March 28, 2010

USA: Facing an age-old question

. ROYAL OAK, Michigan / The Daily Tribune / News / March 28, 2010 Facing an age-old question By Kathryn Hutson, Daily Tribune columnist A few years ago, I was doing some work for a company whose expertise was teaching sales professionals how to sell to women. One of the tenets of the process is never to call a woman "ma'am" because it makes her feel old. While we had to argue that point in the South where "ma'am" is a term of respect, it was a truism in the North — especially when a woman is called "ma'am" by handsome young or even middle-aged men. A salesperson at Kohl's kicked the relationship between ma'ams and old up a notch on a recent Wednesday when she asked: "Ma'am, would you like the senior discount?" Two age-slaps in one question. I almost had a case of the Victorian "vapors" right there in the checkout line in front of God and everybody. But 10 percent is 10 percent, and when a body's facing a future that includes counting on an overspending, underfunded federal government for a few shekels each month, every penny of savings counts. I took the 10 percent and added to my 15 percent and my other discounts. It's like playing "Let's Make a Deal" at times. I learned about facing old age from my mother. Along with her nightly use of Ponds cold cream, she insisted on wearing large, button-type earrings. "They hide my wrinkled earlobes," she pointed out. The woman was in her 80s and worried about wrinkled earlobes. I recently told her that at 93 with two of her children retired and four categorized as senior citizens themselves, she could probably cut herself some slack about the earlobes. She looked at me like I'd lost my mind. I don't worry about wrinkles on my earlobes. My earlobes are too small to wrinkle, although I do worry about the crease that's supposed to mean latent heart disease. I chalk the creases up to sleeping wrong, but who knows. I fixate on the wrinkles under my eyes. Ever notice that the women selling wrinkle cream on commercials can't be a day over 40? You need a magnifying glass to see the wrinkles they're worried about. What they need are some "real" wrinkles as examples of the before and after. And when the commercial goes on to say that 45 percent of those using the product saw an improvement, who are they talking about? Is it 50-year-olds or 30-year-olds? At 30, I could see a marked improvement in my appearance when I put on lipstick. But I digress. When I was at church last fall, I stopped to talk to one of the women who works at the day care in our building. She was pushing a stroller that holds six children. "What are those?" asked a little guy who couldn't have been more than 3, pointing at my face. "Those what?" I asked, bending down to get closer to him. "Those wrinklies," he said, pointing at the wrinkles on my cheeks. God love his honesty. Besides the earlobes and wrinklies, there are some other life markers that point a body toward old age. For starters, there's the invitation from AARP that arrives in time for your 50th birthday. In fact, as I recall, it arrived before my 50th birthday — talk about a postal department smack! With 50 being the new 40, I really didn't feel I needed to join an organization for old people. I still felt perfectly capable of fighting for my rights. After all, I was a product of the '60s. When my generation got feisty, the government had to send in the National Guard, tanks and tear gas to keep us in check. Imagine what would happen today, now that the women of my age are being fueled by the additional testosterone that comes with age! It's the added testosterone, by the way, that causes those long, black hairs to grow in places on our faces that they never grew before. Wrinkles, hairs growing in the wrong places, testosterone-fueled behavior ... I'm depressing myself. Better quit this while I'm ahead. I'll save the flabby upper arm issue for another day. [rc] Kathryn Hutson is a Troy resident and freelance writer. © 2010, a Journal Register Property