Lesson 15 – Boy Oh Boy!

“…there aren’t any men out there for women my age.”

What’s the point of looking cute, feeling entitled or comfortable with my age if I’m Marital-Status-630x315alone? I know you divorced, widowed or never-weds are bitching.  I’ve read the same articles you have about a woman over forty having about as much couple-kissing_960_720chance of finding a husband as being abducted by aliens or getting run over by a guy driving an Edsel.  I think that kind of proclamation is tantamount to social terrorism.  “Studies,” “research,” and “statistics” can be (and are regularly) skewed to meet the results desired—just look at political polls—the answers depend on the questions asked.

As I see it, the biggest problem with this particular theory starts with the search for a wedding ring“husband.” Isn’t that the most supreme example of putting the cart before the horse? How about starting with—I don’t know— let’s say—baby learning to walkfinding a date? Take a minute and work your way up to the big “H!” Even Evel Knievel probably had to learn to ride a tricycle before he decided to try to fly his motorcycle across the Grand Canyon.  We all know you have to walk before you run but you’re already planning your dash down the aisle.

elderly-couple-500pxThe complaint I hear the most is that there are no men out there. And “out there” can be anywhere—Cleveland, Peoria, New York City, Albuquerque, Mayberry, Portland (Maine or Oregon.) There’s a really vicious rumor going around that “all” the men who aren’t married or similarly tagged unavailable, are unemployed, sick (physically or mentally), dangerous, interested only in younger women or gay.  It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s urban or rural, northeast or southwest—the hue and cry is the same “…there aren’t any men out there for women my age.”no men

Wrong. This is a totally ridiculous and erroneous notion.

My grandmother used to say, “There’s a lid for every pot.” (Although I firmly pot and lid1.jpgbelieve some pots cook better topless and some lids fit more than one pot.) And it seems the proliferation and popularity of online matchmaking is a older coupletestament that there are plenty of women and men looking for and finding dates and mates. Although I have never tried one of the cyber dating/hookup services, and despite that as I stated in the introduction about being overfifty, overweight and unmarried—I have NEVER been without the company of a man—husband, live-in, boyfriend, date—unless I chose to be. I found men, or they found me, all the time, everywhere. And I don’t mean the dregs, bottom of the barrel, loser, louse kind of guys—I’m talking about bright, talented, top of their game, winner, really great guys.  They may not necessarily be right for me (and now that I’ve found my “lid,” I’m off the market anyway…yes Nana you were right. It took a minute for me to find him and him to find me,  but better late than never!) I am here to tell you that there ARE LOTS OF MEN around…everywhere! They are right and they are ripe for someone– and that someone could be you.

However, you will NOT meet men like these, or any other men for that matter, woman tv.jpgsitting home watching the Bachelorette,  complaining to your bestie about the dearth of guys, or listening to your old Luther cd’s recalling the one(s) that got away.

So, let’s get back to “out there,” you know, the place where men are not. The fact is that as a general rule, and despite that this is the 21st Century, men are still far more “out in the world” than women. What “ladies” do and do not do and where they do and do not go was another of those early messages we were taught as girls. And despite ourbar sign exposure to, or even participation in, the feminist/womanist cultural revolution, good home training dies hard and we limit our perambulations accordingly. But it isn’t really likely that The Guy you’re looking for is going to ring your doorbell. I mean, he may be the UPS man, but if he was, you’d already know that by now. So the answer is that you have to be “out there” too.

First, throw away the list I know you have tucked away in your lingerie drawer or perfect guy listscribbled in the back of an old journal. You know the list, the one with all the things your “perfect” man will be— tall, rich, boyfriend listastrong, hairy/bald, rich, kind, considerate, rich, spiritual, sexy…  Find it and put it in the trash, NOW!

Second, do NOT travel in packs—going out with your five best sisterfriends is a fine, fun thing to do, but NOT if you’re interested in girls night 1meeting a man. Most men (of all ages) avoid flocks of females for lots of reasons—culling the herd to find out who they might really be interested in is too difficult and time consuming a task, a bunch of babes multiplies the level of scrutiny (and potential rejection) they are subjected to. Guys are out for a relaxing time. They don’t want to (nor should they have to) take a battery of tests in order to have a simple conversation. So, if you can’t bring yourself to go solo (which you should really learn how to do-but that’s another lesson) one friend has to be companion enough.

Third, do not dab Eau de Desperation behind your ears, or spray yourself with a cloud of Contempt Cologne. These scents aren’t available at your favorite fragrance counter, in fact they probably aren’t even the ones you normally wear, but somehow, they are too often the default choices for the very women who say there are no men “out there.” I colognegotta tell you—a man can sniff out both of these killer scents a mile away.  Eau de Desperation, shouts “doormat” and when the first whiff hits his olfactory system, one of three things will happen: (1) He’ll take advantage of your apparent neediness and walk all over you, (2) he’ll run as fast as he can in the opposite direction, or (3) it turns out he’s as needy as you are and the two of you are soulmates (needless to say this last scenario is the least likely to occur.)

Contempt Cologne (naturally derived from stewing bits and pieces of every guy who’s ever done you wrong or fallen short of your expectations) is an even more pungent aroma though it isn’t usually detected by him immediately. But right there, under your lovely mouthwash laced breath, it waits for a hopeful, unsuspecting fellow to saunter over and introduce himself. Now I’m not saying this guy is the one for you, or that he may not be an egotistical idiot; but what I am saying that this particular man has done nothing to warrant your disdain—yet. So, the tendency to subject him to a level of interrogation, scrutiny and ridicule that makes the Inquisition look like an open book test, has to be checked. Because by the time you get to the “Where do you live?” “What do you do?” and the most hateful “What do you drive?” he’s looking for the escape hatch because he already knows, you’ve gone to the dreaded check list and he’s gotta produce his credit report, current bank statement and three references to prove he’s worthy of five minutes of idle chat.

Yes, of course, he has to be employed (or independently wealthy) and he can’t be living at home with dear old Mom (or his ex) and he needs reliable transportation (which a 1979 Pinto is not). But find out if you even LIKE the sound of his voice (Mr. T? Billy Dee? SpongeBob?)  the way he smells (Yes everybody has one—one that has nothing to do with bathing or deodorant -some are just right AND some are just wrong!), his sense of humor (are the Three Stooges his idea of comic genius or does he find hilarity in esoteric but subtle sarcasm?), enough to need the answers to the heavy questions that really matter.



