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by Rose Madeline Mula

I have a problem that's driving me crazy. A while back, a strange old woman moved into my house — uninvited — and took up residence in all my mirrors. As if that wasn't bad enough, she has now completely taken over my life, my possessions, my very identity.

She has added a roll of flab around my middle, she cancelled my subscription to Cosmo and enrolled me in AARP, and she even dumped my cute boyfriend and replaced him with a white-haired guy I don't even recognize. All of this has made my own hair turn gray.

She also actually traded in my red two-door sports car for a sedate black sedan. Guess why? She says it's much more appropriate, since I'll be going to lots of funerals from now on. When I asked her what makes her think so, she said I have to get real and face the fact that most of my pals will be soon be heading for that great Senior Center in the Sky — and if I don't beat them to it, I can't very well see them off in a red car.

She used the same reasoning to defend removing all their names from my address book and inserting instead only strangers, all of whom have "M. D." after their names.

She constantly complains about "kids today" and all the sex, violence, and rap music on TV, the movies, and the radio. In fact, she keeps my radios at home and in the car tuned to a station that plays unbelievably corny songs called "Golden Oldies."

She really embarrasses me when I go to the movies, the theater, or a restaurant by loudly demanding a senior discount. I'd gladly slip her a few bucks myself if she would just shut up.

She even had the nerve to toss out all my gorgeous high-heeled shoes. She says she can't walk on them because of her corns and bunions.

My bikinis have also disappeared, as have all my shorts, mini skirts, and sleeveless blouses, dresses and tank tops. Is it my fault that she let her stomach, thighs and upper arms get so flabby she has to keep them covered?

My designer jeans are gone, too. She expects me to wear ugly stretch pants instead — and with baggy, shapeless tops that even women who are nine months pregnant would scoff at.

She couldn't understand why I refused to wear Reebocks last New Year's Eve. She said what difference did it make what I wore since I'd just be sitting at home in front of the TV watching that silly ball drop in Times Square. And whose fault is that? If she wasn't cramping my style, I could have been hitting the high spots with a hip, young crowd; but they didn't invite me because they know she would have insisted on tagging along.

She has put a serious crimp in my social life — and not just on New Year's Eve. No more bar hopping, dances and all-night parties, ever. Her idea of a good time is to sit around and play Scrabble with her contemporaries ... and I'm not even allowed to complain when one of them wins all the time.

She even turns off my TV at ten o’clock every night and insists I go right to bed. I wouldn't mind, but then she keeps me awake and makes me go to the bathroom every couple of hours.

She does exercise — I'll give her that — but she tore up my membership to the trendy gym I used to patronize, and she gave my hunky personal trainer the boot. Instead, she enrolled me in a strength training class at the Senior Center. The Senior Center! That's for old people! I certainly don't belong there. In fact, it upsets me so much that I sometimes can't keep up with the rest of the class. I'm certainly more fit than they are, but I use up all my energy seething in anger over the way that old fogey has disrupted my existence.

She's replaced all the good food in my kitchen with reduced-fat, low-cholesterol, no-taste fiber. She's driving me to drink, but all she'll allow me is an occasional glass of wine. Goodbye margaritas, pina coladas and mudslides.

Even though she has somehow managed to crease my face like an accordion, in my head I'm still seventeen, and I look like Catherine Zeta-Jones — only younger. But when I tell her that, she laughs hysterically and tells me I'm delusional.

Unfortunately, it's clear that she has no intention of leaving. I can't kick her out. Where would she go? I'm not heartless, after all; so I guess I have no choice but to learn to live with her.

They say "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," but that's simply not an option for me. However, maybe I can get her to join me — or at least meet me half way. Compromise could be the solution.

I could start by not fighting her about the shoes if she'll let me watch TV until 11:00 PM a couple of nights a week. (To tell the truth, though I won't go so far as admitting it to her, it's a relief to get out of those blasted high heels.)

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.


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