Rural Living

Suddenly Senior

The Path to Old Age Calls for Comfortable Shoes


by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer


Margo Oxendine

I’ve always thought I looked and felt younger than I am.

Well, those days are gone. This past summer — ghastly as it was, in oh so many ways — hastened along the aging process in, well, oh so many ways.

Along about the sixth or seventh day following the derecho disaster, both my knees suddenly went kerflooey. And by “suddenly,” I mean that one hour I was sadly tossing big bags of spoiled food into the Dumpsters, and the next hour, I could barely limp back home.

One of my knees has been tricky for a couple of years, since I took a flying leap across the stage and made a wrong turn in mid-air. I’ve always gone for the comedy and, indeed, the audience laughed. I did not.

Since then, I’ve compensated quite nicely, counting on the good knee. Now, the good knee is worse than the original bad knee. When you only have two knees, there’s no more compensating.

Along about that time, I looked in the mirror one morning and thought, Gads; what the heck happened? Wrinkles — yes, let’s call them what they are — had suddenly appeared where there were none the night before.

I’ve often joked that my secret to looking young is this: A layer of fat plumps out wrinkles and actually gives the skin a dewy appearance. Well, the layer of fat is still there; it just ain’t so smooth any longer.

Women are lucky; we can mask many flaws with cosmetics. Men cannot; yet, on the other hand, men can possess “craggy good looks.” Men can be “ruggedly handsome.” A man might be called a “dashing silver fox.” Gray-haired women who take good care of themselves can only be called “cougars,” once they’re out of earshot.

(And speaking of earshot, well, my auditory capabilities are fading fast, too.)

Back to the cosmetics. I couldn’t wait to be allowed to buy and use them in my teens. During the college years, going “back to nature” was in fashion. Then came Key West, where makeup was a joke: Why put it on when the heat and humidity would simply slide it off? For years, a little lipstick was all I relied upon, or needed.

When I moved to San Francisco, the cosmetic-buying craze kicked in big time. I don’t want to know how much I spent to look absolutely fabulous and urbane.

When I moved back to the mountains, I got “back to nature” yet again. I would not leave the house without earrings and lipstick, but further adornments were unnecessary. Nowadays, I find I must add eyeliner to the mix. Eyeliner is something heretofore alien to me. It requires a steady hand and good eyesight. Oops. I’ve learned to keep the Q-tips handy.

In Key West, I was always dressed to stop traffic. Indeed, a girlfriend and I once caused an accident while biking to the beach in our bikinis. In San Francisco, I wore the requisite gray flannel suit, pink blouse, and heels. The only time I’d be seen in sneakers was pounding the pavement on my way to work. Besides, if an earthquake struck during the day, it would be wise to have a pair of sneakers handy in your desk drawer. Navigating glass and rubble in heels is pure folly.

Ah, I do love my fabulous, eye-catching shoes. I’ve probably collected 87 pairs of them through the decades. Nowadays, they languish in the closets.

I searched far and wide for attractive orthopedic shoes. They do not exist. And I must ask, why not? Many items for the elderly — and I must face the fact that I am — are now geared toward us, the aging Baby Boomers. Consider the snappy new array of decorated canes, for instance. I will order as soon as I find a black one festooned with pink flamingos.

So come on, you savvy shoe designers and manufacturers. We don’t want to settle for sturdy laced oxfords in black or brown, period. We may be old, but we don’t do dowdy. We’re out there, just waiting. And we’ve got plenty of money to spend. Give us emerald green; tempt us with turquoise; promise us pink; zing us with a snazzy zebra print. And instead of a matching purse, offer a matching cane instead.


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