves. Occasionally, one that is funny does come my way — for instance a Maxine cartoon saying “Reach for the Stars! It keeps your chest from sagging” — but usually the cards’ messages are predictable or insulting.
Some attempt to make jokes about conditions they think are typical of aging: baldness; flatulence; impotence; dentures; knee replacements; incontinence; sagging skin; declining memory; constipation; menopause and even dementia — the list of horrors is endless and the jokes fall flat.
The more cheerful cards try to highlight the advantages of being old: you are aged like fine wine; you no longer have to flatter your boss or dress up for work or get up at a set time. A few cards do say something reasonable such as: “You can now volunteer, mentor, and save the planet from humankind’s follies.” And for those of us who are retired, a few take a positive view of forced leisure: “Now you can be a couch potato without guilt.”
These cards are certainly an improvement over the quips about flatulence, but I wish that the birthday cards were more like congratulations cards that say: “Congrats on graduation, your promotion, your new house”, etc. 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 during an economic downturn, “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 that have come to pass in our lifetimes such as “Aren’t you lucky to have made it to the e-age and 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!” “How fantastic that you lived long enough to have your face on Facebook!” And if you can’t find a decent card, buy a blank one and write your own message.
So what I’ve learned from my card searches is: Come on, Hallmark, get going; hire us Baby Boomers to write for you and we’ll revolutionize that pathetic senior card market!
Judith Amber is a free-lance writer living on California’s Central Coast. She writes on topics including food and wine, the environment, politics, travel, and the arts. She also writes creative non-fiction, humor pieces and poetry.