I’ve learned to embrace my age. I also don’t feel my age at all, and some have told me I don’t look my age. With an assortment of face creams, regular hair appointments, walking and riding a recumbent bike, along with being around younger people as a professor for most of my life, I like to consider myself a young fifty-something.
That was until I went shopping for a dress for my son’s girlfriend’s birthday.
On the hunt for a cute dress for her, I walked into a local shop here in town. I knew what I had in mind. I am also familiar with her size, as she’s petite in stature like me, and I know she loves the color blue. Also, you may not know this about me, but I spent a few years as a fashion consultant, helping women rebuild their wardrobes after babies, career changes, or just for a fresh start and new vibe.
The long and short of it is, I KNOW how to SHOP.
When I walked into the store and was perusing the racks, an employee of the store came up to me.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“Not just yet,” I said. “I’m looking for a dress for my son’s girlfriend as a gift.”
“How old is she?” the employee asked.
“Twenty-three turning twenty-four,” I replied.
“Well, we have girls in the store who are that age who can help you find a dress for her; they can tell you what they like.”
“Thank you,” I said with a smile.
Inside, I wanted to puke.
In that instant, I realized what it’s like to be thought “too old” to make a decision about a dress as a gift. The salesperson didn’t think I could pick out something youthful despite not being youthful myself.
Now, I won’t hold her comment against her; she was just trying to be helpful. But it was the first time I’ve been called old without being called old.
As well, my mother was recently hospitalized, and I witnessed her being scolded by a nurse, treated as if she were not a person with a heart and feelings and fears and concerns.
Both incidents made me pause.
In some cultures, people are revered when they age; it is assumed that they come with wisdom to share and lessons to teach. I don’t believe the same is true in our culture. Getting older means you’re just old, your words don’t mean much, and you’re not as valued as you once were. Trust me, I teach for a living, and as I’ve aged, I even see it in the classroom. Whereas I revered and wanted to hear the lessons my teachers shared, I can’t personally say the same is true for me now. Sadly, I think we’ve come to a point where the new generation believes they know better than we do. In some ways, they might. But in life lessons, I think we have one up on them.
For days, I considered whether or not to share this story and my thoughts on it, but I think it’s important.
As people age, they shouldn’t become less important. In fact, their stories could help guide you out of a tough spot or two.
And finally, just for the record, I did pick out a dress for my son’s girlfriend without any help. And she loved it. She tried it on when she got home and Face-Timed me later wearing the dress, thanking me for picking the perfect one for her.
Stephanie Verni is the author of 8 works of fiction and one academic textbook on event planning. She writes travel articles for Maryland Road Trips. Follow her on Instagram and TikTok at stephanieverniwrites for more about her novels and travels.