I remember there was once a show called ‘Children Say the Darndest Things’. They would interview all these little boys and girls saying obnoxiously cute things that had everyone falling off their chairs laughing. I’m sure the audience wouldn’t be laughing so much these days, considering the host of the show was a certain Bill Cosby.
My point is this: the show was funny, though my mother eventually stopped watching it because she said all that laughing was giving her premature wrinkles.
“I wish I had recorded what you children would say to me when you were growing up,” she told me once. “You always made me laugh!”
When I repeated this to my sister, she said she only ever remembered being scared all the time. “I’m sure Mother’s got early senility! When did she ever laugh?”
Which is harsh, but I can see why Michelle might remember her childhood this way. “You were always rebelling,” I said. “Like that time when you were 15 and you bugged Mother for an entire year for a tattoo!”
“Of a butterfly! How could anyone possibly object to a butterfly?”
“On the back of your neck!”
Michelle was astonished. “Well, where else would you tattoo a butterfly?”
See, if Michelle was five years old, that comment would have been cute and everyone would have laughed for ten minutes and said how precocious and adorable she was. Now, I just looked at her, all grown up and sullen, and shook my head.
The second point is this: adults say the darndest things, too.
A few nights ago, I was having dinner with my Uncle John and his wife, Auntie Mary. They were visiting from Sydney, so I took them to a local Chinese restaurant.
“So, who are you writing for these days?” Uncle John asked me.
I tried to think. “Uhm…” I began. “I still write for 8DAYS…”
Auntie Mary looked up her chrysanthemum tea. “Ooh, I love that magazine!”
I coughed. “You read 8DAYS?”
Saffy stopped chewing her Peking Duck and stared. “Why?” she asked. “I mean, you’re not exactly the right demographic are you? Oww! Did you just kick me, Jason? What I meant was they don’t even live here! Quit with the evil eye! Oh my God, that really hurt!”
“Auntie Mary gets Jason’s cousin Sue to buy it every week and she sends it over in a big package every month,” Uncle John told Saffy, his rheumy eyes trying hard not to focus on her straining tee-shirt that said in big bold red letters, ‘My eyes aren’t down here!’
“It’s like Christmas every month!” Auntie Mary said brightly. “I especially love the page with all the half-naked men!”
“Huh,” Amanda said. She stared hard at the ceiling, trying to choose her words carefully. “So, uhm…it’s true then that age doesn’t, in any way, limit…uhm…the…uhm…you know…uhm…the urge to uhm…”
Auntie Mary looked at Amanda, her shrewd eyes missing nothing. “I’m seventy-five dear, not dead!”
“Well, that’s really good to know!” Amanda said brightly.
“So, let me get this straight,” Saffy piped up. “Are you telling us that you and Uncle John are still having se…Owww! Seriously, did you just kick me again, Jason? Oh my God, what is wrong with you tonight?”
This is what it must feel like to have a stroke, I thought. Or be Stephen Hawking. There was so much I wanted to say, but my brain couldn’t connect to my mouth.
Much later, in the cab zooming back home, Saffy was still ranting. “I think my shin has turned blue black! We were just having a perfectly normal conversation!”
I was astonished. “Normal! There was nothing normal about that conversation! There is seriously nothing more disturbing than when ancient grandmothers discuss the virtues of a pectoral definition and treasure trail of a half-naked men three quarters of their age!”
“Especially when you’re involved in that conversation!” Amanda told Saffy.
I nodded. “Yes, exactly. What she just said!”
It says something about the titanium grade caliber of Saffy’s self-esteem that she was completely unruffled. “I think you’re both just being ridiculous. I think it’s wonderful that we have examples of senior citizens who won’t let age be a barrier to their exuberant love lives!”
Nothing spurs on a hypochondriac more than a discussion on advancing decrepitude. “I’m seeing adult nappies and life support systems in my future as a senior citizen,” I said morosely
“Mine, too,” Amanda said. Misery loves company.
“Seriously, I hope my juices will still be running when I’m your Auntie Mary’s age!” Saffy declared, caught firmly in her parallel universe. “And I hope 8DAYS will still be running that ‘Shirtless Guy’ page! What, why are you looking at me like that?”