Well, here we go again. According to The New York Times‘ Style section, looking older — particularly if you’re a woman — makes it harder to get a job. If you’re older, you have to send out more resumes to get an interview. And then, once you get there, you’re supposed to look “younger, hipper, fresher.”
Or, of course, you can always lie about your age. While you’re at it, you also need to Botox, teeth whiten, moisturize, nip, tuck, lipo.
Oh, brother. So, here I am, slathering Renova all over my face so my wrinkles will look fresh and perky, exercising so I won’t look like a human fire hydrant, artfully applying a little makeup so I don’t look as featureless as a thumb, paying my wild Italian hairdresser a small fortune to rescue me from my natural brown-gray wren hair, and dressing in a way I desperately hope will be perceived as “classic,” since chic’s out of my league, my bank account balance and my tolerance for too much frivolity.
So, it’s not like I don’t try. It’s not like I’m freely embracing looking like I’m completely over the hill, even if too many over-eager checkout clerks have been asking, “You need some help getting it out to the car, ma’am?” recently. (Oh, sure, I know I should snap, “Do I look like I need help?” and twirl around and lift the grocery bags effortlessly and take my business to some geriatric site where I’m deeply respected as still being in my prime. But who has the time — or energy — for that?)
But amid all this Renova-slathering and down-dog positioning, which I like to think I’m doing simply to make me feel better about myself, I draw a line. I won’t lie about my age. Forget it.
I’m 58, or, as I like to mention, halfway to 116. It’s an age that anchors me in this world and defines who I am. I remember Eisenhower as president, spoolies, hula hoops, and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I can still sing the jingle for “You’ll wonder where the yellow went … ” and the Mr. Clean song (I’ll also admit to a childhood crush on Mr. Clean, who looked very much like Yul Brynner, whom I also adored; who cares about hair on men?).
I know where I was when Kennedy was assassinated, I remember the Watergate hearings, I cheered when Nixon stepped into his last helicopter ride as president. I saw images of Sputnik on a small-screened, green-hued TV. I remember life before central air-conditioning, the tail fins on 1950s cars, Tic-Tac-Dough, and saddle shoes. I remember when marijuana was called pot, when girls were counseled to have careers to “fall back on,” when restrooms and water fountains were segregated. I remember when Texas was the biggest state in the union.
I have little nostalgia for those times (well, except for the whole biggest-state thing). They weren’t the good old days and life wasn’t better then. It was worse, harder, less fair in so many ways.
But these were times I lived through, experiences that molded me. I can’t imagine wishing them away or pretending to be somebody else. I can deal with being 58 — and, as the time comes along — older than that. And I’ll carry my own groceries for as long as I can, so don’t bother to ask me. I’ll let you know when I need help.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)