By Hannah Reich Berman
For many years, I did what women everywhere have been known to do—I did my best to hide my age. It wasn’t always to make people think I was younger. When I was a kid, I wanted people to think I was older. And I was foolish enough to actually want to be older! If somebody thought I was 16 when I was still a few months shy of 15, I made no attempt to correct him. I never thought of it as lying; I was just keeping my mouth shut. My reasoning was that it was no fault of mine if I looked older than I was and somebody was misjudging my age.
Needless to say, the time came, as it does for all of us, when there was a major reversal. As I segued into adulthood, I learned that it was not a great idea to add years to my life. For that reason, if there was any way possible that I could get people to think that I was younger, I took advantage of it. Who wouldn’t? Which females don’t want to be perceived as younger? Very few, is my guess! This went on for many years. If anybody assumed that I was a year or two (hopefully more) younger than I actually was, I did not correct him.
But nothing ever remains the same. It is a changing world and a changing life. So, now there is once again a reversal and I am back to doing what I did as a kid. Shortly after I hit 70, which was three years after losing my husband Arnie, everything was different. I had to learn to live alone. If there was something in my house that needed to be replaced or repaired, or if there was a problem with telephone, television, or Internet service, I would make a phone call to the proper person and ask for help. I still do that.
If it is a telephone problem, it often needs to be replaced or repaired without any help from me. But if the problem is with my television or computer, it is a different story. The Internet service can always be restored but I am expected to participate in the process. This is not for me. So these are the times when I revert to what I did as a child and play the age card by letting the person from technical support think I am older than my years—much older! If Hubby is hearing me, he is undoubtedly laughing his head off.
When the technician asks me to turn to the back of my computer and to remove and then reinstall wiring, I panic. Moving any part of my computer is a challenge that I do not willingly accept. And that is only part of the trouble. Removing wires and then plugging them back in is also a major problem for me. Half the time I have no clear idea of which wire the man wants me to unplug. And if by some magic I do happen to get it right, I never know which opening it came out of and therefore can never figure out which port it goes back into.
When the problem is with my cable television, I am always asked to read a number that is affixed somewhere on the cable box. I can never see it. Not even my glasses are of any help. My eyesight is not that poor, but the numbers are almost microscopic. Add to all of that the fact that concentration is not my strong suit, and you have a recipe for disaster. So this is when I go into my act!
“Listen, sir, I am well into my seventies and you can’t expect me to do that. I am a paying customer and I am requesting that you send someone to my house to do it for me. Either that, or you do it for me over the phone.” I tell myself that it is not a lie. In my humble opinion, age 72 qualifies as being well in the seventies. It all depends on one’s perspective. Oftentimes I actually whine to the person I am speaking to. It is sort of like begging. But I am not too proud to whine or to beg. As I see it, it is akin to “any port in a storm,” or the modern day expression of “you gotta do what you gotta do.”
Let me set the record straight by admitting that I am not always so forthright. Occasionally I skip the “well into my seventies” routine and tell the helper on the phone that I will be 79. Again, I do not think of this as a lie. I will not be 79 for another seven years, but I never say when I will be, only that I will be! And 79 sounds a lot better than 72 when pleading for mercy. I have thought of saying that I will be 80, but that sounds like too much of a stretch, even to my ears. In truth, it would be no more of a misrepresentation than 79, but in my mind it is. And I do not want to push my luck by claiming to be an octogenarian.
I have not, as yet, played the widow card, although I will admit that there have been times when I was tempted. But I cannot bring myself to go there. I will not go there. I miss Hubby far too much to capitalize in any way on having lost him. But I manage to get around it. I get my point across by saying, “I am a woman living alone.” The implication here might be that I am a divorced woman or that I am one who never married. Let them figure out what it means when I say that I live alone.
That single status, combined with the age thing, often does the trick. It is almost a guarantee that the tech-support person as well as other company representatives will go out of their way to assist me by any means possible. And I do not feel guilty about that. I cannot afford to feel guilt, because I genuinely need the help I am asking for. Another point of view is that letting someone think I am older is a way for me to atone for all the years when I led people to think I was younger. It may be a somewhat convoluted philosophy, but it works for me. And that’s the way it is.
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.