What a brag it is getting old

The Baltimore Sun

So did you go to the big party in DC over the weekend?

They say it was wild: early bird specials, Medicare-reform panels, prescription drug workshops, you name it.

Lots of people even stayed up past 10.

Yep, the big AARP 50th anniversary party at the Convention Center was a blowout, all right, three days of peace, love and Metamucil as the leading organization for the aging saluted itself and its 40 million members.

OK, we kid with the geezer jokes. But that's because we approach geezer-dom ourselves. We kid because we're nervous, that's all.

Anyway, AARP went all out for its big bash, that's for sure.

They trotted out inspirational speakers such as Shirley MacLaine, Maya Angelou and Cal Ripken Jr.

(I don't want to be a wet blanket here, but what's Cal Ripken talking to old folks about? How to wait on the 3-and-2 fastball? Taking the cutoff throw on a play at the plate?)

They held seminars and workshops with titles such as "Sex and Love Through Menopause and Beyond" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Traveling the World and Having a Great Experience - and AFFORDING it -- in Uncertain Political and Economic Times."

(Couldn't they have tightened that last one a little? That title was so long, some older people probably passed away before they got through it.)

They even put on concerts starring Natalie Cole and Chaka Khan, Chicago and Paul Simon, where, I'm told, people were dancing in the aisles - well, the ones who didn't have knee and hip replacements.

As an AARP member in good standing, it did my heart good to see my wrinkly brothers and sisters party semi-hard - although I watched via the Internet, being too cheap to spring for the registration fee.

Lots of people get depressed when they hit 50 and start getting the hard sell from AARP to join, but not me.

Heck, I would have joined at 35 if they had let me.

And I can tell you why in two words: AARP discounts.

Look, I'll join any organization if it gets me $20 off on a hotel room or rental car. I'd join the Marines and ship off to Iraq if it got me 10 percent off at Barnes & Noble.

And being an AARP member definitely gets you discounts. I didn't ask, but you can probably get $30 off on a colonoscopy if you say you're a member.

Here's the beauty of getting all these discounts, too: No one at these hotels or car rental places ever asks to see your AARP card.

It's like they're too embarrassed to ask you for ID because you're so old.

When you say you're with AARP, it's like saying you're with the FBI. People just nod and leave you alone.

Being an AARP member also entitles me to receive the organization's magazine, which used to be called My Generation but is now AARP THE MAGAZINE.

Why they had to throw The in there has never been fully explained. To me, it's like seeing a commercial for Ramada The Inn.

But it's a pretty interesting magazine and they put big Hollywood stars on the cover like Sidney Poitier, Martin Sheen and serial-Activia-pusher Jamie Lee Curtis. And these stars always look like a million bucks.

In fact, they look way better than any normal-looking older people, which allows you to delude yourself into thinking you look that good, too.

This happened to me when they sent the issue with Martin Sheen on the cover. I thought: Gee, he looks great for an old guy. I wonder if I look this good?

But this only works until you look in the mirror.

Then you begin to hate these pretty cover boys, with their $500 dye jobs and gleaming white choppers and Botoxed cheeks.

One thing about AARP, though: Once you join, they never leave you alone.

They bombard you with e-mails seemingly every day about all the stuff they offer:

AARP car insurance, AARP health insurance, AARP legal services, AARP financial services, AARP home security services.

I'm telling you, these people are like the Mafia: They're involved in everything.

And don't ever try to leave AARP, either.

Because just like the Mafia, when you're in AARP, you're in for life. You can never get out. They'll never let you go - at least not peacefully.

No, they'll write you and call you and e-mail you, badger you to come back.

They'll appeal to your sense of guilt and go on and on about all the great work and advocacy they do for the elderly.

Plus they'll ply you with even more fantastic discounts: 20 percent off on parachuting lessons, 30 percent off on ecological tours of the Antarctic, 40 percent if you visit the International Space Station.

Which is generally when you cave in and join again.

Because you really can't beat the discounts.

Twenty percent off on mobile home insurance - I'd be all over that. And I don't even have a mobile home.

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