Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Does Your Car Tell Your Age?

About 35 years ago, when every senior citizen in South Florida was bedecked in Vera print polyester shirts or dresses, I made fun of their “uniform” to my sister-in-law who was 22 years my senior.

“Someday your peer group will be identified by their uniform just as mine is, and I will expect you to call me and tell me I was right,” she said to me.

There are no phones in heaven, but today after I could not find Hubby’s car when I came out of the store. I looked up and told her she was right – sort of. You see, we don’t dress differently from our kids. Everyone I know from 9 months to 99 years wears jeans unless going to a formal wedding. Our tops depend on the season and the occasion. The uniform of my generation is not clothing. It’s the color and models of our cars. Drive through any clubhouse or supermarket parking lot in the retirement neighborhoods of South Florida and you’ll rarely see a car that’s not silver or tan.

About 25 years ago, Hubby was circling a parking lot near my parent’s over-55 condo. I was picking up something in a store for my mother. When I got back into the car, he informed me, “Almost every old man in this parking lot is driving a white GM car.” He then pointed to al the Buicks, Cadillacs, and Oldsmobiles.”

Every foreign or different colored car we spotted entering or exiting the parking lot was driven by drivers closer to college age than retirement. “I’m never buying another white GM car again – it’s an old man’s car,” said my white-haired husband who was nearing his 50th birthday. GM had no idea that their problems were their cars were loosing popularity because men like Hubby thought they had become cars for old people.

Hubby kept his word because he switched to a foreign car when his had to be replaced, and dared to get a blue one instead of our usual white. But I stuck to white because unlike him, I parked outside all day. White doesn’t show the dirt as much as a dark car nor does it need as long to cool down from baking in the oppressive Florida sun all day. I did switch from an “old people car” to one of the Toyotas when we bought my next car, and my next. The last car we purchased was after I retired. Since my car would now spend a good part of the day in the garage, Hubby convinced me it was time to change colors – and I did: Silver.

That’s around the time I discovered that the uniform of my generation was not our wardrobe, but our cars. Every place I went, it seems someone had the same car as mine, although some were a year older or newer. Even though one of the player’s cars is a different manufacturer, it is still a shade of silver. When my Mah Jong group meets for lunch before we play, we’ve sometimes headed to the wrong car – especially before two of us had our cataracts removed. When the five of us are parked in one driveway, we look like a convention of silver car owners.

Since the players in my Mah Jongg group will all be replacing our cars in the next year or two, we were kidding around the other day to see if we should all get the same color again. After searching the rows of silver and beige cars for 10 minutes this morning until I found Hubby’s car, I decided on a color for our next car. Now all I have to do is convince 4 other very conservative prim and proper ladies like myself that strangers will think we’re years younger and we won’t even need to use Botox. All we would need to do is purchase hot pink cars.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Too Cool for Dieting

Remember the freshman ten – those ten pounds you gained when you left home for college and started living on Ritz crackers and peanut butter and jelly because you hated dorm food? I didn’t shed them until after college when Weight Watchers or its’ equivalent became my way of life.

For the last 40 odd years, I’ve been successfully fighting the battle of the bulge, but since moving to Seniorville, I haven’t won a round. I went clothes shopping this week and the only thing I dared to buy were pants that can hide the extra weight and, if a miracle happens and I get a virus and can’t eat for two weeks, the pants won’t look big – unless the elastic waist is stretched out.

It’s hard to diet when your social life revolves around dining out or having company over for Bridge or whatever. How can you not serve something to guests? I never had anything I would be tempted to pig out in my old home after my sons left for college unless I was entertaining. Hubby’s and my old life style didn’t lend itself to “come back to my home for dessert” or cocktails before dinner. In those days, my northern friends were still working. Now most have to spend a week visiting me in our new surroundings – and I am truly thrilled they do. Even if I only serve “diet” food, when I sit around the table I tend to eat too much of it, and calories do count – even healthy ones.

The cold weather is also preventing me from sticking to any good weight reduction routine. It’s not conducive to drinking glasses of cold water, something that usually fills me up. Instead, I’m sipping diet hot chocolates and cups of salty broth called instant soup. Northern visitors adore walking or jogging in our brisk weather as the sun comes up over the horizon. Usually I’m out there on the trail with them, but the cold chill has been keeping me under the blankets until the sun has had a chance to warm up the air a bit. Yes, we have heat, but it has to be truly freezing inside for me to use it because it sets off my asthma – as does all the extra pollen in the air from the leaves falling off the trees due to the unusual cold – the biggest reason I’m not walking outside.

Even worse for my diet, the crazy cold weather Florida has had this winter demands cover-up clothing – sweat pants and/or long sleeve shirts. The elastic waists allow me to eat a little more than my zipper-front Capri’s would permit and the long sleeve shirts hide the cellulite on my arms. Gone ate the constant visual reminders to seal my lips when dessert is placed on the table.