Stop sitting around waiting for “him” to appear. Get out of the house. Go forth..without your posse. Do things (not embroidery class) and go places (not Nordstrom’s shoe department—unless you’re looking for a foot fetishist). There are plenty of fish—the sea is vast and the fishin’s good—but to cast your line, you have to put on your gear and get wet… more than once! fishingwoman



Lesson 14- Starvation is Overrated!!

“Skinny is as skinny does.”

diet-and-exerciseBut wait my friend, contrary to what you may be expecting, this little lesson is not about diets or exercise or dress size. It’s about filling up on life.

I saw the movie Auntie Mame starring Rosalind Russell at a auntie-mame-posterdrive-in theater at the highly impressionable age of ten. I went to see it with my Auntie Alice. She was the kind of aunt who was excellent at letting children be children, and she always did special, individual things with my brother, sister and me. She didn’t lump us together into group activities we couldn’t all possibly be interested in. And I loved her dearly. (She passed away several years ago and I miss her great observational wit and wisdom.)

Aunt Alice was actually a great aunt-not because of her personality which was indeed great, but because she was my mom’s Aunt first. Alice was a cook by profession (I’ve had the good fortune to have had two aunts who were professional cooks—YUMMY!) and I loved going to Auntie’s house. egg-beaterLoved watching her bake cakes from scratch, whipping egg whites with a whisk, not a beater (not the kind you plug in, the kind with the handle you turned) and gently folding the fluffy mixture into the batter. She always put a little coffee in her chocolate frosting—which my mother never did and I thought that made it sophisticated and extra delicious. She told me silly stories about her own childhood in a small rural town in western Pennsylvania. I was fascinated by the details of her preparations for Uncle Al to come home from work—he was a Pullman porter for New York Central Railroad and was often gone several days in a row. Aunt Alice always made his arrival back home something special, always. She was the sweet, kind, loving, gentle, buxom, sturdy shoe, flowered apron wearing kind of aunt you always saw in the movies—and she and Uncle Al always drove a Chevrolet–which she unfailingly pronounced “Chivvy.”

cars-drive-in-movieUncle was working and I don’t know where my brother and sister were, but the Auntie Mame movie night was one of “my special nights” with Auntie Alice. Just me and her and plenty of popcorn in the Chivvy on a warm summer night. It was my idea of perfect “Auntiedom”—until Mame Dennis burst onto the screen.

From the moment Mame appeared at the top of the stairs of her Beekman Place townhouse, in auntie-mame-staircase-611x343her black lace Chinese-style pajamas with a Mandarin collar, gold duster carrying a mile long cigarette holder and talking a mile a minute, I was hooked on a new kind of Auntie. Mame rushed down the stairs, but moved like she floating –her dramatic bejeweled jacket flapping and flying out behind her like wings as she descended into a party already in full swing. The guests were an eclectic bunch—by 1950’s standards. There were men wearing turbans, thobes and kufiyas, women dressed like men, all sorts of things that at ten, I only “sort of” understood were different from the normal party scenes in movies. mom-dad-and-the-godwinsMy parents gave parties where adults got dressed up and drank whiskey sours, daiquiris and munched on canapes and everyone smoked and talked and laughed and listenedvintage-canapes1 to music. Other than the fact that the guests in my house were black instead of white, my mom and dad’s gatherings looked pretty much like any other party I’d seen on TV. But Mame and her party were not like anything I’d ever seen before.

Growing up, I had a host of aunts. Most were really family. Others were the adult women with whom my family was close—too close for us children to call them Miss or Mrs…sup-hose1you know, we all have those aunties (and uncles.) And they were, to a one, all kind, good women. They wore good simple, dark dresses to church on Sunday with coordinating sesnsible-spectator-shoesmodest hats, sensible shoes and Supp-Hose or too beige stockings over brown legs. They kept neat houses. They made potato salad, fried chicken and pot roasts. I even had a much younger aunt who was in college in the 50’s and she dazzled me with her cherries-in-the-snowcircle skirts and sweaters and the pouffy strapless dresses she wore to dances. She had a manicure set with Revlon Cherries in the Snow—very very red nail polish on the dressing table in her bedroom. My other aunts didn’t wear nail polish—red or any other color. They were too busy snapping string beans, scrubbing floors, ironing sheets and dealing with their children.

But of all the aunts I had known, mine and those of friends, of all the aunts I’d read about mames-bedroom-1-611x343in books I’d never run into an aunt—or anyone else for that matter, who wore black lace pants, ate with porcelain chopsticks, had white Austrian shades in their bedrooms, slept in bias cut satin nightgowns with matching sleep masks or just seemed so totally, utterly happy and free. “I’m your Auntie Mame!!” she shouted with enough joie de vivre for a host of aunties.

And I was smitten.

I was charmed by Mame’s style. Yes, she was rich—at least for part of the movie, but that’s not what won me over. I was intoxicated by her unabashed, exuberance for… EVERYTHING. I had never, in my short ten year life span, seen an adult act quite so—full-out ALIVE. Where was her reserve? The caution of editing herculon-50s-sofayour speech because “little pitchers have big ears”? The mature, mellow tones of warning about appropriate, inappropriate or ladylike behavior? Where were her sensible clothes? Where was the sturdy furniture upholstered in Herculon fabric meant to endure a lifetime of indignities and abuse from dirty sneakers, cookie crumbs, crayons, Elmer’s Glue, dog hair, spilled milk and Kool-Aid, puke and dropped Popsicles? None of these trappings of responsible adulthood were part of mame-apartment-looksMame Dennis’ life before she became the guardian of her young orphaned nephew Patrick—nor did they creep in, and ever so slowly take over, after Patrick moved in—and grew up. I aunt-beakept waiting for Auntie Mame to turn into Aunt Bee from Mayberry (even though the Andy Griffith show wasn’t on the air yet, you know the kind of auntie I mean.) But it never happened.

I was fascinated by Mame’s quick wit and outspoken intolerance of those who wergirl-scout-cookiese intolerant. I was seduced by her keen, wise observations of the big and little things around her. To me she was a living (albeit on the movie screen) version of the Serenity Prayer,
which I had just learned in Girl Scouts. (No we weren’t secretly a bunch of boozing little girls who learned Bill W.’s prayer for any reason other than our Scout leader taught it to us.) But Mame Dennis changed what she could. Accepted what she could not change. And in my ten year old heart and mind, I just knew she was smart enough to know the difference between the two.

