I’m not sure what the reading is supposed to be on one’s personal odometer when it happens, but most assuredly it does happen:
There’s a dimension of latitude that comes to some of us with age. It would be a mislabeling to call it “freedom”; typically, an individual is just as free before he turns decrepit as afterward. It’s more about the lessening of some of one’s personal inhibitions. Other people’s opinions of us and our choices matter less. We no longer worry as much about “setting a good example for the children,” whether our own or those of other parents. Some of us get a little careless about a few things — vocabulary, associations, flirtations, certain indulgences we carefully limited in our younger years — and become rather insouciant about them.
It’s certainly that way with me. (Send $20.00 and a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the details.) As I look a bit younger than I actually am, I draw a fair number of dubious looks and disapproving comments for it. My usual response to those bothered by my little ways is to shrug, smile, and say “Too bad for you!”
The mistake I made was believing I’d reached that point half my life ago. And back then, there were enforceable penalties for insouciance.
Still, I suffered no consequences even then for peccadillos at this level:
I sing along with the music in retail establishments, at least if I know the tune and the words. I can carry a tune, and I’m told my voice is decent, so I get some pleasure out of hearing something I know from years ago and joining in. The way other shoppers look at me is often enough to blister paint. Now and then, one will actually approach and upbraid me for it.
Which is remarkable, since I couldn’t carry a tune even if I sewed a handle on it. That said, I do have one mitigating factor on my side: I usually know the words. People who don’t know the words will typically concede me a couple of points on that basis alone.