All of our lives we hear about how wonderful it is to grow older. Our “golden years” are going to be the best years of our lives, they tell us. Well, I have news for them. Whoever said that has never had to purchase Serenity pads.
Whose bright idea was it to call those things “Serenity” pads, anyway? I have nothing against euphemisms. Some of my best words are euphemisms. But there is nothing serene about an absorbent rag with glue on the bottom. A quiet pond in a garden is serene. Meditation is serene. Cottony stuff in your underwear is not serene. It’s just there, waiting for an accident to happen.
I buy these things once every eon or so. I have an irrational terror of being stuck on a stalled subway train after having drunk a venti-sized Starbucks coffee, with a loud-voiced amateur preacher expounding in living detail about the flowing water of salvation. Aging celebrities give glowing endorsements of Poise and Depends on TV. If they are good enough for Whoopi Goldberg, who am I to say anything against them? Among the over-50 crowd they are almost becoming chic. They are the Baby Boomer equivalent of Victoria’s Secret.
The problem is that in order to get these things home you have to go to a drugstore and buy them. This means going over to the huge, embarrassingly prominent “Incontinence” or “Adult Underpants” section, where shelves of this stuff can be seen for miles around, and picking something out, convinced that everyone in the store is staring at you. Shopping for Serenity pads is not a communal project. If you see someone else digging at the Depends, etiquette demands that you pretend not to notice him while you rummage around among the vitamins or Pepto-Bismol or Ace bandages. Only when a furtive glance tells you that he has gone are you free to sneak over to the display. Whoever comes after you has to do the same thing until you are out of the way. Those are the rules.
Once you take the package off the shelf, you have to get it over to the cashier, then stand in line and pay for it. This requires the kind of impromptu ingenuity that James Bond would employ. If you have a shopping bag with you, you surreptitiously shove the bag of rags into it and cover it up as much as possible. If you don’t have a shopping bag, you put it under your arm and try to hide it with your sleeve. You pretend not to notice how your amateurish attempt to become invisible is drawing the eye of everyone in the store. If you are a woman, you hope that people will think you have your period and are buying sanitary pads, even if your hair is half gray and you have more wrinkles than an apple that has been left in the sun all summer. If you are a man, you can always stick a note on the package that says, “for Uncle Bob” and hope that people will believe it.
You walk up the aisle toward the cashier, avoiding eye contact with any other customers, because you know they have finely tuned Serenity pad radar and they can see through shelves of displays with a special laser vision. You keep your eyes focused ahead of you as you slowly and deliberately make your way to the front of the store while imagining the conversations of your fellow shoppers:
“Psst! You see that woman over there?”
“There! She’s trying to hide you-know-what under her arm, but we can see it, can’t we?”
“Uh huh. I can even read it. P-o-i-s-e.”
“What do you say we take a picture of her and post in on the Internet for the whole world, along with her name and address and the names of everyone who ever knew her.”
In the checkout line, you continue to stare ahead and refuse to look at anyone around you. When your turn comes, you fervently pray that there won’t be a problem with the scanner that will cause the cashier to hold your package aloft and shout, “Hey! I need a price check on some Poise Pads!”
If that does happen, the only thing you can do is hold your head high, walk out of the store with as much dignity as you can summon and move out of the neighborhood.