Mame had a unique perspective on life—her own life, not anyone else’s. She didn’t auntie-mame-champagnepreach or proselytize. She didn’t judge. She didn’t much care what other people thought. She didn’t worry about whether they approved of her. She enjoyed the good times with unembarrassed, unbridled joy. She weathered the bad times with equanimity, grace and hope. And Mame Dennis allowed no space in her life —not even one tiny little corner, for the mundane or the dull. Mame was fully involved in LIVING the moments she was in. When things got bad after Mame lost all her money, she tried her best to “settle down” to put a lid on herself and her life. She tried to dress conservatively, to be more formal and reserved and adult like.

But no matter how hard she tried, it wouldn’t take. Mame was like Teflon and thedrive-in-movie-theatre ordinary couldn’t stick to her.

And I was, for all intents and purposes, smack in the midst of the biggest “girl crush” of
my life from the moment I met her in that 1956 Chevy on a summer night in 1958 at the Wherle Drive In.

The most famous line from this movie, “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to
death!” has also been declared among the top 100 movie lines in one of “those” polls. This is the starvation I refer to in the title of this Lesson.

I wanted to be like Mame Dennis. I could barely wait to be grown up enough. I wanted to dine at her banquet. I took her invitation as a challenge, one I heard and melt-buffetspreadaccepted—at ten. And I secretly vowed (to no one but myself) that I would not ever be one of those “poor suckers starving to death.”

I grant you that Mame Dennis as portrayed by her nephew Patrick, was in all likelihood only supposed to be in her early 40’s, but as a kid, there was no discernable difference between  forty-something and fifty or sixty-anything. All of those decades were too far removed from my little ten year old self to seem real or possible. But actual numbers notwithstanding, I was aware that I wanted to be older. Not seventeen or twenty five, but a real, grown up WOMAN, who, like Mame, knew that living should be, could be, a full time occupation.

I became an Auntie myself thirty three years ago—and I was determined to share my hunger for the banquet of life with the progeny of my siblings. I did not have the constraints or responsibilities of parenthood. I was going to be their Auntie Mame. I wanted them to know me, what was important to me, who I was as a person rather than who I was supposed to be in my role as Auntie. I dressed up to make a Tuesday an occasion. I took off for New York and the fashion business. I wrote books. I gave my nine year old nephew a box of money for Christmas. It was only fifty dollars but all in singles looked and felt to him like so much more. When they were little, my nieces and nephew called me “Auntie Martini.” The name is one I happily earned.

My nieces anmame-live-lived nephew have all now seen “Auntie Mame” – the Rosalind Russell version and they get it…and me! (Do not waste your time with the Lucille Ball one. Don’t get me wrong, Lucy was a great comedienne and she had her time and place but attempting the role of Mame Dennis should not have been on her list of accomplishments.)

There is a quote by Clarence B. Kelland, I use often around Father’s Day—“My father didn’t teach me how to live. He lived, and let me watch him do it.” This is what I have done, or hope I have done as an Auntie—exactly like Mame did. But not just as an aunt, I firmly believe the “Banquet Mentality” is at the core of my life’s philosophy and if when I am gone, people say about me “She knew how to LIVE!” I will have done it right.

We are all invited to partake of the banquet. I wish more people believed that. The feast may not always be lobster and Kobe beef filet mignon. You may find a tough little piece gristle or bit of unchewable, bitter tomato stem on your plate more often than you like, or think is fair. But on the whole, the table is heavy laden and bountiful and the choices are plentiful.

We can take the trouble to look for the good and fill up on it, or we can chew and choke on the bad that’s right in front of us—and complain.

The choice is yours. But I’m not into starving yourself to a size zero. That leaves you with a middle that’s empty, void. I am all for “supersizing” your portion whenever possible. Gobble up as much of the good and joyous in the world as you possibly can—love, friendship, sights, sounds, smells, feelings, moments are all there for the taking and enjoying. Don’t live skinny! Fill yourself up! Get FAT on life!

I am the older, fully grown up woman I wanted to be at ten. I am LIVING as though my very soul and heart and mind depended on it… because it does.

banquet-tableThis very day, you will find a framed “Mame” poster on the wall of my bathroom and a small photo in my bedroom. She keeps watch every day—making sure I don’t give up my seat at the banquet table—at least not without a fight!




Look for your invitation to the Banquet. Hmmm— did you toss it out with junk mail? Jam it in the corner of the desk drawer with the bills? Keep looking it’s there someplace.

Still can’t find it? I’m not surprised. Of course now the work is on you.


Go to the card shop. Buy the most beautiful invitation you can find. (To those of you clever and crafty enough, feel free to make your own.)

Fill out the inside as follows:

Date: Year In and Year Out

Time: Every Minute of Every Day

Place: Wherever You Are

Occasion: The I Woke Up Today Banquet—All You Can Eat!


Mail this invitation to yourself.

When it arrives open it and leave where you can see it—a bulletin board, the fridge door—as a regular reminder not to skip a meal.






Thank you very much!thank-you



Most of us will never get on the Forbes list by making a killing in the stock market or by filling our coffers to overflowing from the strategic buying and flipping of foreclosed real estate, —no matter how many DVD’s we buy from the huckster on the infomercial. We will also not be oscarHalle or Lena or Angelina beautiful. We will not win the Nobel,
the Pulitzer or the Oscar—in any category—and most probably neither will anyone we know. Our closets are not stocked with zalesArmani, Prada, Louboutins or Birkin bags. The good jewelry we wear on
special occasions most likely came from Zales or Jared, not Harry Winston or Cartier.


A great dinner out at our favorite steak house consists of USDA prime, not Kobe, beef.  And kobe beefwe are now old enough and clever enough to know that whether or not you clean your plate has absolutely nothing to do with easing the misery of the millions of starving feed the childrenchildren in China or Ethiopia or wherever it was our parents filled us full of angst and guilt about when we didn’t want to eat our Brussels sprouts or liver or kumquats.

