Hangin’ with the Golden Girls

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!


About Anne @ The Frump Factor

Reflections on beauty and style, for women who weren't born yesterday. Bring your sense of humor and "Fight the Frump" with me!
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15 Responses to Hangin’ with the Golden Girls

  1. Gail says:

    Senior at 50? OMG!
    It does sound lovely in Florida for the Golden Girls. It’s a much nicer image, wafting around in zingy patterned kaftans with a cocktail than shuffling round in slippers in a retirement home that smells of wee. Bring it on!

  2. Terri says:

    I suspect I may be a bit older than you…but I have begun to PLAY with color and to break out of the neutrals just because I’m looking faded otherwise. As for the senior discount, my husband “pays” for most things, while I later “pay” the bills. He has had white hair since age 27 and is often offered a senior discount. We often discover we have been given the discount whether we qualify or not. Personally, I don’t feel very guilty about it, in part because the age that qualifies us as seniors will vary from business to business. Who are we to keep this straight?

  3. Lise Tyner says:

    I love this post!!! First of all you nailed it with the pictures and having been to a Bealls I know what you are talking about, but you put it in a much better way.

  4. Great post! Made me giggle. I am only 5.5 years away! I actually can not wait and well I love Seniors. They have actually been my best friends my whole life and really miss having them in my life at the moment! Still love the Golden Girls too!

  5. Grace says:

    I’m a fairly new Florida resident (okay, it’s North Florida, but still . . .), and I have to tell you about my wardrobe. When it’s not tennis clothes, it’s a skirt, sleeveless top, and flip flops.

    I love it here.

  6. Gail: I’m with you. Bring it on, indeed!

    Terri: Your approach sounds sensible to me! I’m only 4.5 years away from the “senior” line at Beall’s, so I expect they’ll give me the 15 percent without asking fairly soon.

    Lisa: Thanks!

    Stephanie: You would have loved the place where we visited my family– so many friendly people around. Thanks for the comment.

    Grace: Oh, to wear the same daily uniform that you do! I can totally see why you love it.

  7. Serene says:

    It’s so ridiculous that 50 is ‘senior’, that means I’ll be a senior citizen in 6 more years! It’s madness! The same madness that says that size 12 is a “plus size” model. It’s so funny, we get AARP at the gym where I work. I almost fainted to see Richard Gere on the cover!! What’s the world coming to? ~Serene

  8. Molly says:

    Your post makes retiring in Florida sound so inticing. And those are words I never dreamed that I’d utter – much less put out in the interwebs for all eternity. {I can never deny this now!!! eeeek}

    Leaving the House in THIS?!?!

  9. kim W says:

    Yikes! I just turned 52…Must I think of myself as a senior now?? Oh My…I love this post…I am a new follower! I found you on over 40 bloggers and I hope you will visit me on TrulySimplyPink and maybe follow back…

    Pinkim! (a fellow senior?)

  10. Gina Alfani says:

    Love the post Anne! You’ve got it down!

    Living in Florida is awesome . . . my feet would not know how to act with closed shoes on 🙂

    We love hanging out with my mom and her circle of friends. Tomorrow night we are going to a function at the Sons of Italy that is usually the best times ever. The last one was for Halloween, complete with costumes . . . what fun! Every time we go, it is a great time with these people. Time to put on the dancing shoes and bright, sparkly clothes (in fact I do own them!) . . .

    Thanks for following my blog, Babyboomer Flashback . . . I’m following you on Twitter and Facebook 🙂

    Have an awesome weekend . . . Gina

  11. Rapunzel says:

    I’ve lived in (South) Florida all of my life so I know a thing or two about retirees, LOL! I have just recently discovered Beall’s, though, and am loving it! I didn’t know about the discounts, who knew I was only 4 years away from Senior-hood. Does that mean I have permission to start dressing however-the-heck I want and blame it on age? Oh, wait, I do that already.

    Next time you’re in the sunshine state you’ll have to come visit! We’ll go shopping together.

  12. Rapunzel & Gina: It is below zero where I am right no, so I’m very envious of you with your open-toed shoes and sparkly clothes year round, not to mention the Beall’s access! Enjoy.

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