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Getting Older Is Not What It Used to Be

In the fragile mirror of my ego, I am never Cher. I am never Melanie Griffith in underwear. Or Robin Givens with an ATM card. I am never Pat Schroeder or Anne Tyler or Benazir Bhutto or any of the other remarkable women who do remarkable things. Occasionally, I have aspired to the heights of a Judy Tenuta or a Phylicia Rashad. Maybe a female Willard Scott who knows which way the wind blows.

In my vainest dreams, I like to think I can still evoke that spunky brunet look of my idol--Natalie Wood, circa 1964. When I open my mail and get a letter from a loving reader, I tell myself I’m doing something important. Kind of Mother Teresa in a nice neighborhood but without the hands-on part.

Although I know it’s politically incorrect not to be thrilled about aging, I’m still in denial. When I think of getting older, I don’t immediately think of Liz Taylor’s eyes or Pauline Kael’s cerebrum.

So why does the world want to burst my bubble? The bursting began when I was staring at myself in the mirror saying, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the cutest little newspaper columnist of them all?” The mirror literally flew out of my hand and broke.

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I told myself the luck thing meant nothing. I sure wasn’t going to sit around until 1996. My daughter advised me that I must immediately rush out and get a synthetic rabbit’s-foot key chain to offset the damage.

Before I could leave, a woman named Robin called and said she wanted to interview me for her new radio show, called “Heritage.” Of course she wanted to interview a big name like me.

“What’s the gist of the show?” I asked her.

“Well,” Robin said, “the full name is ‘Heritage: The Legacy of Older Women.’ ”

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I started picturing white-haired ladies who took up sky diving at 80 or women on farms in Kentucky who were making sculptures out of dried-up apple cores. “How are we defining older ?” I asked Robin.

“Over 40,” she said.

“And how old are we?” Robin is a kid of 34. Not old enough to be my daughter.

Then Robin started making up for the suggestion that it was memoirs time by saying things like how wonderful it was that I was an older woman while still so young.

Of course, older is one of those funny terms. I remembered when I worked in a women’s health collective in the early ‘70s and we had an Older Women’s Issues Group for those over 35.

Before anything else happened, I rushed out to the store to look for a foot. There, I ran into old Mrs. Boudreaux, one of my favorite patients from back when I was a nurse. “Mrs. Boudreaux, how are you?” I asked. “You’re looking terrific.”

“Thank you, honey,” she said. “You’re puttin’ on weight.”

When I got home with the ice cream, the cheesecake and the rabbit’s foot, there was a message on my phone machine: “Hi, Alice, this is Betty Sisterhood from the Women’s Coalition. As you know, we’re planning our big April 2 march and rally to support reproductive rights. We must have a big name for the rally. Surely, you understand that without a big-name speaker, we won’t be able to draw the numbers we need. . . .”

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Flattered though I was, I began trying to think of how to break it to her that I don’t do weddings, bar mitzvahs or rallies.

Desperate for Big Name

The message continued, “We’re feeling fairly desperate because we did have some big names, but they all pulled out. We’re really hoping you can help us. Somebody said you know how to get in touch with Whoopi Goldberg. . . .”

Well, I’d love to help, sister, but I don’t know how to reach Whoopi, and judging from the number of benefits she does, someone ought to leave her alone and give her a chance to work for some cash money.

Meanwhile, I think I know where you can get in touch with Xanthippe Socrates. It’s a big name, and she’s a really neat older woman.


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