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In the desert, they have their own fashion rules

PALM DESERT, Calif. Ñ I have seen the light, and it is magnified by the glare of many sequins.

A recent sojourn in Palm Desert has threatened to change my minimalist ways.

Having witnessed the transformative power of gold lamŽ sneakers (and a matching visor), I am considering trading in my dour duds for the vibrant hues that adorn the city's residents.

Here, in the community lovingly referred to as 'God's waiting room,' it's understood that more is indeed more in terms of both fashion and attitude. And why not? When one has seen world wars, spouses and waistlines come and go, there is little reason and less time to be coy.

Strolling through the Sonny Bono concourse at the Palm Springs airport, the first thing one notices upon arrival is that black clothing is all wrong in the bright desert light. One is immediately seized by the impulse to change into something a little less Jil Sander and a lot more Vegas showgirl.

This heady impulse explains why famous desert-dwellers such as Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra favored white pants, lime green or pink polos, and Palm Beach-flavored Lily Pulitzer prints: A look that would be considered comical anywhere else is right at home in the desert, reflecting the joie de vivre that presides here.

That is not to say there's no place for black in the Palm Desert wardrobe: Frequent funerals for ex-presidents, celebrities and doubles partners provide ample opportunity to don slimming separates.

Wearing dark clothes is also easier than dieting, although even weight reduction isn't taken that seriously in Palm Desert. Here, it's understood that middle-age weight gain comes and goes with the territory. One lady who lunches was overheard saying that she was looking forward to her 70th birthday, because that was when one 'starts getting skinny again.'

Until then, torch the Bananas Foster.

But among these well-to-do retirees, it's a bronzed, taut face that really counts; everything from the neck down is fairly inconsequential. In fact, there's nothing like a few extra pounds to smooth an aging brow.

As one elegantly ample doyenne noted, 'At some point, one has to choose between her face and her fanny,' meaning that one can have a trim bottom and a haggard countenance or a bountiful behind and youthful features.

If one chooses the latter approach, there are two ways to get the desired result: additional trips through the buffet line or a visit to the desert resident's best friend, the plastic surgeon.

Unlike in Portland, where any perceived 'work' is met with the same quiet scorn reserved for nonrecyclers, plastic surgery is an act worthy of public praise in the desert.

For example, 'You look good. Who's your surgeon?' is right on par with 'Your new wife is lovely. Third time's a charm!'

The overwhelming attitude seems to be that there's no reason not to go under the razor's edge in one's golden years, particularly when there are still plenty of luncheons and liaisons to be had.

It's an attitude to which I respond with a lifted glass and a hearty 'L'chaim!' Now pass the pigs in a blanket.

Contact Jill Spitznass at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..