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When Did I Become Ma'am?

Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron, a woman who had, as they say, a way with words of all manner, used to muse about life and its vicissitudes. When not remarking on the tiniest details of a hostess' fare at a dinner party, she'd sprinkle recipes into her writing. Test it out for yourself and see how many recipes you can add to your arsenal of victuals. One of the really interesting things I found was her ability to be able to stand off and remark about herself and her physicality.

Have you ever read "I Feel Bad About My Neck?" Yes, she did as many women do. In fact, I think the current rage of anchors and female interviewees wearing sleeveless dresses even in winter is paying homage to their lithe bodies and firm arms. It's a slap in the face to any woman who hasn't managed to wedge in those 50 triceps workouts a day and they flaunt their absent "bat wings."

Joan Rivers once complained, in a routine, that a cosmetic surgeon, who had worked on her many times, said there was nothing to be done for her triceps. They were, he felt, a sign of age against which she could not wage surgical war of any kind.

In her essay, Blind As a Bat, Ephron bemoans the loss of reading vision thus requiring that she always, always have reading glasses within reach. It is another of those, I have gotten older moments but I don't remember it happening. None of us remembers it happening and then that line from "The Thorn Birds" comes to mind. Barbara Stanwyck, in a promising encounter with a young man, remarks something like, "I may be 70 but I'm still 35 in my mind." Sure, we all are, Barbara.

The realization that the mirror does lie each time you look into it because your mind refuses to permit you to grow older, is unsettling. You are perpetually in that "mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of all" time. It lies as you wish and you go on.

Awful things, mirrors failed to tell poor Baby Jane Hudson that her make-up and dress were more suited to a child than a much older woman. A cruel thing to do to anyone, but Jane persisted in living the lie of her mirror.

Soak yourself in mother's milk or slap bee's poop on your face and continue to believe that you've fooled that growing older body of your's. But one day, you will stand in a store waiting to pay for something and the salesperson will, without thinking and with no regard for your feelings, call you "ma'am."

When that day arrives, you will curse your mirror but it will do no good. You will have aged and now you will have to contend with the glories of aging like having a physician ask, "Do you have a podiatrist?" A podiatrist for what? I can cut my own toenails. Ah, but your doc, who is probably 30 years younger than you, thinks not.

It happens when you go to the ENT guy for fluid build-up in your ear and he schedules you, without asking, for a hearing exam. Of course, the exam is a means to steer you to the person in the office who sells extravagantly priced hearing aids that you could buy at Costco for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars less. You cancel that appointment.

But don't despair. You may find yourself in a coffee shop where, when you reach the elderly Caribbean-born woman at the register, you will receive a kindness for your age. She will slip one of those dollars back into your hand and say, softly, "I've given you a senior discount." You'll accept the money, silently bless her, slip the bill into your pocket and have your eyes opened to one of the good things about aging; discounts.

A neighbor of mine, a woman who recently turned 80 and goes to the movies every week by herself, gleefully told me, "Yes, I go to the movies. Do you know it's only $3.00 if you go on Tuesday or Wednesday?" I didn't know that, so she also told me about the Tuesday discount for seniors at the supermarket and a host of other discounts offered like reduced car insurance, and discounts at other places. "Ask for them," she urged even though I didn't think I should. "Go ahead," she said, "just ask and see if they'll give you a discount. Couldn't hurt, could it?" Yes, it could, Dorothy, it could hurt my pride.

Foolish pride keeps us from so many things throughout our lives that it should be one of the seven deadly sins. Now I'm remembering that "pride goeth before a fall." Too true, too true.

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