What the Elderly Should Never Wear, and Other Stupid Advice

girl-1459284_1280Apparently, it has been nearly fifteen years since the last time it was appropriate for me to wear short dresses, hoop earrings, or leopard print, including (I presume) leopard print in the previously-thought-to-be-innocuous accessory format.  I am 45 years old.

I really had no idea.

I have learned this, however – this and much, much more – thanks to a spate of helpful lists that have all but filled my Facebook feed.  These lists offer women over 30 a variety of pointers regarding all of the things they are doing wrong, or might do wrong, or might consider doing wrong in the future.  It is probably my own fault.  You click on one thing, and . . . well, even at this advanced age I know that the mind-reading division of the worldwide web could never let me click something like that with no consequence.  I should have exercised a little caution, instead of letting my curiosity get the best of me.  I did not.

So, fine.  The assault on myself was brought about by myself.  This doesn’t change the fact that these articles are out there, everywhere, spreading their scornfully sinister messages.

One of the guiltier purveyors of this – oh, I don’t know, let’s call it bullshit – is the website RantChic.  Under the dubious guise of helpful advice, the trendsetters at RantChic regularly supply us with condescending, contemptuous lists such as “30 Things Women Over 30 Need To Stop Posting Online,” and “30 Things Women Over 30 Shouldn’t Own.”

I don’t know.  I guess I was swept away by the spirit of goodwill that infused me after reading through these ideas, because it wasn’t very long at all before I came up with my own helpful list.  I feel it is the least I can do.  And so here is –

15 Things Someone Clearly Needs To Tell The People At RantChic

  1. When you turn 30, you become smarter, and when you turn 40, you become smarter than that, and when you turn 50 . . . well, you get the idea.  You also continue to have fun.  And if your definition of fun is “wearing your daytime sequins to the office,” and you are reasonably sure said sequins will not cause you to lose your job, then I say, you wear the fucking sequins.

    Just one of my many 9-to-5 looks.
  2. On a related note – as a group, I am pretty sure we over-thirties don’t want to wear our Uggs to the office any more than you want us to.  Unfortunately, sometimes our bunions hurt.
  3. Regarding your thoughts on women over 30 needing to ditch their “teenage CD’s,” number one, there were no CD’s when I was a teenager.  There were cassette tapes.  Number two, many of us still like the music we listened to back in the 20th century, and one day, you too might find yourself as a very old woman, feeling nostalgic for the days of first love and flippy hairdos, or whatever.  At which point I hope you will admit your mistake and abandon this silly rule; otherwise, you may well grow into the bitter old crone you are already shaping up to be.
  4. You say women over 30 should stop wearing oversized sunglasses.  And if you could travel back in time and tell this to Jackie O., there may very well be no oversized sunglasses at all.  Google it.
    This is the lady you should look for.

  5. You contend that no one over 30 should use the term “guac,” that instead, I guess due to our uber-uncoolness, we should always be sure to pronounce the whole word.  Which would be “guacamole.”  RantChic, I think we finally agree on something.  “Guac” just sounds idiotic.  While we are at it, I would also like to outlaw “veggie,” “comfy,” and “din-din.”  Please see if you can get this advice out to your readership.
  6. In “15 Things Women Over 30 Need To Stop Doing When Inebriated,” you list driving.  Driving.  Leaving me to wonder – are you suggesting that women in their twenties are okay to drive drunk?  Isn’t that sort of bad advice?  I don’t know.  I’m totes confused.
  7. In fact, I am totes confused by many of the items on your “Inebriated” list.  I just feel pretty sure that throwing up, falling, and blacking out are drunken hazards we’d all do well to avoid.  Same with “making life decisions.”  That you put “making life decisions” on this list at all makes me worry about the types of people you’re hanging out with.  Do I sound like your mother?  Good.
    I honestly do not know what this is supposed to be.

