Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Senior Discount

The other day I went into the Goodwill in Menlo Park, where I found a shirt and a sweater. When I took them up to the register, the woman behind the counter said, "Senior?"

I said, "What do you mean?"

She said, "Senior discount?"

I said, "How old do you have to be?"

She said, "Fifty-five."

I said, "Well, I am fifty-five."

But she must have noticed the look on my face, because she said, "You look young," and then gave me the ten per cent discount.

I know that the store clerk was looking at me casually, and she was, after all, offering to do me a favor, but I have to admit I walked back out onto the sidewalk feeling weak in the knees, as if she had, with no warning, punched me. Had I just crossed some threshold? Nobody ever asked me if I was a senior citizen before.

Being older is one thing; the character and dignity and depth of "older" doesn't bother me a bit. I'm attracted to older men, and I like being one, and a number of the most vital and interesting people I know are older than me.

But being "senior" is something else entirely. Golf carts, planned communities, irrelevance, cuteness, triviality, retirement, hobbies: I refuse senior, I hate senior.

One friend in his seventies is a strapping and energetic weightlifter with a boyfriend a third his age. Another is a beautiful and vibrant single parent in her sixties. I know marvelous poets in their seventies and eighties, deepening their work, following where their practice leads. I wish that this knowledge weren't shoved aside, at least temporarily, by the ridiculous category into which I tumbled while buying some secondhand clothes. So that I suddenly felt thoroughly used and ready for the Goodwill bin myself, which seems to be in some insidious way what that category is intended to do: separate one from real life.


Shopgirl said...

Hey fella, welcome to the club! I had a similar experience several years ago! (and may I say, I'm just a bit younger than you?) I was at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Riverhead and came to the counter with a plaid jacket and weird purple candy dish.The conscientious or maybe overly officious clerk asked me "senior discount?" Was it a power play? Anyway, I burst out laughing...Was it my gray hair? She explained she was mandated by state law to ask everyone and pointed to a sign near the register. Everyone? Well, folks who appear to be within a certain range...hmm? And that was years ago.
But speaking of appearances: The worst is that I heard the Sally (as it's affectionately known)was closed down supposedly because "it wasn't making money." That seemed odd. I suspect it's because some folks didn't like the look of it on Main Street and didn't take kindly to those who regularly shopped there. Its closing seems particularly ironic these days. Long live the Salvation Army!

rbarenblat said...

My friend John Jerome, of blessed memory, wrote a wonderful book called "On Turning Sixty-Five." It was his wry musings on being a "senior" -- whatever that may or may not mean -- and it was sharp and smart and beautiful. That he became ill so soon after finishing it seems still unfair to me.

Anyway. Might resonate with you.

Collin Kelley said...

Mark, I knew you were in your 50s, but never think of you as that age. When I saw you in October, I would have guessed late 30s or 40s. No way you're ready to be a senior!

Elizabeth said...

Ouch. Although I do remember the moment I was called "ma'am" by a teenager when I was in my early thirties. I still remember it, many years later.

Justin Evans said...

I am turning 40 years old this summer and I have to tell you that I feel like I am just now getting the hang of what it's like to be an adult. I don't like it much, but I am getting used to my students thinking I am old.

As for poetry, again, I am just now starting to get the hang of it. I am just now starting to feel as if I have a place to start moving towards with my poetry. I still don't have a first book published, but I am looking forward to seeing where I end up going.

word verification: grant

lu said...

Haven't you heard, 55 is the new 35.

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

I Don’t Have A Son

I don’t have a son.
I’ve never been a father.
But if I had, they said,
I’d have been a good one.
But I was a son once, young,
and had a good father, too,
with whom no wasted time
was ever spent.

But if I had a son
I’d tell him the truth,
which my father never did…
that life goes fast by.
You won’t believe it
when you’re twenty,
but at fifty you’ll wonder
where he went.

copyright 2008 - SOFTWOOD-Seventy-eight poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

Janet Isserlis said...

thanks for this. Shortly before I turned 50, AARP sent the first of its mailings. Of course, I shredded it. (by hand. into many many tiny tiny pieces).

At 53 I receive fewer. (My partner, 57 today receives more).

What I appreciate is your appreciation of what age can bring to us if we pay attention.

beth coyote said...

I love/hate the thing. Cheaper movies (love). subtext: you're OLD (hate). My mom loved her disabled parking decal. I'm just not there yet.

Charles Lambert said...

A young woman offered me her seat on a crowded train in Rome last week. I refused, more out of surprise than anything else. But I didn't mention it to anyone. Until now.

Charles Lambert said...

PS I'm also 55.