Our garages do not provide temperature and humidity controlled shelter for our Bentleys and Maseratis—they garage-sale-artare jam packed with lawnmowers, snow blowers and the other junk we can’t fit in the house and haven’t yet moved to the self-storage place.  It’s a pretty safe bet that, although it is possible, very few of our children will become the President of Harvard or the research_lab_shutterstock_88062886United States, launch the next Microsoft, or discover a cure for the common cold. More likely than not, they will grow up, get fairly decent jobs or start a small accounting/house-painting/hairdressing/etc. business and generally get on with their lives, which in a world where every year, ten or so million children die before their fifth birthday, is pretty excellent.supermarket

The shelves of our local supermarket are laden enough food to feed entire villages in Haiti  or Cambodia or Somalia—for months, but we complain indignantly about long lines and the lack of enough check out registers and only begrudgingly accept a rain check for the sale item now out of stock.

Some of us can barely afford health insurance-even with the Affordable Care Act, some of us surely are affected by illness– our own or that of someone near and dear, some of us haiti hospital 2010have been misdiagnosed or even mistreated by a health care professional, but we cannot imagine, no matter how hard we try, what it is like to live in a place where there are NO doctors or hospitals.

We are up in arms when our power fails for a few hours after an overtaxing summer of overwhelming electricity_accessheat, (Caused in no small part by global warming from our being such terrible stewards of the planet we call home.)  but the notion of living in a place where electricity is available (to rich and
poor alike) only five or six hours a day is inconceivable to us.

Once a year on a chilly November day, after The thanksgiving parade1Big Parade and before and during The Big Game, we give collective, unembarrassed obeisance and lip-service to our gratitude for our abundant blessings over a well roasted turkey.jpg(often too well-roasted) fowl—because even the government, knowing how good we had it here, mandated a national Thank You Day (to which Supreme Being you give thanks has not yet been mandated). And yet before the wish bone is snapped and we’ve had a chance to get bored with the leftovers— hell, before the good dishes have been put back in

the china cabinet, we have joined the unruly mob of “black Friday” thugs coming to blows over the last $49 TV at the SuperCheapoMart Early Bird Sale. The ad said only 50 at each store. And you’re number 51. Oh well. Did you really needed another television set anyway?

Where did all that thankfulness we so humbly heralded the day before go?

We live in a time, AND in a country possessed of untold bounty. But the whine has become our hue and cry. We bitch and moan so much that I’m not sure we’re even remotely cognizant of how good we have it. As the First Lady so eloquently stated “…this, right now, is the greatest country on Earth.”

Here, there is much.  And, truth be told, deep down, we know it.

country wealth

Yet we are so busy complaining about what we’re lacking that we have no understanding that to most of the world, EVERYONE in America is rich. And relatively speaking, we are. Even the poorest and most disenfranchised among us are several centuries better off than the majority of the known world.

So—now that we have reached the age of true maturity—which brings with it wisdom, understanding and acceptance (or at least it’s supposed to if you’re doing it right) it is time half full glassto realize that for more of us than would readily admit it, the glass has been half full (at least) most of our lives. And if your glass is among the underfilled, more than likely, it’s because you either spilled it—it’s kinda hard to keep everything in there when you’re running too fast and not paying attention or that you were once again not paying attention when they told you which line you should get in for your half glass worth.

A few years ago, I believe that Oprah, the undisputed people’s choice for guardian of our national conscience, inveigled us to keep a Gratitude Journal.  I’m not really sure how I feel about the whole grateful1journaling thing—and there’s likely to be a later LESSON on that, but my personal “to journal or not to journal” indecision aside, the call to be mindful and grateful for what we have is one we all can and  SHOULD heed—often and repeatedly, without the designation of a special day.


Each and every day that you open your eyes, before you haul your butt out of bed. Think of just one thing you’re grateful for. I don’t care if you write it down or not, but you do have to call to mind at least one of your good fortunes every day—even on weekends. (On really really bad days, you have permission to repeat or to only be grateful.)look harder for gratitude



YES…There really is a no risk, no obligation, no scalpel, no recovery time way to a youthful face!

Remember when plastic surgery was strictly the province of movie stars and heiresses?


Phyllis Diller After-left|Before right

Sure you do. In the 1960’s Phyllis Diller talked about hers openly and as often as anyone would let her. Joan

Joan Rivers Before|After

Rivers didn’t talk about hers, but we talked about it for her. And yes, we were all justifiably confused by facial choices made by the likes of Michael Jackson, Lisa Rinna, Li’l Kim and Kenny Rogers.

Li’l Kim






The facelift used to be a statement, an all out, no-expense-spared attempt at age avoidance—a vain effort to swim against the swift, strong current of that infamous river—Look-As-Young-As-You-Feel-Visit-Baltimore-Maryland-Plastic-Surgeon-Dr-Jeffrey-SchreiberDenial. A facelift said in no uncertain terms, that you had reached the point where it was no longer enough to lie about your age, you also had concluded that you must “look the lie,” as well as speak it.

Most of those early facelifts were scary—women4b566ca5c3fe1e1d4d8308a347634968 looked as if their faces had been dipped in starch and pinned to a curtain stretcher. (Which, if you’re under fifty, you may have to look up.) And sadly, after one of those hush-
hush, top-secret procedures, the rich and famous denied
having had, they didn’t even look like real human beings anymore, much less like themselves.

Warp ahead to the Twenty First Century and thanks to our national addiction to as_seen_on_tvubiquitous makeover shows and infomercials, words like collagen, Juvéderm, Botox, Restylane, LifeStyleLift and Thermage are part of our daily vocabulary.  We can be sucked, tucked, tightened, lifted, planed, lasered, peeled, and abraded to our hearts’ content. A full slate of “reality” medical programs available on our 9999 facelift_dia3cable/satellite channels, means that we can actually watch procedures like Rhytidectomy (face lift), Malar augmentation (cheek implant) Mentoplasty (chin augmentation), blepharoplasty (eyelid lift) and Cervicoplasty (neck lift) being performed — in glorious hi-def no less, from the bbl-sciencecomfort of our own homes, while we snack on low-fat, sugar free bonbons. Since this lesson is about lifting your FACE, we will not cover all the other things you can have lifted— the bootylicious Brazilian butt lift, tantalizing tit tighten up or…Vaginoplasty—that name is self-explanatory and is definitely NOT part of your face.

lunchtimeprocedures There are now even quickie procedures (feather/thread lift) as short as thirty minutes that you can have performed on your lunch hour and be back at your desk in time for your afternoon staff meeting.  How can you beat the promise of
a new, more youthful you in the same amount of time it takes to eat a salad with dressing on the side?

