Is Fifty The New Forever?

That table of students having coffee over there – all of them are dressed identically, all of them sound alike when they talk. Same clothes.  Same speech patterns.  Nothing odd about that, right? 

Except two of them just stood up to leave and someone at the table addressed one of them as “Mister” somebody and the other one indicated that they’d better hurry or they’ll be late for his class.

It’s official.  I can no longer tell high school and college students from the teachers and professors.  Not when they all look like they could be anywhere from 15 to 35. 

It’s not just because I’m getting old.  (I am, but that’s not the point.) The ageless look of this group is partly due to the fact that no one is wearing adult clothing anymore.  Some of the boys-to-men are wearing today’s iconic cap.  Some are in hoodies.  Everyone’s in soft shoes.  Everyone’s in jeans.  

And now my doctor has moved his practice to a huge group where no one wears doctor coats anymore and it’s nearly impossible to tell the young patients from the young doctors. 

Clothes used to be labels unto themselves – not the inside label, but the statements we made by what we put on. How we look offered clues about other things.  We did that on purpose.  Used our clothes to make a statement. Our statements probably offered comfort to some and consternation to others.  Genius or goof-off?  Can’t tell by the clothes anymore.

Here comes the back-in-the-day part:  When we were in our teens, we couldn’t wait to be adults.  Adolescence held no great appeal.  It was pre-Summer of Love, before the culture switched to worshipping youth.  It wasn’t a lot of fun to be a teenager.  In fact, nobody even called us anything except maybe “young people.” 


So we copied older people.  We dressed like them as soon as we could.  For my girlfriends, and me it was high heels all the time, tight skirts (think of the Office Manager, Joan, on Mad Men) with loads of makeup and hairspray.  Since there was no glory in staying young, the natural progression was to dress like adults soon. We didn’t hate it. 


I must have missed the memo about it not being okay to dress my real age.  Not that getting old is a picnic, but it’s also not awful and doesn’t need to be a secret. 


We can’t blame the 60’s and free love for everything.  We all bought into this whole switch from natural aging to forever young.  How come we ever thought it was okay to say “Don’t trust anyone over 30?” 


Fifty seems to be the outside age that my friends are comfortable with.  Some of them have already been in their fifties for quite a while and now staying fifty forever doesn’t seem like such a stretch.  Heck, it might even be medically possible one day soon.


Ó Anita Garner 2008







Science & Sales

I recently changed doctors.  In fact, I switched to two new specialists because the first two kept trying to sell me things.  It bothers me when I’m in a vulnerable state, which we always are in a doctor’s examining room, when after checking what I went there for, he/she suggests I partake of products offered for sale on the premises. 

My Dermatologist began to push expensive services which are cosmetic in nature.  I have nothing against cosmetic Dermatology, but that wasn’t the reason for my visit.  However, after he excised the suspicious sunspots on my skin, I asked about a reddish place on my face, wondering if it was anything to worry about, and by way of answering my concern, he said “Just a minute, let me bring in my laser people.” 

Before I could decline, the door to the examining room opened, the doctor exited, and a woman carrying laser brochures entered.  She looked me over and surmised that for about $5,000-$6,000 for several treatments, she could make the reddish spots disappear.  I asked, “But will they come back?” The answer was yes, “But you can always repeat the laser procedure again in the future.”

The other doctor I said goodbye to was my eye doctor.  He’d had a shop adjacent to his office for some time, but they’d never tried to sell me things, so I walked past his boutique  filled with designer eyeglass frames and headed to a less expensive dispensary to get my prescriptions filled. 

The last visit, though, consisted of one part exam and three parts sales.  First the receptionist pointed me to the shop and suggested I browse while waiting.  Then the doctor finished the exam and left the room, returning with several eyeglass frames from his selection.  I declined.  And then I declined to make another appointment there.

This isn’t new, but it’s recently begun to bother me more. It’s not that I resent doctors finding new ways to make money, especially with insurance companies paying less of the cost of care, but I want to feel that my health is more important to them than their sales.  I don’t even care if it’s true,  just so I can continue to pretend it’s so.  

Maybe you can separate science from sales, healing from hype, but I can’t.  For me, getting a sales pitch along with an exam is full-service intimidation and I’m not willing to participate in practices (pardon the lame wordplay) that make me feel unsettled when I’m trying to look after my health.  

I learned that you can Google doctors and read patient reviews.  Not that someone else’s opinion is the final word, but I did find some reviews that mention whether the doctor pushes products as often as medical care.

It’s not just doctors.  Decades ago, at a meeting with the minister who would perform our wedding ceremony, the preacher chatted with us for a few minutes, then handed us a packet containing brochures about life insurance.  He was pastoring full time, but selling insurance on the side.  We wondered, is he in touch with Someone who has knowledge of our future?  Does he know something we don’t?  There we were, young and in love, headed to our meeting with questions about the ceremony, but we left worrying about our beneficiaries.

I’m all for “additional revenue streams.”  I embrace our capitalistic society, but assuming I can find them, I’ll continue to seek out doctors (and ministers) who stick to the main product I’m there for. 

Ó By Anita Garner 2008