Off the clock with The Checkout Girl: Everything new is old again!

So, you know how youth culture is the boss of all things and if you ain’t young, you ain’t sh*t? But, if the kids are all right, how come we’re so fond of trotting out the elderly dames for our own entertainment, lately?

So, you know how youth culture is the boss of all things and if you ain’t young, you ain’t shit? Yeah, those are actual things and have been since Elvis burst onto the scene and gyrated all up in the faces of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. God, the patriarchy is so easy to intimidate when you’re wearing tight pants. But, if the kids are all right, how come we’re so fond of trotting out the elderly dames for our own entertainment, lately? From Saturday Night Live (but barely) to Dancing With The Stars (also, barely), oldies are goodies right now, and Depends sales have tripled just from my excitement about it. But it’s not like we’re dragging old ladies out of the beauty parlor where they’re getting a wash and set and throwing them in front of the camera — these people are already bona fide celebrities who have been out of the spotlight for a while but are suddenly relevant again. Wait, donning sequins and shaking artificial hips is relevant, right?

Betty White is the flavor du jour, if the flavor you crave is prune. She is everywhere right now. I’ll admit, it was quite a blow to my nostalgia to have lost the other three Golden Girls in as many years, so I understand treasuring her. However, if the current trend holds, we’d better get our fill of Betty, right quick. Thankfully, that’s super easy to do. She is one of the stars of the movie You Again, now playing, along with Veronica Mars Kristen Bell and Jamie Lee Curtis, aka, Ms. Digestion 2010 (I can’t imagine where Jamie Lee found the time to film a movie, what with all of that Activia Challenge footage she has to review). Near as I can tell, Betty plays an old woman who says hilariously sassy, vaguely sexual things with just enough inappropriateness that audiences will be, at once, horrified and titillated. In fact, that seems to be her shtick these days. On her recent Saturday Night Live appearance, she participated in one sketch where she repeatedly hollered the word “lesbian!”, thoroughly amusing the audience and SNL cast members. And, in her opening monologue, White thanked Facebook (where the movement to have her chosen as host began) and joked that she “didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time” (She’s right, the Facebook IS a huge waste of time. It’s really only good for two kinds of people: 1. my exes, so they can come to see that I’ve gotten fat and feel better about themselves, and 2. my father, so he can monitor language. I mean it, drop an f-bomb on the ‘book and suffer the wrath of Mr. Wright). But I fear that a brilliant actress with impeccable comedic timing is becoming a finger puppet for hipster humor writers who are more interested in shocking people into giggling, instead of coaxing intelligent laughs from them.

I have the same misgivings about Cloris Leachman, former Dancing With The Stars contestant (and holder of “oldest to compete” title) and current star of the wildly offbeat sitcom, Raising Hope. In Hope, she plays “Maw Maw”, the senile grandmother who runs around in various states of undress and babbling nonsense. It’s a genius role that feels a teeny bit exploitative. An old woman in an ill-fitting wig, bra, and polyester trousers! Outrageous! And, by “outrageous” I mean summer vacation at my grandmother’s house every year from 1975 to 1990! But we kept those family secrets where they belonged, in our jam-packed, skeleton-filled closet of denial. Though watching Cloris run down the street, nude from the waste up and holding her tots so they don’t jiggle makes me toy with the idea of turning my childhood into a sitcom.

The latest Lady Of A Certain Age to be taking a sip from the Fountain of Not As Old is Florence Henderson. If you are a member of my generation, it’s going to blow your mind when I tell you that Carol Brady is 76, but it’s true. Hell, Cindy is almost 50! Anyway, Flo is a total firecracker on Dancing With The Stars this season, and moving her body in ways that would have made Mr. Brady blush, even if he hadn’t been a gay man. She may even have a chance to win, if she can rebook those denture adhesive commercials she slated to shoot and hire someone to Gillooly Bristol Palin’s disturbingly attractive legs. Really, for the daughter of the best thing to happen to comedy since George W. Bush has the most amazing gams. But Florence has another dance partner, and that’s experience. When the band played “Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss Me” for her cha-cha-cha, it was much more convincing than Palin’s “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” (Girl, you had teen sex. You got pregnant. Coming likely had little to do with it).

The good news is that these ladies are cackling, coughing, and hacking, all the way to the bank. I mean, they might as well strike while the iron’s hot, right? The bad news is that they can’t take it with them so they’d better be enjoying the money while they make it. None of us is guaranteed a future, it’s just that their odds are a bit lower than mine. So, I’ll just be over here, awaiting the return of Mary Tyler Moore, Ann Margaret, and Sally Field in her greatest role, ever, the reprisal of Gidget as she makes her way, haphazardly through the trials of forgetfulness, circular stories, and the pitfalls of Medicare. It’s going to be riveting. Just don’t invite Bob Barker. He’s still kind of bitter about not cashing in more in his silverfoxyness. Sorry, Bob, this round belongs to the ladies.

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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