And to make it extra easy, any and all of these youthifications can be yours with a plastic-surgery-financingconvenient financing plan from your very own plastic surgeon, a no money down easy-breezy cosmetic surgery finance center (yes there are loan businesses specifically for plastic surgery) or with a credit card you haven’t maxed out—you can even put your plastic on plastic! So what if you’re still making payments on that eye and neck lift when it’s time for you to collect Social Security—that is if Social Security hasn’t disappeared like your wrinkles by then.

Now before you call me a hater, let me be clear. I am not. Nor am I against plastic surgery in either a theoretical or practical way. I have a couple of good friends who are plastic surgeons. Heck. Who knows…one day I may even have some fallen part of my very own face and or body lifted, tucked or tightened. So I am not against the miracles that modern medicine have made possible in today’s world, quite the contrary.


            However, I do believe, unequivocally, that there is an easier, cheaper, pain free, all natural, do-it-yourself facial rejuvenator that is available to one and all.

It is called a smile. smile

Despite the fact that human behaviorists and those who specialize in smile analysis (yes, for real) will say there are many sub-categories of smiles—lazy, sneaky, flirty, etc., in my book, there are really only two kinds of lip curling that count. There’s the polite, pleasant but disengaged smile that only requires the “zygomaticus major” muscle near your mouth to do its thing. And there’s the real, genuine smile that also brings the “orbicularis oculi” muscle near your eyes into play as well.  I know—this is way too anatomical, so think of it like the difference between turning on just your parking lights and hitting the high beams.


Left – Fake | Right – Real

It is that second smile, the real one, which provides an instant facelift.  A full, heartfelt smile lifts your mouth, your cheeks, your forehead and your eyes. A real smile lights you up from inside and gives you a glow that ultimately makes you look brighter and more youthful. Once upon a time in a life long ago, I used to be a model, so believe me I know what the right lighting can do to erase sags, lumps, lines and shadows!

IMG_9330I have, in fact, been posting THEN/NOW photos from my modeling days and the present on my Instagram (http://instagram.com/virginiadeberry or http://instagram.com/cutestillcounts). In many of the professional pics from back in the 80’s I am featured with a pouty mouth (that’s POUTY, not POTTY though that can also be true!) and a haughty, far IMG_1459away gaze. That look worked when I was 30 years younger. Now if I pout it’s just my RBF (Resting Bitch Face) and I look mean and tired. So in almost all of the NOW pics, I am smiling…because I KNOW what a smile does to project the appearance of youth and vitality! 😉

I am convinced that smiling plays a huge part of the reason people think I am a dozen or so years younger than my birth certificate states.  Mind you, my smile is all natural—homemade by John and Juanita DeBerry back in 1949. It was not my smilemanufactured at a “smile center” by a board certified cosmetic dentist— my teeth don’t have veneers—they are a bit too big and slightly crooked and I’m in a constant battle with a black head that refuses to leave my lower lip line no matter how often I squeeze the life out of it. But even with its imperfections, my smile is now and has always been, the attribute I get the most compliments about.

It is also my most natural and most frequently occurring expression.

No matter what the song says, I don’t know if a smile can actually be your umbrella. Or if you can really smile when your heart is breaking. And while I’m not convinced that as an economic principle, a rising tide lifts all boats, I am absolutely certain that a smile lifts both your face, your spirit and the spirit of others who are the beneficiaries of its magical power. I smile so regularly and have done so for so long, that it’s unconscious at this point. And whaddaya know—it makes other people smile at me—be they babies in line at the supermarket (good) or the strange man filling up his gas tank on the other side of the pump (maybe good, but probably not.)

free trial offer

            So…why don’t you consider this a free trial offer? I guarantee that it’s safe and has no risk, no obligation and no shipping and handling charges. If you don’t return it before the trial period expires, your credit card will not be charged automatically. This facelift requires no anesthesia, no releases to sign, no black and blue recovery time or stitches to remove. It truly is a worry free trial and you have nothing to lose but years off your face.


Smile at yourself in the mirror.

Smile at 10 people you know.smile shortest distance

Smile at 5 people you don’t know.

Repeat daily.

Remember—practice makes perfect!


LESSON 11: You Just Have to Come Home

LESSON 11: You Just Have to Come Home

homeWhen I saw this image posted on the Facebook page Fly, Hip & Ageless the other day, it reminded me of how many of us have lost our way “home;” the way back to the essence of who we are…or were.  We’ve been whoever we needed to be, for whomever needed us to be whatever that is (daughter/wife/sister/boss/mother/employee/grandmother/etc.) for so long that we no longer remember who we used to be. Back before the world crept into our sense of self, our dreams and our belief in possibilities and re-shaped who we were…who we might have been.

I realized this about myself about 25 years ago and began my journey “home,” my journey to finding the girl I had left behind. When I came across these childhood photos of me as a toddler. I was struck by how completely self possesed I was. I decided to have the picture enlarged, matted and framed. I hung them on my bedroom wall as a daily reminder not to forget “HER”–that little girl who so seemed to know exactly who she was. The Virginia who took life just seriously enough. The Virginia who felt and expressed more joy in a laugh than words could ever communicate. The Virginia who believed that a pretty dress could always make her feel pretty.

Contemplating the complexities of life in the tall grass while wearing pjs!
The right dress can make you feel like a princess…

These grainy old snapshots helped me find my way home…my way back to me and I haven’t lost my way since!

you had the power


Look for whatever it is that will be YOUR trail of breadcrumbs, your Glinda,  your GPS. It might be a song, a book, a photo, a memory…it doesn’t matter what the trigger is, as long as it leads you back to YOU. When you find your way back home, LOVE the YOU you find there, invite her back into your world and LISTEN to her when she speaks to you in the midst of all the noise you are surrounded by. You will soon realize that because she has no guile, that girl will always tell you the truth–and I’m sure you will find that being in your own skin, the skin that was made just for you as opposed to the skin you’ve been trying to fit in, is pretty gosh darn comfortable! Because…there really is no place like home!





What’s the difference between a classic car and a junker?

