The Meat and Potatoes of Life: Age ain’t nothing but a number

| February 28, 2014 | 0 Comments


Lisa Smith Molinari
Contributing Writer

“Whatever happened to that older lady who used to be here every week?” I overheard the girl in front of me ask her friend after our “Pump & Sweat” class ended at the base gym.

She looked to be about 27 or so, with a youthful, high ponytail and a purple spandex tank top with a built-in shelf bra.

“You remember, the older lady — petite, short hair, lifted light weights and was, well, real prim about it.”

The girl’s friend, also 20-something in a cute, strappy tank top, shrugged her shoulders and carried on putting her equipment away. But the girl persisted.

“You remember, she used to stand right up front,” the girl pestered. “C’mon! You know, the OLDER LADY.”

I minded my own business, wiping down my yoga mat and racking my weights. I had learned months prior that the girls were not interested in socializing with the middle-aged women in class.

I had tried, “Whew, those squats were brutal, hu?” But I was always met with awkwardly reluctant nods, which clearly conveyed the message, “Listen ma’am, you’d better stick with your own kind.”

But on this day, I couldn’t help but realize that I knew the older lady this girl was asking about. She was in my social circle on base. But acknowledging my association with the older lady in question would then brand me an older lady, too, so I hesitated.

Courtesy photo Youth doesn’t always triumph over maturity and life experience.

Courtesy photo
Youth doesn’t always triumph over maturity and life experience.

When I was in my early 30s and we were stationed in Virginia Beach, I relished my advanced step classes at the Mount Trashmore YMCA and struck up lasting relationships with my group exercise classmates. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we shared the locker room with the Water Aerobics ladies. They would hobble into the showers from the pool in their floral-skirted bathing suits and cackle while changing into elastic-wasted pants and sensible shoes.

“Where were you last month, Phyllis?”

“Well, my hip was acting up something terrible, so the doctor has me on Glucosamine and Chondroitin …”

“Do you get coverage? My goodness those pills are expensive!”

While I eavesdropped on their locker-room banter about orthopedics, vitamin supplements and irregularity, I chuckled to myself, never realizing that I’d be just like them one day.

Just like the rest of the older ladies at the gym, I now disappear for a week or month when I hurt my wrist or knee or back, then show up to class again wearing one of those braces you can buy at the drugstore. I do the “modifications” suggested by the fitness instructors, like squatting without weights or doing push-ups on my knees. I look ridiculous in a high ponytail, and I certainly can’t wear tank tops with shelf bras anymore.

I’ve become one of them, but is it so bad to be an older lady at the gym?

In society, older women are respected for their vast wealth of life experiences, and nowhere is that reverence more prevalent than amongst military wives. Spouses who are new to the well-known hardships of military life generally admire those of us who have been doing this for a couple of decades. Then, why is it that, at the gym, youth and joint flexibility trump maturity and life experience?

As we dropped our dumbbells into the bin, I thought of the older lady these girls were trying to remember. She had two kids who were off at college. Her husband had a long, successful Navy career. They lived on their boat, which was docked in Newport. She was attractive, accomplished and a very nice person.

“I know the lady you are talking about,” I finally admitted to the girl in the ponytail. “She hurt her knee, but she’s OK. She and her husband live on their yacht, and they travel a lot to visit their kids at the Naval Academy and UNC. She’ll be back here soon enough.”

The girl stared for a second or two, then muttered, “Oh, wow.”

But I knew my message came across loud and clear. We older ladies rule.

(Editor’s note: A 20-year military spouse and mother of three, Molinari has plenty of humor to share in her column, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life,” which appears in military and civilian newspapers and at

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