Verbal toupees for “older” people

Can anyone suggest some good euphemisms for “elderly” or “older” that don’t sound like euphemisms?

A verbal toupee to cover up our embarrassment with becoming old, or describing someone who’s old? So many adjectives have been designated only for use with older people. If they were products, you’d most likely find them in the back pages of AARP Magazine, next to the stair lifts and vacuum pumps for erectile dysfunction.

Is the word “vigorous” ever been used to describe a baby? Is “youthful” ever used next to anybody else other than an older woman or an indiscretion? Will a “cougar” ever be a spotted animal again?

I especially hate “spry.” It’s never used to describe a younger adult; only somebody who’s old. When I read the word “spry,” it infers “they are in surprisingly good shape when everybody expects them to be decrepid” or “they can get around without a walker…isn’t that amazing?” You never hear that word “spry” used to describe a 20-year-old track star.

Until a few years ago Spry was a solid vegetable shortening…a competitor to Crisco. If I remember that, then I guess I am old enough to be spry!!!!

Please feel free to share your own favorite (or most dreadful) euphemisms for those of us in midlife and beyond.

The most glamorous mother-in-law

Lois, my mother-in-law, turns 79 today and I Don’t Know How She Does It.

She still walks five miles a day; has thick and gorgeous auburn hair and wears a size four. She is almost Nancy Reaganesque in her petite glamour — only far more liberal, earthier and Jewish.

On the occasion of her birthday I looked through some old photos of Lois and she always looked younger than her age. A 30-year-old photo of her with my stepdaughter – her first grandchild — shows a radiantly smiling blonde whose skin even looked dewy. She was pushing 50 then and still looked like she was in her late 20s.

“Who’s your plastic surgeon?” asked one of her friends not too long ago.

No plastic surgeon here; just lots of discipline, great genes and most importantly, a determination to celebrate every day.

When she learned she was diabetic a few years ago, Lois gave up white bread and desserts and shaved even more weight off her already-petite frame. Now she weighs about what she did when she was a harried young mom with four rambunctious boys.

She’s a great walking partner (when I can keep up with her) who shares gossip and stories nonstop as we briskly clock the miles, turning a workout into a girls’ night out at a Nancy Meyers movie. She talks about people I’ll never meet but somehow I’m enthralled.

She also has boundless energy and is one of those people who constantly has to be doing something. Even when she is watching television her knitting needles are clicking furiously, creating the latest of dozens of afghans she has made for people she loves. Sometimes when I watch her I feel so tired that I have to lie down. Maybe I’m eating too many carbs.

When she took my 29-year-old stepson to Europe a few years ago, some of his friends assumed he was accompanying his doddering grandma on the trip.

“I’ll be lucky if I can keep up with her,” was Jesse’s response. And he was right. She matched him step by step around the Swiss Alps and Barcelona.

She loves so much to organize and re-organize things, in her own home and wherever she visits. Even her refrigerator shelves look like a display in a Michael Kors boutique, while mine look and smell like a crypt.

I’ve learned to relax and enjoy her efforts to organize me. In fact, I have now outsourced this job completely to her.

“Lois, I’m saving some closets just for you!” I tell her before she visits, and I can sense her gleeful anticipation over the phone.

Lois’s own closets are bursting with élan. I have never seen her wear sweats, except for our walks. Soon after we’ve arrived home, sweaty and dusty, she is showered and tastefully coifed and made up, wearing a pair of curvy jeans and turquoise jewelry.

And I guess what’s most inspiring about Lois is her loyalty and protectiveness of the people she loves. She can be headstrong and opinionated, and isn’t afraid to go to bat against anybody, whether it’s her husband’s oncologists or the host at the El Torito restaurant, who wouldn’t give us the table we wanted by the window. My father-in-law, who battled cancer more than a decade ago, is alive because she was a pit bull with the doctors. She knew his charts even better than they did, and never hesitated to point out things they might have overlooked.

So happy birthday to a woman who’s a great role model in how to age gracefully!

Welcome to The Sandwich Lady

Welcome to my blog, which I have called The Sandwich Lady. I have been thinking about this for a long time. It’s for women who often feel sandwiched between the generations in their vast families, and between their comfortable life and their postponed dreams.

A Sandwich Lady has grown kids who love her but don’t need mothering and an octogenarian mom who still treats her like a little girl.
AND…this Sandwich Lady has a preteen son who keeps her feeling young but has some classmates whose parents look like her older children.
A Sandwich Lady occasionally feels as energetic as she did at 20, but nervously checks the obits every day to see if anybody in their 50s has died, and from what.
A Sandwich Lady has a lot more that she yearns to give the world – her professional talents, her personal insights, her passions, her wisdom – but worries that people won’t be able to look past her age.
A Sandwich Lady on some days wants to launch a business and on other days wants to bag groceries. She’s not sure which would make her happier.
A Sandwich Lady yearns for challenges that test and confirm her ability to change and to grow, but needs to overcome bad habits that she’s had for 30 years.
A Sandwich Lady is in a rut that is sometimes lined with velvet and other times lined with nettles. Sometimes she feels too tired to climb out.
On to more superficial things:
A Sandwich Lady stopped being a babe about 15 or 20 years ago, the first time somebody called her “Maam” instead of “Miss.” She remembers exactly where it happened. (At a supermarket in suburban Philadelphia.)
A Sandwich Lady knows that when she is out in public she should never EVER wear cargo pants and a black top unless she is willing to put on loads of makeup, because she’ll look like death or an unkempt teenage guy.
A Sandwich Lady plasters a beatific smile over her dismay when she’s out with her son and somebody assumes he’s her grandson.
A Sandwich Lady always puts on lipstick to keep her lips from looking like overcooked veal.
A Sandwich Lady is somewhat at peace with her face but not her neck (As Nora Epron pointed out so eloquently.)

I know there are other Sandwich Ladies out there.