A recent Wall Street Journal article is full of praise for a 70-year-old about to graduate from the University of Virginia. This is a common feel-good theme often played up in the media at this time of the year. I am all for doing whatever you want in retirement, but I object to singling out college graduation for special applause. Is the goal of graduating from college any more praiseworthy than any other retirement goal, such as sampling every bar and taproom in Detroit?
Based on the large number of old-grad stories, first-in-their-family-ever-to-graduate-from-college stories, I suspect it is far easier to get into a prestigious college when you are 70 than when you are 18. And why not? What college would not welcome such positive publicity and be paid many thousands of dollars besides? If someone is so willing to pay so much for an ego trip, why not take their money?
The septuagenarian featured in the article is enjoying all sorts of extra-curricular activities, as surely he can by majoring in “interdisciplinary studies.” He should have had my notorious organic chemistry professor who snarled at his first lecture for us to look at the person seated on our right and left because one of us would be gone by the end of the semester. But “Septy,” as I’ll call our elderly graduate, is not taking up a valuable dorm room, lab space, or any other resources other than an occasional back seat in a lecture hall.
Septy is a fraternity brother, but was not required to pledge and lives off-campus with his wife. (I would like to read an article on her.) All he does is pay fraternity dues. I assume his wife does not let him cruse kegers with drunken coeds on Saturday nights, but he may soon crave that as a deeper denial of aging. His main activity is whooping it up at sports events with the student cheering section called the “Hoo Crew,” where he is known for his enthusiasm and his orange, Phyllis Diller fright-wig.
I realize this is becoming a rant that is more about my resentment of the partying frat boys I knew at Penn State while I was living a very Spartan life. But, if that is what you want, have fun Septy. Just be aware, your young buddies are not really your buddies. They are laughing at you and will move on with their own lives that you will be no part of. You will look back on your Hoo Crew days as a silly waste of time. But it could be worse. You could be a Philadelphia Mummer (Zing!).
“I don’t think retirement was really for us'” says Mrs. Septy, buying into the whole charade.
Do you really think you and your husband are not retired? Better you had put your money in a yacht and hung out with people your own age, people who will understand the life-changes to come.