When Are We Over The Hill?

Traffic sign to assist elderly people.  © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.
Traffic sign to assist elderly people. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.


When I walked into a new nail shop this weekend, the Vietnamese owner greeted me: “Hello Mama.”

I know that this is an Asian title of respect for an older woman, yet it made me chuckle to myself.

When my husband, Harold, was still alive, we used to regularly eat at a nearby coffee shop. The Thai waitress always greeted us: “Hello Papa; Hello Mama.” Next she would make the traditional Wai gesture — palms together in front of chin followed by a slight bow. Then as soon as we were seated in our regular booth, she would gently tuck a napkin under Harold’s chin. He delighted in the attention. I would have not liked that, however.

When I was only in my 70s, someone asked, “Did you used to be pretty?”

The next time I saw her, I brought a glamorous photo to convince her of my earlier youthful more appealing appearance.

Recently, I shared a table at the mall food court with a very nice man who was a Mescalero Apache. He was very chatty and before I left he said, “I bet you were a good looking woman in the old days.”

He meant that as a compliment, but it didn’t affect me that way. It reminded me of something my husband used to say, “To me, you’re still beautiful.” Have I now turned into a dog, I wondered?

Older women are discounted, thought to be over the hill, and treated with less admiration than younger lookers.   If their wrinkles have not been erased by surgery or botox, despite making them unrecognizable, that seems preferable to the super-lined faces of the surgically untouched.

When complimenting a naturally wrinkled woman’s face the terminology is that that her face is a map of her life.  Does that include the detours? The road blocks? The car wrecks?

Now how beautiful is that?


Norine Dresser is a wrinkled arthritic folklorist and no surgical procedure can ever turn back the clock. At 83, she is definitely over the hill!