(You will get the answer at the end!)

antique benzjunker carEver notice how carefully collectors of old stuff— cars, antiques, books, works of art, treat classic car garagetheir treasures? Vintage autos are sheltered in temperature controlled environments, their finishes, interior and exterior, are regularly polished and buffed until they gleam. When they do venture out of their protected luxury garages and onto the road, there are special license plates designating them as exceptional and unique, and these classic vehicles are exempted collector platefrom the compliance standards and regulations that apply to newer models. And whether it’s a stately sedan or a racy roadster, these classic cars get noticed. People slow down, take a second or third look and toot their horn or wave as an expression of their admiration—or envy. Sometimes the driver acknowledges the admiring glances with a nod or a casually tossed hand in the air. Other times they continue on their merry way oblivious to everything but their own enjoyment.

Collectors of these rare and beautiful automobiles have their own societies and they gather regularly for the express purpose of displaying, comparing and discussing their four classic car showwheeled treasures. Owners stand around proclaiming the virtues of chamois, sea sponge, sheepskin and wicking towels as the care tools of choice. But whatever they use to clean, dry and polish, they are full of nothing but praise for each other’s gorgeous classic wheels. And between these public displays of affection, the owners of these gems can peruse magazines and websites devoted to these treasured autos.

The same type of behavior applies to antiques and those who collect them. Antique stores antique store1are jewel boxes—purposefully designed and lighted to display their venerable contents to best advantage. No sunlight fades or damages fine woods or upholstery. Lamps cast perfect shadows and highlights to make an item appear imposing, delicate—and most importantly, precious.

Ever notice on the Antiques Roadshow how antiques roadshowthose clever Keno brothers carefully examine the craftsmanship and handiwork of a piece of period furniture? They don special white cotton gloves so as to protect the precious satinwood or walnut finish from even the most imperceptible trace of oil from human skin. The Keno boys Glove_Heavyweight_Men_Hand_LVsalivate as they oooh! and aaah! while smoothing their gloved hands over inlay, scrollwork, curved legs and of course those amazing claw feet. They exude an almost sexual excitement and tension as they examine the console table or settee, and you can feel it. You’re in your living room, hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the Oklahoma Convention Center or the Peoria-Dome, but your excitement grows right along with theirs. Their saliva setteevery nearly turns too drool as they turn the table or chest upside down and find original dove tail joints or look at the inside of a drawer and find wood older than the surface, indicating even more specifically a period and style in furniture history. We’re at home holding our breath. Hoping for a huge climax— (a financial one of course) we’ve been teased and toyed with long enough. Then at last, they give us all what we want. The Kenos are gleeful as they tell the now drop-jawed possessor of this mighty treasure the value of the commode/desk/highboy that has been languishing untended and undusted in an attic corner, ever since Great Aunt Gertie (who got the piece from her mother who got it from a neighbor who got it from…) went on to glory.

old used furnitureBut back in the real world most of us live in, old sofas and tables are moved to the basement or storage room until-well until they end up donated to charity, left on the curb for the trash collector or carted away by the kindly New Furniture Company that is delivering their shiny replacements.

And as for cars? The clunkers and wrecks are traded in, abandoned in a junkyard or stashed car with treebehind the garage. They are left at the mercy of the elements, are subjected to the games of neighborhood children, fall prey to vandals who shatter windows, scratch obscenities on their once lustrous finishes, or become unlikely planters for anything wild enough to take root in the inhospitable old steel. Then they finally rust their way to oblivion.

So it seems the appropriate determination of worth for “old stuff” has something to do with the intrinsic value it was originally assigned. An object is deemed special because it is well crafted, beautiful to the beholder, and therefore desired. But the assignment of value and desirability also has a great deal to do with the perception of worth and importance.

Beyond the basics of food, clothing and shelter, we live in a society where most of us want what we are told we want. Really. I will repeat that sentence. We want what we are TOLD tocell phone purse want. We are all consumers. And we are being marketed to every single minute of every single day. I mean who knew that one day I’d actually WANT a phone in my purse? If someone had told me that twenty years ago, I would have thought the notion absurd. Why on earth would anyone want to carry a telephone around with them? Ludicrous! But now, nearly everyone has a mobile phone in their handbag, pocket, wirelessly hooked up to their car—or worse, their ear—all the time!

So we’re back to the original premise. Making something valuable enough to want, is either a result of the object’s value because it is rare and finely wrought of the best materials. Or it is worth something because someone has told us it is worth something by desiring it?

1948 fordThink about this…a 1948 Ford that has been well cared for can be worth much more than a 1998 Mercedes Benz. The fifty years the Ford has on the Benz is not a problem, but rather the thing that makes it worthy. And if you can mbzauthenticate provenance—who owned it when, and for how long—the value of that Ford can go up even more.

So here’s the good news—you are the original owner of you. You may have done some long term leasing of yourself—to build a marriage, raise children, develop a career—but there’s never been another owner. You are it. How have you treated yourself?  How much of your intrinsic value have you retained?  How much of it do you want to reclaim?


The difference between a classic car and a junker has nothing to do with age. It’s all in the way it’s cared for.

Whether you want to be a Classy Classic or a Walking Wreck is up to you.



Get up now and go stand in front of your full length mirror. (You can keep your clothes on—this time.) If you don’t have a full length mirror, shame on you, but find the closest substitute. Take a long look. What do you see—a valuable collectible or a junker? Right now, DECIDE that you will follow the example of the collectible car enthusiasts and antique aficionados—who know something special when they see it. You are a treasure, so treat yourself like the special, classic babe you are—starting now!

If you haven’t shined yourself up and taken yourself out to be admired lately—put that on your calendar right now.

If you have shined yourself up and taken yourself out to be admired lately—do it again!




           I am, therefore I play!


Playing is fun.

Fun is important.Fun1

These are things I learned early in life. And like most things we pick up early, I learned them at home. Which I know may seem like a pretty unusual place to learn about the importance of having fun.

When my father was a boy, he and his brothers coaxed a cow from the pasture into cow stairsthe house—and up the stairs to the second floor, just to see if they could do it. AND because they thought it would be fun. At least that’s how the story went every time Daddy told it, and believe me, he told it dozens of times.  Many years later in a house of his own, and with no livestock of the bovine kind readily available, he enticed a semi-willing, fairly gullible squirrel into our back hall and up the stairs, for what must have been the exact same reasons. Why else would he do it? And to the delight of my brother, sister and I, that little fluffy tailed rodent stoppedsquirrel-give-that-peanut_zjxqd_r by often for a visit and a treat (peanuts in the shell). We named him Tony. And sometimes he brought a friend along. Tony (and his descendants) became a regular visitors to our home and when my mom sold the house after my dad passed, she adopted a new squirrel family at her new digs…because it was fun.

