It never fails. Just when I've convinced myself that I'm cool with being over 50, reality rears its ugly head and spits in my face.
I've come to terms with the personal issues, like being called auntie - or worse yet, ma'am! - by a well-meaning waitress or cashier. Or hearing myself grunt and groan when I'm getting out of bed, as my joints crackle and pop. Thankfully, nothing's snapped yet.
It's the big-picture stuff, the universal evidence of my advancing obsolescence, that really bursts my bubble. News items and forwarded emails that cause me to say things like "Back in MY day . . ." and "advancing obsolescence." I mean, really, who uses phrases like that? Old people, that's who.
Most of the time, I'm comfortable in my 55-year-old skin; old enough to know what I want, young enough to pursue it with a vengeance. And then I'll hear or read something that makes me feel positively ancient.
This time, it was a Maui News article about the national trend toward eliminating cursive writing from the standard 3rd-grade curriculum. Apparently, Hawaii is among the majority of states making longhand instruction optional for school districts. Experts say that in this day and age, printing and typing are the necessary skills; longhand is virtually obsolete.
Penmanship still has its proponents, of course. Some educators see it as beneficial to youngsters' brains and coordination, as well as their sense of individuality. But they seem to be vastly outnumbered. They're probably all over 50, too.
As a 3rd-grader, I would have been relieved to have cursive writing removed from my daily drills. I never did better than a C in penmanship. As hard as I tried, I could never get my loops and swirls to look like the examples posted above the blackboards. Still, it was a big deal, a rite of passage, to move from block letters to grown-up handwriting. And when I had to stay in at recess to write "I will not talk in class" a hundred times, it was faster and easier on the hand to do it in cursive.
By the 5th grade, my handwriting was at least legible. That was the year we girls got our first autograph books, and we all developed our own distinctive signatures. I carried the tail of the "y" in my first name up and over to cross the "t" without lifting the pen from the paper. My last name was Yogi and I always thought that my signature would be prettier if I had a name like Yamashiro or Yoshizawa. As it was, my signature looked like me: short and squat.
In high school, I realized that my writing was an exact blend of my mother's upright, rounded letters and my father's skinny, slanted script. That piqued my interest in handwriting analysis and, after reading a few articles on the subject, I worked on some of the finer points of penmanship, like making sure my "t"s were properly crossed and my letters didn't float above the lines. Wouldn't want anyone to think I was flighty or careless.
I envied the kids who came from parochial schools and had beautiful handwriting. They told us it was from getting their knuckles rapped with a ruler for anything less than perfect penmanship. Maybe the constant blows helped shape their fingers into the ideal configuration for writing.
My handwriting never improved much beyond the chicken-scratch level, but it serves me well. I still keep a personal journal and I draft much of my performance material in longhand, even though my friends will tell you I'm addicted to my BlackBerry and my PlayBook. There's just something about putting pen to paper that can't be duplicated with a keyboard or touch screen.
It makes me sad to think that my granddaughters won't know the pleasure of owning a diary in which they would practice signing their names as Mrs. Man-of-my-dreams, Forever and ever. Or the thrill of writing and reading notes passed under desks between junior high sweethearts. I know, I know, they've got Facebook and texting. It's not the same.
But perhaps it's a good thing that today's kids have more efficient ways of recording their thoughts and sharing their mana'o.
As a lost art, longhand could become the secret language of older folks, a way for us geezers to communicate without them young whippersnappers knowing what we're up to.
OK, I admit I'm just saying that to shake off the fear that I'm becoming as outdated and irrelevant as . . . cursive writing. Maybe I should spend my lunch hour writing "I will not succumb to fear" a hundred times. I might practice a new signature too. But not Mrs. Man-of-my-dreams Forever. More like Ms. Forever Young.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.