Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Senior Moments

Vanity is a strange phenomenon. Everyone falls victim to its poison from time to time. I, for example, have days when I think my hair looks bad. And sometimes thinking about my hair impacts the way I feel about myself. But ultimately, there are more important things to think about than my hair. And I successfully think about these other more important things and forget to let bad hair spoil my day.

Age does not affect me. It's just a number. And my daughter says, "Numbers aren't real." It then should follow that anything that can be measured in numbers is similarly not real. I'll be 50 this December. This means nothing to me.

At Planet Care, seniors - that is to say, people aged 60 or over - receive a 5% discount on their purchases every day. A lot of seniors know this and ask for their discount. A lot of others do not know this and occasionally I'll ask, "Do you qualify for the senior discount?" But only if I'm pretty damned certain that the customer is 60. I've made some bad judgment calls and caused people to feel indignant or depressed. So I am entirely cautious of whom I ask this question.

Yesterday a woman asked for her senior discount by saying "I get that other discount." This took me aback. So I looked at her for a clue to her meaning and she gave me that wink-wink-nudge-nudge-say-no-more look.

"Oh! That other discount."

"Yes. You know. That other one."


"Not that I have to tell you, I'm sure."

"Actually, it's good you did. I would not have guessed you are 60."

"I'll be 63 in May. But I wouldn't be telling you this if a good-looking man were standing in line behind me."

"No. Of course not!"

We giggled.

Similarly, another woman asked for the discount and said, "But I'm sure you already figured it out." And I said, "Well no, actually you don't quite look the age."

"Well, that's because you're from the South."

This comment utterly perplexed me. I decided to ignore it and just bag the lady's groceries. But she continued, "Southerners are so ingratiating. It's endearing."

At this point I restrained myself from hurling a can of tomatoes at her. Never mind the fact that she could not allow herself to consider the possibility that I might be sincere - that I could not tell how old she is. Never mind the fact that she was belittling me in particular. She was belittling my people. Southerners.

"Yes, you're so gracious.

Did she say "gracious" the first time? I swear I heard ingratiating!

"Not at all like people where I'm from."

"Oh? Where are you from?"


"Well, I'm glad you're in the gracious South now."

She was grouchy. I decided not to expend any more energy on this exchange. I thanked her and wished her well. In an ingratiating sort of way.

There's another woman who comes in to Planet Care fairly regularly. She is clearly a senior. But I made the mistake of automatically giving her a discount without asking whether she qualified for it. She asked me why her bill was cheaper than she'd expected it to be. I told her it was because I gave her the senior discount.


"What makes you think I'm a senior?"

Your sagging jowls. The abundance of deep creases on your face. The age spots on your face, your bare chest (Why?! Seriously. Why do you wear such a tight, revealing blouse?), your bare arms and your hands. The abundance of flesh dangling loosely from your arms. The deep recesses of the cellulite on your thighs (which maybe you need to cover up. I mean, should a woman your age be wearing mini-skirts?).


"You should never assume you know someone's age. That's just rude!"

And while we're discussing age appropriateness, how many times can a woman your age bleach her hair before it actually catches fire? And if your hand trembles so as you try to fight the creases in the quest for your eyelids, maybe you should not attempt to wear eye-liner.

"Yes, of course....."

"I mean some people do their best to look good."


"I'm very sorry I made an inappropriate assumption. Here, I'll remove the discount."

"They work hard on it. They spend a lot of time on their hair, their face...."

"Yes, again I apologize."

I am not an unkind person. I do not typically judge people by the way they look. But this woman personifies absolute denial. She reminds me of Bette Davis' character in the film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, a woman possessed by the memory of her youth - which is, in her mind, synonymous with "better days" - a woman unhappy in the here and now. I would feel sorry for her if she weren't so grotesque. And since that exchange, I sort of cringe whenever I see her. I secretly hope she will not come through my line. When she does, I avoid looking into her eyes. Because I'm a terrible liar. And because I'm ashamed of judging her. She's doing her best. She's working really hard.

I have a very hard time dealing with people who have a very hard time dealing with their age.

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