We just sold our house! I regard this event with both sadness and relief. Sadness because when we purchased this ugly duckling 11 years ago, together we transformed it into the beautiful swan it is today. Our blood, sweat, and tears, not to mention cash, went into each tile, each light fixture, each plant and blade of grass. And the relief? No longer having to deal with cracked tiles, rusting light fixtures, plants devoured by hostile iguanas, and fungus that turns the beautiful blades of grass from healthy green to sickly straw.
Yes, it was time to down-size. Time to abandon the flight of stairs that is a necessary component of a two-story home, to the more care-free, single-level life of apartment living. I am aware that this move is not all gain. We are sacrificing space and the sense of independence that are the perks of home ownership. But, on the other hand, I don’t think iguanas are inclined to climb to the fourth floor to eat the hibiscus on my terrace.
We shall return to Florida in a few days, survey our belongings, and make some tough decisions regarding what to take, what will fit into our new abode, and what is best left behind. In my experience, these decisions are tougher for some than for others. Like my husband. So in addition to packing, I expect I shall expend some precious energy convincing him to part with certain objects which will no longer be practical in our new life. I base this premonition on marital history, which I recount in the essay below.
Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow
When it comes to decluttering, the world seems to consist of two types of people: those who are able to divest themselves of inanimate objects once they’ve outlived their usefulness, and those who would sentimentally cling to an old rubber band.
Darned if I know why letting go of things is so difficult for some people, and so much easier for others, but I do know this. If you happen to be living with someone who is a “keeper” and you are inclined the other way, I suggest purchasing a helmet in preparation for repeatedly running up against that stone wall. Trust me. I speak from experience.
I should have recognized my husband’s discarding disorder back when we were dating, and he proudly pointed out how he had deconstructed and reconstructed a very large piece of furniture to occupy a small corner of his small living room. “That must have been costly,” I offered as I gazed at the not very attractive results. “Wouldn’t you have been better off getting something new that would fit?” “And throw away that perfectly good breakfront?” he replied incredulously. “Besides, it used to belong to my ex-mother-in-law.”
I must have been blinded by love. I missed that red flag completely.
Throughout our years together, we have continued to engage in these little skirmishes regarding possessions. Among the notable incidents was the clash over the cardigan sweater, the color of which is reminiscent of a jar of French’s mustard long past the “use by” date. There are small holes in the right sleeve, and a couple of stains on the front that have baffled the dry cleaning experts. I lost that one.
I also lost the battle over the 40-year-old pair of shoes, the old lamp with the crooked shade, and the out-dated set of law books that probably haven’t been relevant since the turn of the century. Not this century; the last one.
For a while there had been an uneasy peace in our war over useless objects. That is, until the other day.
Staring at the collection of loose papers and file folders that were threatening to completely occupy the living room we agreed that the time had come for my husband to have a desk, and return the sofa to its intended purpose.
After considerable analysis of our floor plan, we realized that the only way to properly accommodate a desk was to divest ourselves of an existing piece of furniture that might be called a buffet, or a server, or a credenza; I’ve never really been sure of the difference. Whatever the proper name, it had long ceased to have any practical function, and had become a dumping place for other unnecessary articles that I failed to throw away when my husband’s back was turned.
“Great,” I said. “It’s about time. It was starting to become a bit of an eyesore.”
“But we’ve had it for such a long time,” he said. “We can’t get rid of it just like that,” he said with an unsuccessful attempt at snapping his fingers.
Even without the accompanying finger snap, I knew where this was heading. So I went to look for the helmet.
“All the more reason to let it go,” I said in my best practical voice.
“But we bought it for our very first apartment. Don’t you remember? I can still picture the shop. It was that antique store on 10th Avenue. It was a Sunday. It was 4:00 PM, and it was raining.”
“What color were the salesman’s eyes?” I retorted, trying, but failing to hide the sarcasm. I also reminded him that the term “antique” shop was a liberal application of that label. He ignored me and went on.
“Isn’t there somewhere else we can use it? What if we cut off the legs and….?”
“No,” I said abruptly. “No carpentry.” I had better nip this in the bud. “We have to let it go.”
