There’s nothing quite like shopping “Senior Citizens’ Day” at Beall’s. Beall’s (pronounced Bell’s) is Southwest Florida’s premiere department store — at least according to the very frugal women in my family.
Of course, one could argue that at Beall’s, as in most of SW Florida, every day is Senior Citizen’s Day. But unlike “Florida Residents’ Day,” which comes but once a month, Senior Citizens’ Day comes every week. And Residents’ Day only applies to “year round” residents.
My aunt is a year-round resident, which is why we often find ourselves in SW Florida for a few days during my semester break. My aunt can get 15% discounts for both Senior Citizen’s Day and Florida Residents’ day (though not at the same time. One discount per customer, per visit). She tried to share her bounty with my mother — her sister — by letting her borrow her Florida driver’s license, but my mother was too honest to participate in this charade. The clerk probably wouldn’t have even asked for the license, but what can I say? My mother is a woman of profound integrity, undeterred by even the most tempting of discounts.
She did, however, go back for Senior Citizen’s Day. “That, I can legitimately claim,” she said. She went to town, too, even snagging two great tops on the “buy one, get the second one for a penny” rack. (That’s my mom! I’m so proud).
My own moral test came when I was standing in line, at Beall’s, on Senior Citizens’ Day, with my one item and Mr. Frump’s two items, and the clerk asked, “Are you seniors?”
I found myself wondering what would happen if I said yes. Would she ask, unlike any bartender in the last 20 years (the bastards!), for my ID? Would she accept my answer, grudgingly, suspecting that I was lying but too polite to call me on it? Or would she — oh, the horror — believe me?
I’ll never know, because it really wasn’t hard for me to reject the discount and answer “no.” Of course, I was shocked to find out, later, that you only have to be 50 to be considered a “senior.” Fifty! Isn’t that obscenely young to be labelled a senior? Is this the denial talking, or am I right about this one?
In any event, for now, I am still permitted to answer no. Nope, not me. Not a senior. But let me tell you, I’ve been very observant during my Florida visits, and although I realize I’ll lose “cool points” by saying this (if I actually have any), I could do a lot worse than being a senior citizen in SW Florida.
I know that lots of people make fun of Florida’s retirees. I know that fashionable young hipsters probably find them uncool. I know “The Golden Girls” are no longer popular. But damn: from what I’ve seen, these folks are having a wonderful time, and they don’t care who knows it.
I’ve seen them golfing, walking, and running. Boating and swimming. Playing tennis, cards, and yes, even shuffleboard. Gathering in large, noisy groups to socialize by the pool. And drinking a few cocktails, from time to time.
Not necessarily in that order.
I know most of us probably can’t afford to retire to Florida, and even vacationing there is cost-prohibitive for many. But still, seeing the retirees enjoying life gives me hope. Maybe aging doesn’t have to be the horrible, lonely experience that our youth-obsessed culture tells us it must be. Maybe it’s never too late to make a second start. “I never thought I’d marry again after my first husband died,” confessed a (gorgeous!) 70-plus woman while we chatted in the pool. “I thought I’d never meet anybody else as good as he was. But then I did!”
There’s nothing quite like walking by an outdoor restaurant/bar, feet dragging because sunbathing is just so tiring, only to see people 20-30 years older than you dancing away to “I Will Survive.” Singing along, too. With no sign of stopping any time soon. At times like this, you don’t see retirees, but rather, a sea of tropical prints, playful jewelry, and colorful skirts partying down.
Which brings me to Florida style. OK, I’ve never been a big fan of pink golf shirts on men. I’ll admit it. But I just love how the ladies rock some color. Tropical prints! Shiny gold sandals! Sequins! Sparkles! Shiny things, good!
To give you some perspective, here are some Florida colors and patterns:
Just for comparison purposes,
here are some colors and patterns from the Northeast:
If you’re still not following me,
here’s some jewelry, Florida style:
And Northeast style:
You see my point.
And yes, I know that there are self-appointed arbiters of taste out there who will claim that Florida Style is, well, a bit much. Over the top. Gaudy, perhaps. But wouldn’t you rather have gaudy fun than be dully tasteful? I know I would, especially when I find myself in a miraculously warm, sunny climate during January. Especially when I see how vibrant and colorful some of these senior ladies look.
There is a range, of course. Some Florida women, whatever their age, do a more streamlined, subdued, classic version of Florida style — with just a pop of color or texture in just the right place. But my point is: it doesn’t matter which version you choose. To me, all of these ladies look great because they are brave enough to experiment with playful colors, fabrics, textures and patterns.
And once I find myself in their midst, caressed by the warm sun and tropical breezes, allowing my curls to fly free — because what other option is there? — I want to play along. I want to look like this:
So I go to Beall’s. It’s always a strange place for me to be, because generally speaking, I fear bright colors and crazy patterns, retreating to safer, more versatile, classic shapes and styles. But I do have a fondness for funky accents, free and flowy silhouettes, interesting textures, and colorful bead jewelry. So there’s hope for me!
For the most part, at Beall’s, my purchases fall into three categories:
1) Brightly colored items that appeal to me during my visit but which, once taken home, hang in my closet as fond memories, only. (I occasionally glance at them and either smile or say to myself, “What the hell was I thinking?”)
2) Outdoorsy, casual items that are Florida-appropriate but also suitable for casual wear up North (Beall’s has a good selection of items by Caribbean Joe and Columbia Sportswear).
3) The only items in the entire store that use boring, New England-style neutrals (see photos above). These get worn when I return, but they don’t exactly transform my life.
On my latest trip, I actually tried on a quintessential Florida outfit: Capri pants (even though they are not remotely flattering on my short-legged frame), and a white print top with a floral pattern and a few gold sequins. (White? Floral?? Sequins??? Clearly, I was having an out-of-body experience). But I wanted to try it, because I thought it would be cute. And it was…. sort of…. except that I thought it made me look ten years older than I am.
So I guess I have to wait until I’m a little more “seasoned.” Maybe then I will be ready to rock me some fabulously funky Florida senior outfits. No matter where I happen to live.
I’m looking forward to it!