Aging & Assumptions

Today I’m 57 years, 65 days and about 30 minutes of age.  I took my first serious tumble about a month ago and the healing process has been slower than I personally think it should be.  I’ve never liked being sick.  It makes me all ….

Noooooooo! This can’t be happening to me.

In fact, I suspect this is fairly typical of anyone who has spent most of their life with a solid set of vaccines, decent health care,  a reasonable sense of balance, and good peripheral vision. 

Plus I’ve been lucky.  So I’m blessed x2. My genuine sympathy to anyone who wasn’t as lucky.  All that being said, I’m now a silver-haired woman of obvious middle years.  True I have a hip haircut (thank you Leonor at Lea’s Hair Studio), and I regularly indulge in a carefully calibrated amount of lavender / blue / pink / green / turquoise hair coloring.  Less “HEY I colored my hair turquoise” than, “Heh, see the slight iridescent sheen of my latest color application.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done the vibrant purple and turquoise.  It’s fun.  

It’s just high maintenance, and I have better things to do with my time.  

This is me about a year ago.  The POINT I’m trying to make is that I’m not your average helmet-haired, sensible shoe wearing Granny.   (well, I do tend to wear flats, but cute … and expensive high-quality flats)

Five years ago I was living in Los Angeles, walking to the Mar Vista Farmers’ Market, going to ‘Sweat Your Prayers’ dance once a week, and shopping at the boutiques in Santa Monica. The fact that I live in Modesto, CA in the central valley of northern California is a career and quality of life choice. 

So when Home Girl at Plato’s Closet sees me walk in with my graying (but slightly iridescent)  hair and my Skechers, the assumption that she makes should not be… oh… her clothing style must be oooooold too.  

When she gives me a bunch of attitude about how they’re only looking for H&M, Forever 21, and Hollister clothes – “Like… you know, BRAND name clothing.” 

It takes everything I have not to roll my eyes, and say,”You’re referring to cheap disposable clothing that looks like crap after three washings? I personally like to spend my money on better quality clothing from places like Lululemon, Vince Camuto, Lucky Brand and Free People.” (all of which also happen to be mentioned on the Plato’s Closet web site).  “AND on really great boutique stuff like American Hardtail, All Saints, Slate & Stone, and James Perse.”   It’s a close call. 

I don’t even bother talking about the quality and timeless style of Eileen Fisher, Etro, and Tahari, because this place is for young people, and young people simply cannot afford to think in terms of investment clothing.  I know.  I was twenty-two once myself. 

So I hand over a couple dozen hangers of the cream-of-the-‘clear my closet out’-crop.  Stuff that fit me 5 years ago, and maybe even 3 years ago… but not any more. It’s an expensive chunk of clothing. It physically pains me to let some of it go, but I have a whole lot more left in my closet.  (a fact which regularly irritates the bejeesus out of me – the money I’ve wasted on clothes and shoes over the years.) 

I’ve also brought a bunch of leather belts and purses – Coach, Vince Camuto, Kipling, Donald Pliner, Le Sportsac… and an almost new mirrored pair of Banana Republic sunglasses (in the case).  

Home Girl with the bad dye job and terrible make-up gives me a thin smile and tells me they’ll go through everything and decide what they want.  I nod and wander off to buy groceries at Trader Joe’s.  

I get that the staff at Plato’s only wants to buy what they truly believe they can sell.  I’m hip to the business case.  You can’t sell a younger audience high end designer clothing that they don’t relate to because it’s not in their fashion vocabulary.  Yet. The customers here are kids who can’t afford to shop at the mall, but want to look to their peers, like they do.  

When I come back 15 minutes later, Home Girl shows me a bin with 3 belts and says, “I’m afraid this is all we can take.  We’ll give you $17.39 for these. ” I survey the bin, and the clothes hanging up… and ask casually,   “I thought you were interested in Lululemon?”

It’s like offering a dog a treat.  If she had floppy ears they would have perked up.  “Lululemon?   Where?”  I tell her what it looks like (which is what about 80% of all Lululemon looks like), long, black and stretchy.  She siezes it off the hanger, gives it a casual once over to make sure the logo is there, then starts typing into the computer. I refrain from mentioning the three other Lululemon, the Free People, the brand new $109 Athleta yoga pants, and the American Hardtail.  I ask her about the purses.  She pulls herself back from a sneer.  “Oh, well we really like cross bodies that are from name brands.  You know, with structure.”  I’m done.  I take my Coach cross-body, my pristine black leather cross-body with the purple trim (Vince Camuto), and everything else back to the car. 

Inside I’m actually laughing at Home Girl and her seriously badly applied eyebrow makeup (despite the fact that I would pay money to give her a makeover because she could be SO cute with a bit of help). 

The problem here is that someone looked at an obviously older person, and made some assumptions.  (ass, u, me, etc…)  The evaluation team at Plato’s Closet clearly needed better training.  They didn’t evaluate the clothing, they evaluated the seller – which is why they didn’t find at least a dozen items that would have easily sold at a profit to their target market from a seller who was more than happy to take a big loss just to get some room back in her closet. 

That’s ageism, pure and simple.  (and from a business perspective, why ageism is so bad for the bottom line)  You see, ooooold people can afford better stuff.  Maybe not once we retire, but in the last third of our career… yep. Those of us who were ‘fashionistas’ in our younger thinner years, are still willing to spend money on beautiful styles, fabrics, and high quality design as we age. 

Anyone who is interested in a career in fashion design should seriously bear this in mind.  Stop selling to the thin and young.  They’re paying off student loans, saving for a car, or blowing their money on cocktails and travel abroad with their friends.   Make a middle-aged professional, twenty pounds over her ideal weight, look really good, and you have a money making machine on your hands. 

So part of me is offended.  This is the first time I’ve been so blatantly treated like I’m old.  (well, if you don’t count medical care in the Coachella Valley)  But it’s also true.  

Another part of me is exploring the experience.  I am old.  In fact, I’m ‘early retirement’ old.  That opens up an entirely new set of considerations. 
My neighbor, in his seventies was talking about his children (in their fifties), and saying that he still felt like they were children.  Seriously? So from one point of view, I’m still a child?  Interesting. The thing about being part of the elder generation, is that you understand business, other people, and yourself far better than you did two decades ago.  In my thirties, the idea that the older generation considered me a child would have been offensive.  Now, it’s just another insight into human beings.   

So what about you?  If you’re in your first and second quarter (1 – 25 and 26 – 50), when do you notice peoples’ age?  If you’re in your 3rd and 4th… when did you first notice other people acknowledging your age?  Was it surprising?  Are you used to it?  How does that feel?  Let me know!  I’m interested. 

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