Thursday, March 26, 2009

They say that clothes make the man, or woman, but I don’t think this is strictly the case. They can, however, be a window into the kind of person one might be dealing with.

My job allows me to see a good cross-section of people of a certain age. If you’re over 65, you are the people I want to talk to. Insurance for the elderly is not a terribly lucrative line of work, but it’s steady. Once you turn 65, you generally don’t want to be without it, and fear of financial ruin is a marvelous motivator for people to invest in a health plan.

We often hear of the “love-ins” of the Sixties, but I can personally attest to the fact that it occurred about 20 years earlier. For all of the “loving” the flower-children did, they simply don’t have the same kind of evidence of their amorousness to back up their claims. Ozzie and Harriet might have slept in separate beds, but they, and their generational counterparts, are the parents of a baby boom the likes of which were never seen before, and won’t be seen again. And the fruits of their, uh, labor show up at my informational meetings every day.

What is amazing is the way some of these people look. I think I have seen it all, or at least most of it. Perhaps most frightening was the woman with long, flowing, curly hair wearing a mini-skirt and tank top that came to a meeting at a pancake house several years ago. From afar, she looked like your standard floozy. But, up close you could see that her plastic surgeon may have lifted things a little too far and a little too often. Her inability to blink was troubling, especially when she fixed you with a gaze that was somewhat alarming, almost motionless and creepily hungry. Her husband seemed proud of his “youthful” wife, and she in turn seemed to fawn over him and his alarmingly long comb over. If these are the golden years, I’m putting my money into silver.

Looks are not everything, and it’s a good thing. One of the more disturbing features of the greatest generation is their choice of footwear. It appears that at about age 65, or retirement, whichever is first, it becomes necessary to purchase several pairs of really, really ugly shoes. Next time you are in a room full of senior citizens, take a look down. Chances are you will see a sea of shoes, ranging in whiteness from dark ivory to a shocking Seinfeld-sneaker white. Their only redeeming factor must be comfort, or perhaps a very low price at Costco. And judging by the number of couples who have these perfectly matching pairs of shoes, they must also be part of a buy one get one free deal. .

Don’t misunderstand me, these are good people. People who’ve been tried by wars and depressions. They are the salt of the earth. But why is it that a group of people who lived through some of the most stylish periods of our history have thrown it all away for the comfort and savings of Walmart. Women who once emulated Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy now seem to think that silky track suits in bold color combinations of olive green, navy blue and boring beige are de rigeur. The men are, not surprisingly, no better. Note to the obviously wealthy gentlemen taking lunch at his local Red Robin – that velour shirt wasn’t even in style when it was new, and that twenty-something waitress is not interested.

As I approach my later years, and there’s a long time before I actually hit them, I want to be mindful of my appearance. I have hopes that this loss of style can be avoided, although my wife and daughter assure me that, in my case, there’s not all the much style to lose.