  8. An eighty-year-old woman in a Hello Kitty T-shirt is beautiful.  Period.
  9. Women over thirty do sometimes try too hard to be trendy.  So do women under thirty.  It is rarely in one’s best interest, but, you know, what can you do?  That being said, wearing American Eagle jeans at the age of 35 does not qualify as trying too hard.  Get over it and please, let’s move on.
  10. And back, for a moment, to “30 Things Women Over 30 Need To Stop Wearing To The Office,” in which you took us to task for our Uggs.  This compilation also reminds us that sweats, message tees, and “whatever you wore yesterday” are inappropriate for wear in the cubicles and corner offices of America.  Here again, I have to question your wisdom, because contrary to what you seem to believe, no one of any age should wear sweats and message tees to their office job.  Unless he or she is lucky enough to work in that kind of office.  Otherwise, it’s just common sense, and being 22 does not grant you a cuteness pass from exercising it.  Also, no one who is not fucking insane should ever wear what they wore yesterday to the office. Make a note.
  11. As you suggest in “30 Things Women Over 30 Shouldn’t Own,” expensive makeup is indeed nice to have.  It is also a luxury that many mature ladies either choose or are forced to forego in an economy where Tarte and Too Faced must take a backseat to homes and health insurance.  Or maybe we are also too old for Tarte and Too Faced.  I don’t know.  Either way, your helpful hint seems geared only toward women of a certain income, so I feel duty-bound to tell you that Gwyneth Paltrow already has that market covered.

    Maybe I am too old to go with the cheaper makeup?
  12. I have approximately thirty-five pounds of baby weight to lose, and yes, I am still calling it “baby weight” even though my youngest baby is seven years old.  That is neither here nor there, and not the point at all.  The point is that if and when I do lose this weight, I may very well proceed to dig out my old sparkly pants and wear them.  Well, I don’t actually have sparkly pants.  I never have.  I don’t know why anyone would.  Maybe that is really the point.
  13. In all of your “Women Over 30” rants, I sense an element of disdain that I fear is unhealthy.  You should try to think more positive thoughts.  Smile lines are unpleasant, but frown lines are way worse.
  14. And regarding those smile and frown lines – you too, God willing, will one day know about them.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for you.  Because, believe it or not, being 30 actually does beat the alternative.
  15. FINALLY, thing number 15.  I am too elderly and tired to continue thinking up my own tips, so I present you instead with this chilling and yet strangely comforting verse, taken from a widely known tombstone epigraph.

Consider, friend, as you pass by,

As you are now, so once was I,

As I am now, so you will be,

Prepare, therefore, to follow me.

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So This Is Where We Are, Now

wax-71192_1280Late night phone calls are the worst.

Everyone knows this. They don’t call you in the middle of the night to tell you you’ve gotten that big promotion or won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. It’s rarely ever a friend calling just to chat, or if it is, you should stab that friend immediately. So, right. Late night phone calls are never good.

Late night phone calls from my dad’s nursing home are even worse than that, and not because I’m worried something bad might happen to him. Quite the opposite. I mean, I worry about him in a general sense, but never once has it occurred to me that something might happen to my dad that would result in a late-night phone call. If you knew my dad, you’d know this is not how he rolls. Even at the age of 80 and in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s Disease.

It turns out, that’s still not how he rolls. Though I didn’t know it when the phone rang. Or vibrated. Either way.

So the phone rang or I guess vibrated, and I woke up. Opened my eyes, feeling slightly disoriented. You know how it is. What? You think. What time is it? Where is this? Who?

Dad’s Nursing Home, said the screen, and these are the moments where you learn that panic trumps disorientation, every time.

I picked up the phone. “Hello?”

“Is this Melissa?”

“Yeah,” I said. “This is Melissa. What – ”

“This is So-And-So, from Pretend-Name-Of-Your-Dad’s-Nursing-Home,” said the person on the other end. “We’re sorry to call you so late. But we needed to let you know, your dad was found – ”

WHAT?? Found how? Found unconscious?  Found dead???

“ – eating crayons.”

“Wait,” I said. “What?”

“Your dad was found eating crayons,” she repeated.

