The abomination of “Oldtimer”…

There is no denying that I have been battered and seasoned by life experiences to make me the strong and resilient FrogDiva that I am today. Call me stubborn, or call me impulsive, but the one thing you may not call me just yet is old.

But can I be called an old-timer?

I received a call yesterday to ask whether I knew anyone with an old-timer motorbike for a photoshoot (or owned one myself). My response was that the only old-timer I had was a cat, if that was of any use, to which the retort that bounced was “Oh, I thought you were going to say that the old-timer on offer was you.” Snort. Well I never thought I would see the day that a person is considered old or an old-timer at 52?! The cheekiness of it all! But that made me think. Should I be offended? If so, why or why not?

First of all, there is a linguistic and cultural difference between the continents. An old-timer in North America is a human being – a veteran or a person of old age. Here in Europe, an old-timer in German, Dutch and Hungarian is an adjective used to describe an antique or vintage car or aircraft. So in effect, I as an Asian raised with a mostly American background, interpreted the term to be offensive for being called out as old, very old, when in fact no offence was meant and the person was simply asking for a vehicle in the European sense. It was definitely an interesting learning experience.

Which brings me back to the original question – when is a person really considered old? It is a matter of perspective: To a child, a teenager or any adult may seem old. For someone in their 20s, people in their 60s and beyond are already old. But for those of us in our 50s and 60s, old is something in your 80s or beyond and only if you are decrepit and suffering from dementia. Those in denial will say that age is just a number required by the bureaucrats, and it is all about mind over matter, arguing that if you are in your 60s and feel as though you are a spritely 30, then manifest it into being and ignore what the rest of the world says!

Yes, age is absolutely a matter of attitude. I have experienced 30-year olds behave as though they were old fuddy-duddies in their 90s. Conversely, I have also watched octogenarians use all the modern gadgets with great ease, speak the current lingo and go about their daily lives as if they were 30 years younger. It all depends on personal motivation, having a goal to work towards, and most importantly, people that keep your spirits up.

My personal caveat in all this age nonsense is to respect and embrace the dignity of the age bracket you belong to. Accept that you are in your 50s, 60s or 70s and live life to the fullest, by all means, but also be aware of your physical limitations. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and you can always have a bit of fun, but never lose your dignity.

So, back to the old-timers: what is vintage or antique? Again, it is a matter of perspective. Just looking around Berlin as an example. Before the Wall came down, East Berlin was full of Trabant cars, Trabis, as they fondly called. Then Reunification happened and all the Trabis became obsolete, associated with the dark past and summarily discarded. The Trabi is now considered a classic vintage car and is always part of some rally or you can also tour Berlin in one of them. The point is, it was just 30 years ago when the Trabi was the standard East German car but now it is an old-timer. In a similar manner, there are some precious cars from the 50s and 40s that surface for some old-timer gatherings and are in mint condition, and if you look harder, you will find private collectors with much older cars.

How do you determine vintage? Officially, vintage is defined as anything that is at least 20 years old and this applies to cars and clothing alike. When it comes to being an antique, however, for furniture it means being at least 100 years old, but for cars and aircrafts it means 45 years old. Ah, but how do you define an old-timer car between these two? By German vehicle registration standards, for a car to be considered old-timer, the very first registration date of the vehicle must be at least 30 years ago or more for it to be officially recognised as such.

Damn it all to hell! Either way the definitions categorise me as both vintage and old-timer by German standards, but thank goodness not yet an antique! As I learned in my self-compassion meditation yesterday, one has to always seek the positive side of things!

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