The AARP Bulletin's "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Below, reader Lynn Ruth Miller of Pacifica, Calif., shares what she really knows about telling jokes.
Almost five years ago, when I was 70 years old, I became a standup comic. My best audience is not my peers—they are where I am in life and know how great it can be. No, my biggest supporters are people ages 20 to 60, who love to hear me make fun of all the things they are afraid will happen to them.
Most comedy springs from anger, and it is ageism that infuriates me. So my routines attack the notion that old people do not remember who they are, cannot walk up stairs and have to wear diapers. I poke fun at people who need face-lifts and Botox to shore up their self-image, or pills to make them think they want to do what they did when they were 20. I stand before my audience proof that old can be a lot of fun.
I tell people my last date took me to a coffeehouse and gave me $20. He said, “Get whatever you want.” And I got a cab and went home. What I am really saying is you can have dates at any age if you want them, and when you go out you can be yourself.
I talk about the old days when one bar of soap cleaned your body, your hair and your language; and when drive-in theaters were where you lost everything in the back seat—your keys, your wallet and your principles. Those jokes are intended to remind everyone of the days when our language got us in trouble and our principles trapped us. Now anything goes, and we can choose the kind of person we want to be.
When I joke about my wrinkles, my drooping body and driving habits, I am showing youngsters under 70 that at my age you are so happy to be able to live your life your way, you don’t even think about winning a drag race or snagging a hot one. You are too excited to have finally figured out what you want to be now that you are grown up.
Tell us what you really know about our October topic: Presidential campaigns. E-mail your essay of up to 400 words to email@example.com. Or mail it to What I Really Know, AARP Bulletin, 601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049. Please include your name, phone number and e-mail address. Deadline for October submissions: September 1, 2008.