Guest Guru: Alisa Singer – When A Girl Changes From Bobby Sox to Compression Stockings

When A Girl Changes From Bobby Sox to Compression Stockings

Article & Illustrations by Alisa Singer

If it’s already happened, you remember it – who, where, when. And if you’re one of those Baby Boomers that hasn’t yet experienced this milestone, prepare yourself – it’s coming.

My own experience was probably very typical: I was buying a movie ticket when I was startled by the following question from the teenaged cashier: “Will that be a senior ma’m?” I’m embarrassed to say I actually turned around to see if she was addressing someone behind me. (There was no one behind me.) I turned back to face the brazen hussy. “No-o-o,” I said, composing an expression of puzzled surprise, as though she had just asked if my hair was on fire, “one regular please.” She snorted in amusement as I forked over the cash for a full price ticket. Not for a millisecond did I consider it worth the money to acknowledge the accuracy of her guess.

This wasn’t how I pictured this event unfolding. First of all, I believed I was a number of years shy of having to address this issue. And I imagined that when the day finally arrived for me to claim my discount the cashier would pause, scrutinize me closely and then say apologetically: “I’m afraid you’ll have to show me some identification.”

My actual “senior moment” left me rather dazed; I’d been unceremoniously invited to join the ranks of our senior citizens, no RSVP required, or allowed. Which is to say the veil had dropped – I could no longer kid myself that the combination of nightly wrinkle crème, miraculous age-reducing foundation, carefully colored hair and fashion-forward attire was working. You can’t fool all the people all the time; it wasn’t at all clear I’d fool anyone ever again.

So having survived my deflowering at the hands of the cheeky cashier, I needed to determine how to respond in the future when this sort of bartering is offered, i.e., the public proclamation of advancing age in exchange for the right to save a few bucks – albeit at times quite a few bucks. Competing issues of personal values must be considered, including my own credo – cling desperately to the precipice of youth until Mother Nature cruelly pries your fingers off the ledge. That said, when it comes to matters of money, I have no intention of standing on principle. (I recognize, however, this is a transitional issue for all of us – at some point denial will be simply ludicrous.)

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My plan is to be practical, but highly selective. Although I may not advertise my senior status at the box office, I am likely to avail myself of more discreet discount opportunities, such as the purchase of goods and services on the internet. However, even that strategy is not without its challenges. For example, do I book a hotel reservation online to take advantage of the senior rate, even if it means going eye-to-eye with the desk clerk when I check in? I wrestle with this for a while before deciding to book the room in my husband’s name.

One thing is clear, though we may qualify for certain senior discounts, technically we’ll always be Boomers, even when we’re in our nineties. Which is good. I would hate to lose the moniker “Baby Boomer” because I really like the name – both parts of it actually. First, the “Baby” part, for obvious reasons, so tender, fresh and youthful, however inapplicable. And then there’s the word “Boomer”, bouncy and energetic, suggesting something continuously thriving and growing. Plus the President’s a Boomer (1961), and he’s a pretty cool dude. I plan on sticking to the lively label long after every other part of me has begun to shrivel and deteriorate.

But in its favor I must admit, the term “senior” is delightfully ambiguous. Much like the concept of “middle-age”, it can be extended or contracted to suit one’s purpose. So, you can be a senior if the applicable age threshold is close to, or even less than, your actual age (e.g., AARP membership at only 50), but indignantly deny the label if they try and stick you in with an older crowd. Still, I can clearly see the day when this game will be over – the term “octogenarian” is not nearly as flexible as one would like.

Once we get past our denial, I think we’ll make it cool to be a senior, inventing creative ways to make our unique mark on this phase of life. Maybe we’ll attach snowboards to our walkers, burn our social security cards to protest cuts in medicare benefits, or invent a new name for ourselves. I like “Baby Senior” – kind of ironic and oxymoronish. Also, it suggests a transitional stage – not quite there yet, more like a senior-in-training.

In the end, we’ll survive the metamorphosis from Boomer to senior. After all, we weathered the changes from bobby sox to stockings, from orthodontists to periodontists, from Midol to Retinol, from chicken pox to shingles, and of course, the big one – The Change of Life. It will take time to adjust, just like it has taken time for me to confess the fact that my brand of pop tarts has gone from Kellogg’s to Fiber One. But there it is – I’ve said it. I wonder if they offer a senior discount.

Alisa Singer’s humorous essays have appeared in a variety of print and online newspapers and magazines across the country and in Canada. She is the author of the books I Still Wanna Be A…, an illustrated collection of whimsical poetic fantasies in which she “morphs” herself into her childhood heroes, and My Baby Boomer Memory Album, an album to memorialize the first grand child, social security check, chin hair and other milestones of the second half of the boomer’s life. You can learn more about her work by visiting her website: or contacting her at