“Oh,” I said. “Wow.”


STOP. A break in the narrative, here.

Rewind to earlier that day.

“Hey.” This was me, to my dad. He was sitting in the nursing home’s TV room when I arrived, gathered around a large central table with several other residents. Each had a coloring page in front of him. My dad’s picture was of a cartoonish puppy with polka-dots on its fur. Another guy had a butterfly. There was a cookie tin full of crayons in the middle of the table.

“Oh! Hey,” my dad said back to me, chuckling. He always chuckles when someone shows up to visit. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it’s because he finds it comically coincidental to see someone he recognizes, at this place. The same way you might kind of chuckle if you ran into a work colleague at a rib festival, or something. Oh, hey…it’s you! Haha.

“You’re coloring!” I said now. So observant of me! And if you ask me, he was doing a pretty good job, especially for a man who has probably not picked up a crayon once in his entire life. I mean this. In all of his 80 years, my father has never been the type of guy to get out the Crayolas and color a polka-dotted puppy dog.

I mean, until now.

Here’s the finished product:

Full disclosure: I helped with some of the brown.
Full disclosure: I helped with some of the brown.

It’s hard to know what to say to a grown man, in this situation. Were I dealing with a very small child, it’d be easy. “Good job!” I might say, maybe even clapping to add a little excitement. “I like all the colors you picked! And look how careful you were to keep it neat!”

These are not things one can say to one’s father without wanting to bash one’s face off a brick wall immediately after.

I think I handled it fairly decently, all things considered. “Well, that’s done,” I said briskly, brushing my hands together as if we’d just finished a complicated Pinterest project. “Looks good, right? It’s a cute puppy.”

My dad didn’t answer; he was already looking out the window at the trees. But at least, I told myself, I’d treated him like an adult. With dignity. I would be able to sleep that night without thinking too much about what my dad has been reduced to.


Fast forward to the phone call. And just like that, maybe not.

I finished up the conversation and put the phone down, wide awake. The crayons were non-toxic, they’d told me. He wasn’t sick and in fact seemed perfectly fine. I’m pretty sure the speaker did not understand that this was TOTALLY NOT THE POINT AT ALL.

I’d thought my dad had been reduced to coloring polka-dotted puppy dogs. It turns out, this was the optimistic view of things.

Here are some of the thoughts that were in my head:

o   What kind of asshole calls in the middle of the night to tell someone their dad has eaten crayons?

o   What kind of asshole considers 10:22pm “the middle of the night?”

o   Are there other, more compassionate daughters out there who care more about their father’s well-being than they do about their own interrupted REM sleep?

o   Why had no one put the crayons away, anyway?

o   But wait, of course I care about my father’s well-being. It’s just that this was hardly an emergency, right? Babies eat crayons all the time.

o   Babies eat crayons all the time.

o   Babies eat crayons all the time.

o   Babies eat crayons all the time.

I have often engaged in the very futile exercise known as “comparing parental end-of-life scenarios.” It is stupid but sometimes hard to avoid. You think, hmmm – is it better to have a slow and potentially torturous death, where at least you get to say what you want to say? Or should we hope for a quick and painless if shocking end? Maybe the best way to go is to alarm your children with late-night phone calls regarding crayon consumption? I don’t know, because there’s no good answer to this. As I said, it’s a pointless line of thinking. So here’s a different one.

Medical advances have brought us to a time where we’re living longer than ever, which is nice. We have drugs and surgeries and Slim-Fast shakes. We can take one person’s kidney and give it to another person and they can both go on to sign up for yoga classes or sing in a choir. It’s all very miraculous and amazing and I’m not saying it’s not good. I myself am hoping to live a very long time, and I fully expect that in my lifetime, we’ll find more drugs and surgeries and shakes to extend lifespans even longer.

I guess I just hope that we also find a way to make those extra years, well. You know. Worth it.

The 2016 Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Pittsburgh, PA is on October 15, 2016. Click here to donate to my family’s team. Visit the Alzheimer’s Association website for more information about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

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