My mother, somewhere in her mid seventies at the time, was caught red handed, in a grapescontest with my nephew who was then seven or eight, to see who could stuff the most grapes in their mouth. My sister found them sitting on the sofa, cheeks bulging with grapes they weren’t allowed to chew—how else could you keep count and determine the winner?

And these comical, entertaining parents of mine had the nerve, the temerity, to call me their “silly” child!!! Duh?! I say “takes one to know one!”

In one of the novels Donna and I wrote, one character admonishes another saying “the surest way to end up with nowhere to go, is to forget where you came from.” And although it still feels odd, even after all these years to quote our own work, I think the words Loretta spoke to Pat in Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made are a wise warning we should all heed and a sentiment that is perfectly applicable to aging.forgetful

The surest way to get old, is to forget what it was like to be young.

I’ll repeat that just in case you missed it the first time.

 The surest way to get old, is to forget what it was like to be young.  

I don’t know how much of our forgetting is truly a failure to recall – goodness knows crsmost of us, at this stage of life, have more than a touch of “CRS” (Can’t Remember Shit), and how much is a deliberate choice not to recall. This is choice results in a peculiar form of amnesia we can all be found guilty of. You watched your parents come down with it, promised yourself it would never happen to you, and yet, here you are—so far long life’s rocky climb to wherever it is you think you’re supposed to be going, that you can’t even remember that fun used to be important—hell, it was everything.  In your full speed ahead quest to reach adulthood—and you really were in a hurry weren’t you? You deemed certain behavior childish and unsuitable.  And since we have been taught that there is a time and a season for everything under the sun, in the name of being a grown up, one of the first things to be declared out of season and cast aside, is play.

Play means doing something simply because it brings you pleasure. No other reason is needed—just plain old fun. There may be some tangential value that comes from gymplaying, but it’s a by-product and should be considered gravy. So while your workout at the gym may leave you invigorated (or exhausted) and the hour you spent in spinning class makes you feel strong and smug, these activities do NOT equal play. Yes, they are healthful, helpful and undoubtedly important, but they are not to be confused with playing.

Just in case you can’t even conjure up a picture of what having fun really looks like, take a gander at any four year old seriously engaged in her most important task—playing. She can be lost in an imaginary scenario involving an ersatz family of dolls for whom she has created specific relationships, and will tell you so in no uncertain terms. “No!! That’s the Mommy not the Big Sister!” She may be moving sand from one pile to another, watching with delight as the grains spill kids-playing-in-sandboxttwirling_dress3hrough her hands, repeating the process over and over again. Or she may be running in circles until she’s dizzy with glee and vertigo. It doesn’t matter to her—as long as she gets joy from the experience—and she will.
And because, as a general rule, children play every day, she will wake up the next day anxious to seek and find joy in play once again.  Of necessity, as we get older, the amount of time we spend playing diminishes proportionately until we’ve reached the age of presumed maturity— at which point we proudly kick play to the curb permanently, declaring fun a “waste of time.”

no fun

            This is a BIG MISTAKE. One you are now in a position to correct.

The honest truth is that men are way better at keeping play as a part of their day to sportsday life than women, and we give them grief for it. Whether it’s golf, poker, fishing or a pick-up game of hoops, we are more likely than not

senior male cleaning out gutter outside house

to harp on the amount of time they waste being childish– playing silly games or complain about the hours they spend glued to the tube, playing vicariously. How dare they goof-off when there are errands to garage-sale-artbe run, gutters to be cleaned, garages (attics, basements, spare rooms) to be cleared, lawns to be mowed? Their “Honey Do” list of chores is relentlessly endless. What immature, childish oafs they are! And what conscientious, hardworking, mature adults we are by comparison.lucy

But what if, instead of being indignant at their irresponsible, juvenile behavior, or flexing our passive-agressive (“It’s ok. Go on…play games with your friends. “) muscles, we considered the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there is a little something we could learn from them?


I know, it may sound like sacrilege. I’m probably even in violation of some secret female code of conduct known only, and instinctively, I might add, to the membeXX Chromosome gold cardrs of the XX Chromosome Club. And I will probably be hunted down like a traitor and forced to cut
up my XXCC membership card for uttering this. Don’t you think it pains me to admit that areas might even exist where women are not equal or superior to the XY Guys?! But I willingly make this sacrifice because I call ‘em like I see ‘em. OldManLongboardingWhen it comes to honoring play- and the spirit of play, the boys win– hands down.

When is the last time you exhausted yourself having fun instead of worn yourself out with duty or obligation? Can’t remember can you? So what’s a woman to do? Well in the case of the play- challenged chick, the answer is: definitely not what she’s always done. You must accept first that play is not ageist—

OK, I grant you my knees don’t hold up as well during a jackskitchen floor game of jacks as they once did. But like with everything else about this getting older business, I’m smart enough to compensate–I don’t play jacks often, a pillow is helpful, I only play for a short time and I’ve even played standing at a table. The point is that I still enjoy jacks so why not play? Of course, there are sex funother, more mature things I have fun doing as well— going dancing, cooking for friends and sex (Yep!), but I thought my love of jacks, precisely because it’s silly, would offer a better illustration.street lights

The street lights haven’t come on yet, the day isn’t over and your Mom is not waiting at the door for you to come inside (or maybe she is, but that’s an issue for another book.)

There’s still time…but the clock is ticking. It REALLY IS OK to have fun—for no reason and have no guilt about it. You don’t need excuses, or apologies, or to make it look like work in case you get caught. Keep in mind—YOU are the only one who can define what fun is for you.



Think back. Way back. No. No. Longer ago than that. Keep going—-until you can child-on-a-swingremember what it felt like to be on a swing. Flying and free. You had waited and waited until it was finally your turn. Your braids and the laces of your sneakers were both coming undone. You didn’t care. And when the swing slowed, didn’t you pump as hard as you could to keep aloft?

Now take that feeling, not the image, the feeling of pure delight, and tuck it somewhere easily accessible (your heart, your brain, your purse—whatever you’re likely to open fastest.)

