Cool Guy in Your Seventies


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First off, it’s not easy. Ask your grandkids. And maybe you think you’re already cool.  You aren’t. Ask your grandkids.

Cool is a state of mind, and it can be cultivated. The trick is to look around and see what cool people do or did and try to adapt it to your 70-plus-year-old circumstances. Think Cary Grant or Paul Newman or George Clooney. One example of a “cool move” — a cliché of action movies — is walking away from a huge explosion and not looking back or changing the bored look on your face and not cringing in terror and covering your head and getting the heck away, which is what most real people would do.  It will not come up that often in the average 70-year-old’s life to walk away from a huge explosion, but you can do your own version.  Try this: the next time you park your car in, say, the Walmart parking lot, walk steadily away and, without looking back, aim your remote behind you and press it to lock the car.  Don’t change the bored expression on your face as the car beeps behind you.  Think of yourself as Bruce Willis or Javier Bardem as you walk away and you’re halfway there.

Interacting with the opposite sex is another opportunity to be cool.  Think of Lauren Bacall telling Bogart, “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve?  You just put your lips together and...blow.”   Now I have no experience with 70-year-old dating, but I think you should act like you’re dating even if you’ve been married for 40 years, so this advice applies in any situation.  There’s a famous (maybe apocryphal) story about Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy meeting for the first time. She said, looking down from four-inch heels, “I’m afraid I’ll be too tall for you,” and Tracy reassured her, “Don’t worry, I’ll cut you down to my size.”  Hepburn was a goner.  That’s the kind of cool self-confidence that wins the lady and the day. There are many opportunities to show your coolness and impress her: calmly dispatching a spider or cockroach in the bathtub is one.  Calming a crying baby is another and pretty irresistible.

Unfortunately, one of the prime sources of cool when you were in your teens is no longer available for those of us in our seventies — smoking.  I’m convinced that one of the reasons it’s so hard to quit smoking is that it’s the coolest, most graceful thing most people do.  Remember Paul Henreid lighting two cigarettes and giving one to Bette Davis in “New Voyager”?  Don’t try that with your Medicare-eligible date.  It’s a deal breaker.  And a hacking cough is never cool.

Another area where being cool is possible is in clothing, but in your seventies avoiding un-cool is probably the best you’ll be able to manage. You’ll want to stay away from “putter pants,” especially the ones with elastic in the back.  It is impossible to be cool in putter pants.  I have a faded jean jacket which I used to think was pretty cool, until my daughter told me my granddaughter asked her, “Is Grandpa wearing a girl’s jacket?”  Apparently, the only people she’d ever seen with jean jackets were teenaged girls. 

So, yes, there are challenges to being cool beyond a certain age, but it’s worth the effort.  Just keep channeling Bogey and Paul and Cary and keep your hand on that remote in your hand and try
not to limp as you walk coolly away from the car.

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