“Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”

Bette Davis

Someone in the produce section this morning asked me how it felt to be an octogenarian. That’s the first time I ever thought about it. I looked it up to make sure. I don’t want to go into that good night without proof. Turns out she was right. I am an octogenarian. While researching, I got to thinking about all the other ‘narians I survived.

Denarian: Those between 10 and 19. OK, lots happened here. I was a Boy Scout, altar boy, delivered newspapers, went to high school, briefly went to college in Louisiana, spent summers making plastic feet in a shoe factory, worked as a fireman on a diesel engine on a railroad and joined the U.S. Air Force. The first 10 were rough, the others were better.

Vicenarian: That’s the period one lives between 20 and 29. That’s exciting for all of us.

I drank Akadama wine in Japan, got out of the Air Force, studied painting at the Art Students League of New York, did some nude modeling there for $5 a class (bet you didn’t know that) and played piano in a gay bar in Vermont.


Somewhere in there I met a nice girl from Maine, moved in with the nice girl from Maine (on strict conditional terms because she really was a nice girl from Maine) and eventually married the nice girl from Maine (also on conditional terms) and left New York for Hollywood.

Wow! I lose my breath just thinking about that. Where did I get all that energy? Vicenarians never get out of breath, and if you’re going to do nude art class modeling, the vicenarian era would be the best era.

Tricenarian: 30 to 39. If your dreams haven’t come true by the end of this period, you had better make new plans. Starting at 30, I got married and left the stress, heat and anxiety of New York for the stress, heat and anxiety of Hollywood. I became a television actor and the father of two daughters. (The nice girl from Maine obviously eased up on some of the rules.)

Quadragenarian: 40 to 49. I learned to drive at 43, learned to swim at 49, drank too many martinis and too much scotch and worked in endless mediocre television shows. Somewhere in there I stopped smoking in one day, never went back. I began newspaper writing at the Los Angeles Times, and at the end of the Quad life, I got an earring, gave up martinis and scotch, took up wine and never went back.

Quinquagenarian: The fun years of 50 to 59. I followed She, who made the decision, to Maine and started writing for Maine newspapers. I discovered that the Los Angeles Times paid better, but the Maine newspapers put my picture on top. Once an egotist, always an egotist. I learned that real snow is deeper and colder than the fake snow on Hollywood sound stages and that raking leaves is a form of torture and body building.

Sexagenarian: 60 to 69. The fun years run out of gas, the hair turns white except for nose and ear hairs that stay black and wiry.


Johnny Carson once said, “When you’re buried, your hairs and toenails keep growing, but after three days, nobody answers your tweets.”

I also discovered that the “sex” at the beginning of the word has no bearing whatsoever with anything. In that period, I got my first glasses, prostate test and colonoscopy. I hired someone else to shovel snow and rake leaves. Wondered why I hadn’t thought of that as a quadragenarian.

Septuagenarian: 70 to 79. No more prostate tests and the last colonoscopy. Gave oldest daughter away to another man, lost 36 pounds but started drinking too much wine, and thought about going back to martinis. Had minor heart attack and started taking statins.

Octogenarian: 80 to maybe. Heart improved. Kept weight off until Christmas of 83 when I gained 3 pounds, but didn’t panic, just stopped candy. Best friend started letting me have a sip or two of his delicious martinis. Cue: slippery slope.

Nonagenarian: 90 to 99. Clip toenails and nose hairs.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer and author of “Will Write for Food,” a collection of his best Morning Sentinel columns.

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