From the archives: How to become a lean, mean senior machine


From time to time, we will visit the Wayback Machine to read stories from The Senior Times archives. This story by June Grant was published in November 1989.


For roughly 60 years, I’ve been putting off my makeover. Self-improvement courses have beckoned me in vain. In my youth, these places were known as charm schools. They attracted girls who looked like June Allyson and wanted to learn how to make their eyes dance when they laughed. June Allyson’s dancing eyes were as famous as Ginger Rogers’ feet, and much easier to imitate.

Later, the name changed to modelling school, which sounded more hopeful because at least I was tall. No matter what weird fashion I tried on, the saleslady always said admiringly, “You see, you’re tall. You can carry it.”

But I felt I was carrying enough already — like a torch for Clark Gable, a girdle with bones and a load of guilt for not getting made over.

And now at last, here were my friend Marge and I, determined to sign up for 50-plus school and being interviewed by the principal, Sonia.

“There are only two kids of 50-plus-ers,” Sonia told us. “Jumping-beans and couch potatoes. Which are you?”

Right away, this obsession with vegetables should have warned us what the course was all about. And Sonia didn’t look like a fun person to share a healthy salad with. But we considered the question politely.

“I think I’m really more of a stuffed tomato,” I said finally. And then to my amazement I saw a whole new side of Marge.

“I see myself,” she said boldly, “as a devilled egg with lots of red paprika.” She saw my expression and explained, “I’ve learned a lot from watching Golden Girls. Especially Blanche.”

Sonia frowned. “At this school, we don’t fool around. We flush out your esophagus right down to your lower bowel. We de-mucus your membranes, un-dimple your cellulite and de-stone your gallbladder. Then we recycle all your waste material into jogging shoes.”

This school was sounding more inhumane by the minute. Jogging shoes with stones in them?

“And what can you do for my hairstyle?” Marge asked.

“Mrs. Watkins, if you want a modelling school, you’re 30 years too late. And not tall enough anyway. At 50-plus, we have to believe that it’s what we have inside that counts.”

“Sonia, are you one of those people who spends a fortune on lacy underwear nobody’s ever going to see? Personally, I can’t see the point of having a glamorous lower bowel. Unless you’re trying to seduce an X-ray technician.”

We were interrupted by an exhausted-looking pupil poking her head into the room. “Somia! That witch who sits next to me in the carrot-juicing class? She told me I should wear a bra under my eyes.”

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Smith. We’re going to unpack those bags of yours very soon. Meantime, just keep your eyebrows raised.”

“When we finally got outside, I said, “Marge, I hear there’s an 80-plus school somewhere that considers makeovers a health hazard. Should we try there?”

“Let’s think it over for 20 years and see. Meantime, I’m just going to be a devilled egg more often. As for you, there’s nothing wrong with your stuffed tomato that a little eye makeup wouldn’t fix. Blanche wears blue.”



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