I am fifty years of age, and I am old. Other people who are fifty years old say they are middle-aged and if you dispute them, nothing on earth makes them madder. They are middle-aged and they will continue being middle-aged up to seventy or beyond. They will talk about "getting old" but they will never say they have arrived at oldness unless, perhaps, they are ninety or beyond.
When I was a young reporter I worked on a newspaper whose publisher was a tyrant in his seventies. The first mistake I made on his paper was to write a story about an "elderly" derelict of seventy-three being found dead in an alley. A copyreader caught it and expunged the word "elderly" and explained that it would have cost me my job if it had got into the paper. The old man, our publisher, didn't permit the word's use on anybody this side of a hundred.
Most well-known "middle-aged" people of sixty-five or seventy pretend that growing old is a pleasant and beautiful process. They would have you believe that great age is so wonderful that all the years leading up to it are a waste of time. They lie in their store-bought teeth. I have never known but three people to be honest about this thing. Ben Hecht was asked on a television interview how he felt about growing old. "It's horrible," he said, "downright