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What would it take to make the cover of AARP Magazine?
The face seemed out of place under the magazine nameplate, “AARP.” But there it was: the unwrinkled face of unretired Valerie Bertinelli, the actress who grew up with us, the actress who lost 50 pounds and gained a lot of money pushing Jenny Craig all over the country, the actress who just turned 50 and qualified for membership in the American Association of Retired Persons.
That’s the age when a so-called friend rents a big pink elephant and parks it beside the highway with the message in marquee-size letters, “Ain’t it nifty, Valerie is fifty.” That same friend will throw you a birthday party and decorate with black balloons, which are about as funny as a case of gout.
Fifty is dangerously close to the time when middle age surrenders to senior, when beautiful and handsome yield to well-preserved. The final, popular adjective for the fit and active is spry, which describes people who are 90 and still mow their own yards.
But those are stereotypes. Older Americans don’t like stereotypes any more than other classes and races of people. I learned a long time ago to steer clear of “gee-whiz” descriptions when writing about older people: “Gee whiz, he’s 85 and still goes to work every day.”
Why shouldn’t he? If that’s what a man wants to do at 85, why should we be surprised? If a woman wants to start her own business at 75, more power to her. Heck, the comic-strip heroine Wonder Woman just turned 69, and she’s still kicking tail.
Age is merely a number, nothing else.
Actually, if I were eligible to be a cover boy, I’d choose AARP Magazine. My cherubic cheeks and double chin would be flanked by such enticing headlines as “Boost Your Brain Health” and “No More Knee Pain” and “Easygoing Walking Vacations.”
I’ll never get the chance, though. But why not?
Clint Eastwood made the AARP cover. Why not me? What’s he done that I haven’t, other than make countless successful movies and a slop jar full of money? Has he ever sat through a boring meeting of the Cheraw City Council and turned out a newspaper story that held readers’ attention for more than 20 seconds? Neither have I.
But nobody’s perfect.
Bruce Springsteen made the AARP cover when he turned 60. Why not me? What’s The Boss got that I don’t have, other than a voice that can sing (scream) a crowd into a frenzy? Shoot, I sing in the church choir. Can he say that?
I know, I know. You’ve got to be famous in some way to get on the cover of AARP. But maybe it won’t be that way forever. One of these days, a common guy or gal who’s 50 or older and just enjoys being active will make the cover.
For now, I can look at Valerie Bertinelli on the cover of AARP and say she is beautiful. And I expect she will be beautiful when she’s 85.
Phil Hudgins’ column is published in many newspapers around the Southeast.