This year, it’s been cold here for months instead of weeks. I’ve worn the few winter clothes I have that still fit to the point they are beginning to fray – something that hasn’t happened to my winter clothes since moving South in 1973. Usually they go out of style and are in mint condition when I give them to charity. Tonight, when I took one outfit out of the closet to steam it for a luncheon I need to attend tomorrow, even my husband, who rarely remembers what he wore the day before, remarked, “You’ve worn that outfit the last 3 times you got “dressed” to go out.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I told him. “None of my friends have an abundance of dressy winter clothes, so the fashion rule this year is “if it’s warm and fits, it’s in.”

Even if we wanted to replenish our winter wardrobes, the stores have restocked the sweater department with bathing suits and cover-ups. They’re more optimistic than me. Right now I can’t remember what it felt like to be so miserable and hot last Fall when I prayed for a cold winter. As much as all my neighbors are hoping the weather warms soon, I’ll bet I’m the only one anyone knows who is praying for the return of our hot and humid weather so I’ll be able to shed ten pounds.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Missing: Tact Gene

When people want my advice or start to vent about personal problems, I usually have a pat answer, which works in most instances. “If you don’t want my real opinion, please don’t ask me for it. I don’t have a gene for tact.”

At this point, some talkers are stopped in their tracks. They realize they should ask their questions to their reflection in the mirror and vent into a tape-recorder. They really are not interested in the truth unless it’s what they want to hear.

Now and then, someone in that category still presses the issue. Recently a friend asked my opinion of her new hair color – orange with blond highlights. I repeated my pat response. She told me, if she didn’t value my opinion, she would not have asked. She lied.

I told her I don’t like hair color that isn’t natural looking, but it’s her hair and she’s the one who needs to be happy. My response got up her ire. “I should never have asked you. You live with old people and have no clue about what’s in. I teach high school, so I do. Purple, blue, and pink streaks are “very in.”

If living with “old-people” prevents me from thinking clown-like hair for women broaching 65 is “in,” I’m glad I reside in Seniorville. The entire episode made me think of a hairdresser incident many years ago. He was cutting my hair when another customer stopped to ask what he thought of her new hairstyle. “Your hair looks great,” he replied.

When she walked away, I told him I would never value his word again. “She looked stupid. It’s puffed out like cotton candy. It makes her face look awful.”

“Listen carefully,” he said. “I told her that her hair looked great. I didn’t say she looked great.”

He had a skill I’ve never developed - tact. That’s why if you want the absolute truth as I see it, ask me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Senior's Sneakers

“Don’t wear white sneakers,” a young friend counseled me before Hubby and I traveled abroad a few years ago. “Only Americans wear white sneakers.”

Since I had no desire to be an easy target for a terrorist whose goal was to kill as many Americans as he could, I hunted the shoe stores until I found comfortable black sneakers. Under great duress, my husband, who had two pair of comfortable white sneakers, bought a pair of black sneakers. He felt my fear of being an easy target was silly. “You think only sneakers make you look like a tourist? What about your tote bags stuffed with souvenirs?”

The two of us were the only tourists on the cruise ship wearing black sneakers. Hubby pointed this out daily. He also pointed out that the cruise ships put different color stickers right over each passenger’s heart before we disembarked from the ship for each day’s excursion. The purpose of the stickers is to make it easy for the tour guides to know who is in their groups. It also would make it easy for a sniper to kill us – as the comedians pointed out during the evening shows on the ship.

By the end of our vacation, I knew the advice about the color of the sneakers was wrong – in a way. White sneakers are the “uniform” of my generation. Most young people will wear sneakers in every color. No matter what country we were in, if the local folks were our contemporaries and dressed causally, they had on white sneakers. Hubby took delight in pointing it out to me. By the time our vacation was over, I came to think of white sneakers as an age indicator. Hair and sneakers matched.

Because of a foot problem I developed two years ago, I need a special brand of sneakers. I order a new pair when I need them and the color choice is usually limited to one. When we moved into my Seniorville almost a year ago, I was the only senior on the walking trail or in the gym whose sneakers were not white. Mine were purple and gray. I was eternally grateful when this year’s color choice for my sneaker included white. I once again fit in with my color-coordinated peer group.

Hubby asks me to tell him if I think he’s dressed like an old man – meaning out of style – his stereotype for old men. The other night, while dressing for dinner, he put on his white sneakers with jeans. “Put your black sneakers on,” I insisted. “You look like an old man in those sneakers.”

He did. Then we went to the restaurant where we were meeting several other couples from our development. Hubby was the only one of the men NOT wearing white sneakers. I winked at him, and said, “I’m with they youngest old man in the room!”