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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Little Old Ladies

By Mary B Summerlin who keeps a photostream at Flickr

I feel I can write on this subject because I am one – well, not little but old and, most of the time, a lady.

I am an expert people watcher. In high school, I wasn’t the belle of the ball so I had plenty of time to cultivate this activity. Then I married a professional musician who wanted me to accompany him to his gigs. I’m not a musician so while I enjoyed the music, I was not absorbed by it and so this was another opportunity to develop my people watching skills. I think if you start this early, it’s a lifetime job. Let me share some of my observations.

We’ll start with a visit to our local diner. Often, I meet friends there and we catch up on our lives and make all sorts of plans. One of my main cohorts is Pam. She and I taught together in elementary school for 25 years, often as a team. So we are practiced at child watching and sharing our thoughts. It’s not a great jump to go from child to adults.

The other day as Pam and I were having lunch, we watched a group of six ladies at a table across the way. There was Miss Patriotic - she is the one who goes to the beauty parlor every week for a shampoo and set. She always comes out with beautiful silver hair with a tint of blue.

As she has aged, she avoids the sun so her skin is very white and as she finishes her lunch, she takes out her compact and applies red, red lipstick. Ah ha, I thought – red, white and blue, Miss Patriotic!

Sitting next to her is a tall, slender, rugged outdoorsy type. I remind Pam that this was the lady who was bitten by dogs while she was taking a walk and the owner just left her lying on the ground. I wrote a story about the event and named her Senior Lady. Even a dog attack can’t keep her down.

She is up and out and doing all her activities once again. You can tell from the body language that she is egging the others on to do something that ordinarily none of them would even think about. Perhaps it’s something extreme like a walk down by the Hudson River for an hour.

Then, there’s Prissy Prim and Proper Lady. Remember the lady who is always dressed just right, proper clothes, hair, shoes? And not only that, but she also behaves properly – says and does the right thing at the right time all the time.

Prissy Prim and Proper Lady learned from her mother how to dress and how to act and still believes that her mother knew exactly how things should be done and how they should look. No reason to ever change that. Pam and I roll our eyes as we remember how far we have come from our mothers – in dress and behavior.

Then there’s Miss Sweetness. Everything is wonderful, always wonderful. Her home could be burning down and you ask her how she is and she says, “Oh, just fine, look at the pretty flames.” Everything everybody does is wonderful. This lady drives me nuts!

Contrary Lady never moved on from those teenage years when you just automatically disagreed with what any adult said. Contrary Lady still has that syndrome going. If you say, “What a beautiful day,” she says that it isn’t and tells you why (could take a long time). If you say, “Today a terrible day,” she’ll say that it isn’t and tell you why not. Getting along with this one is a hard job.

Medical Lady knows all the ins and outs of her ailments and those of all of her friends too. So you can’t tell her about your physical problems. Every time you begin, you get as far as the description then she tells you how you feel, what you are doing right or wrong and what you need to do next. All for free! Now, if you could get that much info out of the doctor.

I’m sure there are many other stereotypes but you get the idea; you could spend a whole day putting this stuff together, you get on a roll, but I’ve had enough. I have a short attention span. Besides, Pam and I have caught up on the news and both have a hundred other things to do.

Then, as we prepare to leave, in bounces Eccentric Lady. She’s got a long flowing scarf around her neck, a hat that is just put on her head with no adjustment (since it is askew). She’s dressed in stripes and plaids and her arms are full of shopping bags.

As she is being shown to a seat, bags begin to fall apart. Stuff goes every which way, the waiter and patrons all scatter to help gather up her stuff and get her seated.

She sits like a queen and bestows a beautiful smile on all. Causing a scene is nothing new to her. She says and does what she wants when she wants and if it will shock you or causes a scene, so much the better.

We hurry out to our separate cars to begin an afternoon of running errands. As we go, I remind Pam that we will continue this project next week when we meet again. There is much unmined material.

My thinking is: if you’re a little old lady, you hate it when somebody treats you like you know nothing, like you can’t do anything, can’t learn anything and are to be just sort of tolerated. But on the other hand, if you treat us too gently, too carefully, too respectfully and you’re always being helpful – well, we’re likely to be ornery about that too.

So you better watch out for little old ladies – you just can never tell! We may snap your head off if we feel offended or we could just be sickening sweet. We’re a bunch to be reckoned with.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Clever, funny story, Mary. I think I see myself in several of those caricatures--but then I've earned the right to be anything I want to be at 78!If you run out of material, drop by my senior housing complex!

what a laugh I had this morning!! I know those ladies, I play Mah Jong with them, I sit by the pool with them and have dinner's out with them.

I'm one of them too!!

Mary - Nicely written, and very funny!

My favorite is 'Eccentric Lady'. I know several of these. In fact, I am married to one! - Sandy

And how would those ladies typify you and Pam do you think?

Oh Mary, I'm afraid to ever meet you. With your ability to dissect people I have terrible visions of your responses. But wonderful funny story.

Well Done, Mary. Thank you.
Works in doctors' waiting rooms.

Great story...
I know them all and I guess they know me too...
Miss Sweetness drives me nuts as well!

I loved your story,Mary, and envy Miss Patriotic who goes to the Beauty Parlor every week and comes out looking beautiful.

I am patriotic too, but,at my age, I have to go to three beauty parlors just to get estimates.

Really, I enjoyed all the descriptions. They were fun and I think we all know one or two of them.

Yes, Lyn you and everybody else I've ever met are part of the ladies. I'm glad you enjoyed the ladies and Merle you gave me something to think about. Pam and I would be the Schoolteacher Ladies. You can tell they're schoolteachers because their eyes are constantly roaming around the room. They think they are still in the classroom and have to see any and everything that goes on. See they also have paper and pencil and are taking notes. No question about it they're teachers.
Thank youall for your comments.

Thanks for the fun thoughts. I realize that I study faces to see how they would photograph or if they would be a good subject for a painting. Just another way to judge.

I'm definitely eccentric old lady and getting getting more so all the time.

not to mention repeating myself.

I loved the description of each of these "little old ladies"...you nailed it! Wonderful story!

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