“Then maybe there’s someone in the family who would want it. Then we could at least ask for visitation rights.”
I thought about this for 5 seconds, maybe 4.
“Can’t think of anyone,” I replied.
“How about Aunt Sally?” he queried.
“She might have liked it,” I agreed, “but she died six months ago.”
So for the next half-hour we worked our way through the entire roster of immediate family members, first cousins, and second cousins once removed. After I got him to agree it was impractical to even think about shipping a large piece of furniture to Uncle Sid’s ex-wife in Alaska, he finally capitulated. Was victory actually mine?
Removing the helmet, I rushed to the phone to call Good Will. I knew full well it was only a matter of time before he figured out how to turn it into a planter.
May is Older Americans Month, or so proclaimed President Gerald Ford in 1976. It’s the month that the nation is supposed to honor all the past and present contributions made by its senior citizens. Since I’ve already wasted 15 days in not acknowledging the greatness of my cohorts, I thought I’d use this blog to pay tribute to a particular segment of my generation — the Senior Grifter, or stated in a friendlier way, the Senior Influencer.
Yes, it appears that my age group has discovered Instagram. Ergo, becoming an “influencer” on social media is no longer just a young person’s game. Older adults, particularly women, have discovered that age is not a barrier to people with no particular talent being able to acquire thousands and thousands of followers. All you need is a gimmick and the willingness to sometimes make a fool of yourself. And, oh yes, the ability to convince people that if you do what they tell you to do, then your life can be as wonderful as theirs.
In case you’ve been asleep, let me give you some examples. Notorious among the younger influencers is the Kardashian/Jenner clan. Can they sing? Do they tap dance, act, or even play the ukelele? No. None of the above. And yet they have been wildly successful at marketing themselves as lifestyle gurus, and beauty experts. They get paid millions for endorsing products to millions of gullible followers.
Wait. What? You mean to say you haven’t heard of Huda Kattan, Jeffree Star, Jordan Lipscome, Sophia & Cinzia, whose charmed lives are all about fashion, travel, fitness, and promoting gorgeous while looking absurd. And just a side note: a particular travel influencer got caught not really being there! So much for authenticity.
You can watch their videos on your own time. Right now I want to turn to the real honorees of my current essay – the older folks who have been labeled the “Granfluencers.”
What better place to begin than with 92-year-old Helen Ruth Elam, known as baddiewinkle on her platform. For 10 years she’s been looking absolutely ridiculous in flamboyant feather boas, overly large shades, and skimpy red dresses. But hey, who am I to judge? She’s laughing all the way to the bank with sponsorships from Amazon, Canada Dry, LG, and Svedka Vodka. But who the hell are her over 3 million followers and why? I pose the same question for the rest of this list.
Then there’s 68-year-old Lyn Slater, who, to her credit become an accidental icon because she was caught dressing, not ridiculously, but fashionably. So, hey, why not give up your teaching job, wear ripped jeans, and make social influencing your career?
And how about a shout-out for 73-year-old Jenny Kee whose requisite oversized eye glasses, shaved hair style, and mismatched prints have earned her the spotlight in Instagram stardom.
Let’s not forget the gorgeous Grece Ghanem with her plunging necklines.
And last but not least, there is Joan MacDonald, who actually has something to offer. Rather than flaunting glitz and glamour, Joan, at the age of 75, is an exercise guru. Her Instagram exercise videos have more than 35,000 likes. She’ll lead you through a tough workout, and at the end, while you’re panting, she’ll casually mention the manufacturer of the outfit she’s wearing. You go girl!
Let’s face it. Celebrity has always been used to sell. Actors and sports figures get paid to endorse products all the time and have been doing so forever. But the rise of social media marketing has certainly broadened the playing field. So many young hopefuls taking selfies in the hope of becoming a media star.
So during this Older Americans month, kudos to the golden girls who got in on the game. Grifting should not be wasted on the young!
About the Author
Susan is the author of two award-winning collections of humorous personal essays: “How Old Am I in Dog Years?” and “How to Complain When There’s Nothing to Complain About.” Check out her Author Page HERE.