The French are furious — protests, strikes, clashes with police.

Civil rights?

Foreign policy?

Gas prices?

Nope. Retirement.

President Emmanuel Macron wants to increase the age at which pension benefits begin from 62 to 64. He might as well have suggested bulldozing the Arc de Triomphe for a condo development.

The serious side of the matter is that blue-collar workers complain their bodies can’t hold up after decades of physical strain and that Macron should economize elsewhere.

From afar, some wonder if the French are, oh, just a little too laid back — devoted to café life, slow sips of espresso, long vacations on the Côte d’Azur and extended debates regarding the views of Jean-Paul Sartre.

“Lazy people in France,” said a Twitter comment. “In the Netherlands the retirement age is 67!”

Get lost, replies another. “The French should be respected for standing up for what constitutes their way of life.”

As a retiree, I, too, am prepared — with the French — to defend what constitutes my way of life.

This involves the unalienable right to spend whole days in a discount pair of sweatpants and what my wife, Wink, calls the “old man shirt” — a fuzzy, gray affair that I’ve preserved for decades — and make no excuses.

Likewise, I will surrender to no heartless government the prerogative of late afternoon “You Pick Two” lunches at Panera, midnight bingeing of British TV mysteries, impromptu power naps — and perhaps most important — unlimited access to the computer so that, as inspiration demands, I can apprise old friends via email of my latest penetrating assessments of politics, culture and the sociological relevance of Harry and Meghan.

After retirement, you are apt to discover who you really are. There will be surprises.

Who knew, for instance, that I would embark upon a search for the perfect Hermit cookie recipe — fresh nutmeg and watch your oven time — or devote myself to building shelves on every spare square foot of wall space.

“Enough,” said Wink. “The place looks like Barnes & Noble.”

Perhaps the French have ideas on how to best spend time when liberated from the workplace and the employer’s endless gaze.

In this country, we are perhaps a bit more wired.

U.S. News & World Report ran a story about jobs for retirees — a very American idea. Quit working and head directly to the employment office. On the list were teacher, real estate agent, taxi driver, nurse and, my favorite, “joining the clergy.”

I don’t usually mention this, but there was a time back in high school when I thought I might have a calling.

My brief interest in becoming a minister almost surely had to do with a hope that, as a divinity student, I would not have to gauge isosceles triangles or memorize the periodic table or meet the various daunting requirements that, unfulfilled, weighed disastrously on my Brooklyn Tech report cards.

I met with our kindly pastor, Werner Jentsch, at St. John’s Lutheran.

“Wonderful,” he said with unexpected enthusiasm.

Of course, that ended it. Pastor Jentsch was taking me seriously. I didn’t want to go to divinity school. My calling was only to escape trigonometry.

Nor have I been tempted in retirement to embark belatedly on theological coursework. Actually, I haven’t been inclined to try anything more noteworthy than baking a superior batch of Hermits.

Still it’s been nice, no question. Wink and I have time that was hard to find when we both were working. We take walks, see friends, head to the East End, spend a couple hours at the local pub. Regular stuff.

We don’t linger over espresso at chic cafés or plan vacations along a distant, sun-drenched coast. But no one can blame the French for protecting every precious year away from the grind. A familiar sign at demonstrations says, “la retraite avant l’arthrite” — “retirement before arthritis.” Is that too much to ask?


FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.