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Boomers often get short shrift from stores

At lunch some Mondays ago, the friend I was meeting rushed to the table and, clearly excited, announced, "I was carded at T. J. Maxx!"

I had no idea what she was talking about.

I didn't know that on Mondays shoppers over 55 get a 10 percent discount. "So save your jewelry shopping for Mondays," she advised.

I have never bought jewelry at T. J. Maxx but immediately felt I was missing something. Not to mention the 10 percent I overpaid on that $9 fleece I bought for my daughter the last time I was there.

Was I the only one who didn't know? I ran into another friend, a known T. J. Maxx shopper, and asked her, adding, "Of course, you're not old enough yet."

"No, I'm not old enough!" she answered. "And, yes, I know! They tell me about it every time I'm in there!"

Trust me, I didn't say, you'll be 55 before you know it.

It's happening to all of us. The youngest baby boomers, the forever-young generation, are closing in on 40 this year; the oldest will be 58. It's a huge crowd, but unlike T. J. Maxx, some companies are embarrassed to target the over-45 crowd because it isn't hip enough. I've read at least two articles to that effect. It wouldn't be a problem, except we're the ones with the money.

So let me give them a little advice. First of all, age doesn't equal hipness. If you were hip at 27 you're probably still so at 57; if you weren't hip when you were young, forget it. To these people, go ahead and market the feels-like-polyester stretch pants and long-handled shoe horns. As for the rest of us, use a little common sense.

I've been searching for a denim skirt and striking out at a number of places. Against my better judgment, I entered the inner sanctum of the junior department at Burdines _ or whatever they call that department now, the one with the blasting music. I usually avoid stores where I can't identify the tunes. (Publix is about my speed. They play one of my favorites, Reason to Believe, by Tim Hardin, the '60s folkie who was hooked on heroin.)

I asked a sales associate who looked about 12, "Do you have any denim skirts that aren't too short?"

She pulled from a rack a garment the size of a folded dinner napkin.

I was too stunned to respond.

If she interpreted this skirt as "not too short," how short are the really short skirts?

But she may not have understood. It may be erroneous to measure such a skirt in usual skirt terms that refer to length ("long," "short") because skirts like this are wider than they are long.

I've seen these 12-inch skirts on girls the same age, and they look silly but, well, they're 12. On anyone old enough to have their braces off, they would look a lot worse than silly. Likewise those very low-rise jeans with back pockets so low they cup your butt, and the "waist" of the jeans circumvents the widest part of your body. Few women, whatever age, look good in these; no one looks good in them from the back.

Best to avoid some styles as well as some whole stores. My under-30 daughter led me into Hollister Co., a store so hip that I'd never even noticed it around the corner from Neiman Marcus in International Plaza, since there is no significant sign or anything immediately discernible as a store entrance and the windows are hurricane-shuttered.

Inside, the atmosphere changes from mall brightness to near darkness, but it wasn't too dark to miss the teeny skirts laid out on a table leading into room after room of semi-surfer clothes and surround-sound music even my daughter couldn't identify.

It kinda made me miss T. J. Maxx.

So I went. On a Friday, no less.

I bought a Calvin Klein sandblasted denim skirt for $15, but I'm going to have to return it.

It's too long.

_ Sandra Thompson, a writer living in Tampa, can be reached at City Life appears on Saturday.