The cabbage is the size of a basketball. It’s in the refrigerator waiting to be turned into a giant batch of stuffed cabbage rolls.
I got it at the senior center along with a three-pound bag of sweet potatoes and a wedge of gouda cheese. I could’ve taken a baking pumpkin too, but I’ve had enough of roasting giant vegetables for a while.
Why am I scoring free food from the senior center? Because I’m a senior and I’m working on getting over myself. I’m also on the local Commission on Aging where we talk about senior centers all the time as if they’re places frequented by giraffes – not us, don’t you know, we’re too above it all, too important. We don’t need free cabbages and sweet potatoes, although if my colleagues on the Commission had a taste of that gouda cheese, they’d rethink their attitudes.
Interestingly, the event which most frequently precedes someone coming to a senior center for the first time is the death of a spouse. My spouse is very much alive and will be running the dogs at the dog park adjacent to the senior center when I go to Tai Chi there on Monday morning. But, still, I get it. There has to be an element of desperation for people to walk through those doors. That’s grim.
Stigma is to blame. So many seniors are loathe to own their age. Worse, many don’t want to be seen with old people. If one hangs out with old people, one must be old, right? Probably. The not wanting to step foot in a senior center has to do with that reflex of denial. I’m an older adult but I’m not really old. I’m not like those people with their free cabbages and gouda cheese.
Several months ago, I took a picture of myself wearing my Commission on Aging pin, posted it on social media, and said I wanted to make being old and being on the Commission on Aging the coolest thing ever. In the spirit of you are who you pretend to be I’ve been focusing on being old and cool. I’m not there yet but I’m working on it. The cabbage is a big step.
Soon, all the really hip people I know will be crowding the door at the senior center, elbowing each other at Tai Chi and pondering whether to take tap dancing lessons. They’ll leave happy, carrying bags of root vegetables and cheese with a $1 pendant from the gift store around their necks. And they’ll be smiling and laughing, and their friends will envy them. You wait and see.