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Where is Ponce de Leon When I Need Him?

by Rose Madeline Mula

I remember when my darling mother was the age I am now and I suggested she visit her local Senior Center. She was appalled. "Why would I want to spend time with all those old people?" she said. I laughed. I'm not laughing any more.

I know exactly how she felt. I have dropped into my Senior Center from time to time-for a computer class, a watercolor demonstration, an introduction to Tai Chi-but I always felt like an interloper. Sure, the activities are great, and the people there are all very nice to me; but I simply don't belong. I'm much too young. Maybe in ten years or so, I've been telling myself. But during one visit, I went into the ladies room. Big mistake. They have mirrors in there.

It's just as bad when a movie ticket seller or a store clerk automatically gives me the senior discount. I love the discount, of course; but how come they simply assume I qualify? I should have to ask for it, and they should be incredulous and demand to see some ID. I'm not unreasonable. I don't expect them to deny me entrance to an R-rated film because they think I'm too young, but neither should they automatically classify me as ancient.

When did this happen? Wasn't it only just last week that Hollywood actually made some movies suitable for children, and I used to get in for the child's price (ten cents, I think it was).and the day before yesterday that I graduated from college.and yesterday that I was the youngest person at my first job.Now look at me. No, don't! Wait until I turn the lights down a bit.

When did I get old? I know when it all began-when I was a child, impatient to grow up. I couldn't wait to start kindergarten with the big go to junior high school (no middle schools back then).to wear start dating.go to high school.all the time wishing the months away until summer vacation. Then I wanted to be 16.get a car.go to college! And I was just as eager to graduate and start a career. assuming I'd be young forever-or at least for such a long time that it would no longer matter. Then, before I knew what hit me, I was young no more.

Sad to say, I never learned my lesson. Instead of trying to slow down the clock and enjoy the moment, I'm still impatient for future events. And my friends are no help at all. One of them, knowing I hate winter, keeps trying to cheer me up from November to March by saying, "Don't worry; it will be spring before you know it!" I could throttle her. Spring means another birthday for me.

But I'm not the only one experiencing the race of time. It's an epidemic. When, for example, did Gregory Peck, Paul Newman, and Kirk Douglas go from being dreamboats to old wrecks? Not to mention those over-the-hill ladies masquerading as Mary Tyler Moore (who, like me, was the youngest person in her office), Elizabeth Taylor (that cute 12-year-old in "National Velvet") and June Allyson (the perpetual teenager). What's even scarier is that it won't be long before Meg Ryan will no longer be cute and perky, and Matt Damon's smooth mug will begin to look like the roadmap that was once Robert Redford's gorgeous face.

The men, however, do seem to have a better deal. Look at Kirk's son, Michael, for instance. He gets to marry a beauty half his age, and few think it's strange. If I went after a boy toy, people would smile indulgently and have me committed to the nearest asylum. Which is okay. I wouldn't know what to do with him if I caught him anyway.

I can't help but wonder if Ponce de Leon ever actually found the fountain of youth. Could be that he did, but has kept it a secret and is living in Miami picking up chicks at South Beach every night. I hope with all that high living that he doesn't exhaust the proceeds from his Explorers 'R Us pension plan before the fountain runs dry or the next condo developer plows it under.

If you're reading this, Ponce, take heed! Bottle as much of that water as you can and send it to a safe place----my house. Or if you don't want to do that, could you at least poll the grandmothers of the girls you're dating and recommend a good plastic surgeon who works cheap?


Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.


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