man in suit holding hand stopOnce for a whole year I claimed to be older than I was. A doctor’s receptionist corrected me. My “birthdate” and “age” didn’t match up. I guess I don’t think one’s age represents all that much, so I typically don’t get too hyperbolic about it.

To celebrate my friend’s 50th birthday we planned to see a Broadway show. We’d try to get discounted “rush” tickets which were offered occasionally by a few theaters, originally for students who were on a limited budget. More select, were theaters which offered “general rush” tickets, available to the general public the day of the show.

We met at the Golden Theater for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. The show got rave reviews and was about to close. My friend arrived before me and attempted to buy tickets. Now she stood under the marquee, a look of defeat was plastered on her face.

“They wouldn’t sell me the rush tickets,” she groaned. “I’m not under 35.”

“What?!?! Who ever heard of such a thing? Under 35?”

That’s a little random, no? A 34-year-old could get the cheap tickets but not a 39-year-old?

“It’s not general rush like we thought. It’s “youth rush,” she sniffled.

Youth rush?!?! What kind of ageist shenanigans were going on here?

I gave it a moment to sink in. We had a back-up plan in case the rush tickets were sold out, but they hadn’t sold out, had they? They were just not selling them to us.

I wasn’t leaving without a fight. (Not a real fight, I’m a bit of a chicken.)

I channeled my inner young person.

It took a little longer than expected.

Then a silent pep talk. I could pass for 35! After all, there was only a four year differential. I told my friend my plan. I was assertive. “We’re talking about four years for Pete’s sake, I’m not Betty White!” I thought this would cheer her up. I thought she’d get swept up in my enthusiasm, and my “no one’s gonna shut us out” spirit. She didn’t. Her brows knitted together and a look of deep concern washed over her.

What? What’s the problem?” I asked.

“It’s not just four years. You’re not 39,” she informed.

What? I did the math in my head. Dear Lord. She was right. I wasn’t 39. Holy cow, how long had it been, thinking I was 39? Geez. That was embarrassing; I was off by more than a few years. When was the last time I told someone my age? Did they giggle?

Who cared. Time to move on and take action.

“Yes, you’re right,” I admitted. “I’m not 39. But I’m not leaving without those tickets.”

“You’re gonna lie?!?”

“No, I’m not going to lie. I’m simply going to point out that selling “youth rush” tickets is biased and that the obsession with the youth of America is passé. Putting the “youth” on a pedestal has been frowned upon for years−I can show my frown lines to prove it!” I handed her my umbrella. “They’ll come around once they see it in those terms. You wait here.” I told her to stay put—outside under the marquee.

I sauntered into the theater and up to the window. I asked, sweetly, for two rush tickets. The solemn lady behind the plexi-glass window looked at me stone-faced, with not a glimmer of kindness or even pity. She craned her neck forward to look at someone else. She said, “I told your friend already,” thrusting her chin at the person beside me, “they’re youth tickets. You have to be under thirty five.”

I looked to my right. I told her to wait outside!

I turned back to the staid lady with the frown. “Really!?!” I managed, the steam building inside me.

“And you need to show I.D. to prove it.” She added for good measure.

Oh really? I.D.? Bartend much! I yelled back at her inside my head. And another thing−you should try smiling once in a while; you might look less ancient yourself! I yelled that inside my head too.

We left the theater.

What happened to my speech? I couldn’t muster it. These people obviously missed the memo to stop over-indulging the youth. Disappointed, I looked at my friend, almost wishing we were 35 again. Then I grabbed ahold of myself. Everything would be different if we were 35. I wasn’t so sure I wanted that. For one thing, my friend and I wouldn’t know each other−we hadn’t even met until we were both older than that−and she was the best friend anyone could ever have.

One thing I was certain of. I wouldn’t trade in her friendship to be 35 again, not in a million years.

Mostly because, in a million years I’d be turning 50, and I was definitely gonna need her for that.

Eva Lesko Natiello is the award winning author of the bestseller, THE MEMORY BOX


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