Done? Are you sure you can grab it at a moment’s notice?

Now each and every week, you must make a play date with yourself, or someone else—as long as it takes you to experience that feeling of delight. So whether it’s a kite, a karaoke machine, a kiln or a kayak, unearth your inner little girl and carpe play!




“It’s the end of the beginning.”

in the beginning

As our life expectancy increases, fifty, long considered “solidly middle aged” may well be earning that spot legitimately. There was a time, not even that long ago, when it was pretty clear that despite being referred to as middle age, fifty 50 birthday- dayswas considered the spot that marked the downhill approach to the finish line. Expecting to make it to seventy-five wasn’t an unreasonable presumption if you took good care of yourself, but your best years were, without doubt, long gone—part of the past for you to remember fondly.

But that was then.

smuckers 100Now, all it takes is a look at the exponential growth in the number of centennial birthday announcements made on the Today Show (by Willard Scott and continue after his recent retirement) to let us know that living to 100 and beyond is not as much of an anomaly asmethusela it was a scant ten or fifteen years ago.  So– thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, as you hit the half century mark, for the first time in recorded human history, (not counting Methuselah and other Biblical ancients) at fifty, you may really, truly, be in middle age…how about that?

And once you’re there, whaddaya do? I strongly suggest your next step is to get a firm grip on what that really means, and in order to do that, you need to take a good, hard, honest look at yourself. No, you don’t need the mirror, or your reading glasses for this particular examination, so relax.

perspectiveOne of the greatest benefits of having made it through more than a few decades of living, is the gift of perspective. And lucky us, perspective is the kind of gift that keeps on giving. When we put down childish things and begin our journey toward adulthood we don’t know that perspective even exists. We live our lives in the present and the future and we have little, if any, ability (or need) to see the “Big Picture” through the lens of past experience.

When we were young(er), like countless generations before us (and countless ones yet to come), despite what parents and elders tried to prepare us for, and caution us against, weelder advice 2 ignored the helpful warnings and sage advice and plunged ahead hell-bent on whatever goal we were pursuing. We ignored roadblocks or assumed they were meant for someone else…certainly not “me.” Blindly we stumbled along, bumping into the stuff along our pathway to wherever it was we were going. Sometimes we ran into the obstacles head first, fully expecting that the desire to get where we wanted to go, combined with the sheer force of thrust and our determination, would move the impediment out of our way.  Sometimes we were right. More often than not, we were wrong.  (Which, by the way, is how our novel Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made, which is about young people who think they have all the answers, came to be!)

challenges aheadFortunately, the injuries we receive from collisions with these roadblocks and deterrents are usually minor–not serious enough to cause any permanent disability. After all, when they take place, we are young, resilient, fearless and last but not least, clueless. We are, as were those who went before us, living, breathing object lessons for why phrases like “youth is wasted on the young” and “if I knew then what I know now” will never become obsolete. And when you when you hear these words uttered by a head-shaking, know-it-boulder 2all solidly grown-ass man or woman in response to someone younger making a mistake, you can be pretty sure they have conveniently forgotten to remember their own rocky, pothole-filled path to their current place of wisdom and insight. Because while the gift perspective affords us a view of the whole picture, it can also make micro memories of the dumb stuff we all did.

A few years ago, I was having a conversation with a good friend, a man who was in his late sixties who would hate being described that way, but he’d hate it even more if I used his seventies mens clothesname! In the twenty plus years I’ve known him, he never has a conversation with me when he didn’t find a reason to reference the good old 70s. These were the years when, according to him, life was great-nearly perfect in fact. But in that chat he said, “I’ve been thinking. And you know how I hate to do that—much less admit that I’m wrong about anything. But…I’ve finally realized that the past wasn’t better.” He took a sip of scotch before he continued. “I was just younger. My life is much better now, way, way better than I wanted to remember it was back then.”  He actually looked relieved once he said it out loud, like he was giving himself, permission, finally to let go and live now. His self-revelation did not lost long however and in short order he was back to complaininggood old daysabout the present and exalting the past.

Getting older is not the time not to either lament or glorify the good old days. It is the time for an affirmation of who we are now, in this moment, and what is yet to come—which, 40 is the old agebelieve it or not, might just possibly be even greater than our youth. Victor Hugo said, “Forty is the old age of youth, fifty is the youth of old age.”

He was right. This is just the end of the beginning. Relax and enjoy getting to the good part.the end



If you are a journal keeper:

diary ancient

  • Find an old one and pick half a dozen entries you made when you were younger–during your twenties or thirties.
  • Read, from your older perspective, about the things that were rocking your world. The stuff that was going on in your life that was so monumental as to make worthy of old diarya page or several in your diary. Because let’s face it, pre-Oprah and her “Gratitude Journals” most of us (and many still do) used our journals as a place to vent. We did not use them as a place for saying “Thanks Universe for the good things and for the lessons I’ve learned from the not-so-good things.” Our journals were a place to hold our very own “bitch until it feels better” fests so that we could face the next day relieved of a little bit of our frustration with parents, lovers, jobs, bosses, school, co-reading glassesworkers, friends who “didn’t get it” and the like.
  • Now, as your aged, wiser, reading glasses wearing eyes gaze upon these pages, digest them, and ask yourself how much of what you were so worried/hung up/angry/stressed out about then, matters now. My guess is probably not much.
  • Think about how much SHE didn’t know, that YOU now do. Remember how easily SHE was consumed by self-doubt. SHE survived all the stuff SHE thought SHE would never live through.
  • Smile at her.
  • Smile for her. She’s become lower case now because she knows what’s important—and that it’s not all about her.
  • Close the book.

If you are not a journaler:

high school me 2

  • Grab your high school or college yearbook from the bookshelf, or the box in the basement. (It’s not still at your parents’ house is it? If it is, it’s time to bring it home!) Find your senior picture. OK. Try to look past the wardrobe and hair—it won’t be easy, but you won’t be able to see “you” in there if you don’t ignore your unfortunate fashion faux pas and questionable coiffure choices.
  • Look at HER. Think about how much SHE didn’t know, that YOU now do. Remember how easily SHE was consumed by self-doubt. SHE survived all the stuff SHE thought SHE would never live through.
  • Smile at her.
  • Smile for her. She’s become lower case now because she knows what’s important—and that it’s not all about her.
  • Close the book.


Homework complete.