NOTE: WHAT’S UP WITH THE RED LIPSTICK?

NOTE: WHAT’S UP WITH  THE RED LIPSTICK?

cropped-red-lipstick-cropped.jpg

Several of you have asked why the blog background/header image is red lipstick. The image has changed from time to time but it’s always some version of red lipstick. The answer is two words…My Mother!

Mom cropped 1My mom, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 89, wasn’t a fancy society lady who lunched at swank restaurants with other fancy society ladies. Juanita made us pressed ham or tuna sandwiches on Wonder Bread for lunch-which we ate at our kitchen table. (In those days kids actually went HOME from school for lunch!) eggs ala goldenrodSometimes, when were out of school and Mom was feeling a bit on the fancy side, she would make us “Eggs ala Goldenrod” for lunch–chopped hard boiled eggs served in a cream sauce over toast points, and my sister, and maybe even my brother, and I would eat in the dining room and feel a little fancy too. But Mom didn’t get facials or manicures or have other fancy beauty rituals.

Juanita was a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a school teacher, a singer, a friend– who lived her entire life never believing she was attractive—she said it often…not in a way that was a sneaky plea for compliments, or a statement to be protested, but simply as a matter-of-fact personal observation about herself. And I didn’t grow up feeling pretty—or being told that pretty should be my goal—being kind, getting good grades, laughing often—these were the things I grew up thinking important-the things that were rewarded.

But despite Mom’s self-assessment as “plain,” Juanita was seriously dedicated to the idea that Cute Counts. And Mom was CUTE!  Please remember the CUTE I’m writing about in this blog is much more about attitude than pulchritude. The CUTE I’m writing about is found by keeping the girl you used to be (or wished you were) alive and kicking!  Other than lipstick she didn’t wear makeup until later in her life and even then it was just a swipe of drug store eyeliner pencil and the faintest brush of blush. She didn’t spend much time in front of the mirror, but LIPSTICK WAS HER GO-TO—and her hair was always done. EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Smiling older blackI mentioned earlier (LESSON 5 – Mirror Mirror) that when my mom was in her early 80’s some fairly debilitating health issues finally slowed her down. But even after months of being house or hospital bound—she rolled her hair every night (but was NEVER seen outside of the house in said rollers) and put on her good robe and lipstick every day because she never stopped being concerned about her appearance.

Pictures of my mom early in her life—before she was a mom, and after,

tell the story. She didn’t go to work, the super market, the drug store, the dry cleaners, choir rehearsal…anywhere without lipstick! She wore red until she was somewhere in her 70’s. Then she switched to a deep rose color.

I remember being a kid (we all got home from school at roughly the same time) and Coty lipstick 1watching Mom, somewhere between 4:30 and 5, before my dad got home from work, run a comb through her hair and refresh her lipstick. There was no lip liner or brush or gloss. Just a swipe from
the Helena Rubenstein or Coty tube (Most often without a mirror-which totally fascinated me!)

It all took less than one minute.

At the time I wasn’t really aware what that simple one minute act represented.

Honestly, I was in my early 30’s before I understood, that my mom, had not, like many other moms I knew, surrendered whatever  “Cute” she possessed to motherhood.  I had not understood until my early 30’s that my parents had a relationship, between the two of them, that had absolutely NOTHING to do with being Mommy and Daddy to my brother, sister and I. I had not understood that my mother cared about her appearance—not just for my dad, but for herself. I had not understood that my mother was aware that PRESENCE was important. I had not understood that perhaps lipstick was her way of countering the kind of invisibility women in general and Black women in particular were respect yourself1so easily subject to in those days (and perhaps still in these days.) I had not understood when I watched our neighborhood White pharmacist and White shoe repair man, call her “Mrs. DeBerry,” apologize if the prescription or heel replacement wasn’t ready, tell her thank you and to have a nice day- how different that was. I had not understood that my mom’s self-care and the personal dignity that behavior manifested, made people treat her with respect. I had not understood that she was teaching me, by example, (which we all know is the best way to teach anything) that it doesn’t have to be a big thing to make a big difference. It can be something as simple as combing your hair and putting on a little red lipstick.

me and mom

LESSON SEVEN – GETTING OVER—YOURSELF

LESSON SEVEN – GETTING OVER—YOURSELF

“Not much is as important as you once thought it was.”

official rulesBy the time we are on the approach to midlife we have accumulated quite an extensive collection of rules—most of which we don’t even stop to question. Through repetition and indoctrination we have learned to take many these rules as gospel. Some of these edicts are legitimate, necessary and actually protect us from behavior that can be harmful to ourselves or to others. Following the Ten Commandments yield yellowand Rule of Law, washing your hands after you use the bathroom (or ride the subway), understanding the rules of the road—including speed limits, “yield,” “pass on the left” and “right” of way are all decrees that keep us safe, healthy and enable us to live with each other in a relatively civilized society. All in all, this is a good thing.

However, on the other hand, there are the arbitrary societal rules that don’t necessarily make any sense, but we follow them anyway—mostly because we haven’t thought about fashion rules xthe logic behind them. Rules like the recently done away with, but hard to get out of our heads, “You can’t wear white after Labor Day.”wedding etiquette And I won’t even go into the zealous dogma of wedding etiquette—who pays for what and who sits on which side of the church—what if you’re friends with the bride AND the groom?!

There are the rules that become obsolete because life changes and progress happens. Rules like “When walking with a lady, the gentleman walks on the outside near the curb, the lady on the etiquette051613inside.” This was to protect the woman’s voluminous dresses and petticoats from dust and muddy splashes sprayed up on the sidewalk from horse drawn carriages passing in the street.  Now many urban pedestrians have experienced an unwanted and unpleasant shower from a speeding taxi or car while waiting for the light to change. But sidewalks are much wider than they used to be, we don’t have horses hooves tossing divots into our path and our dresses are, under most normal daily activities, hardly dragging along the sidewalk, but the “rule” still exists. I find myself, if I’m not on my guard, looking at a young couple strolling down the street and wondering “Doesn’t “he” know he’s etiquette_history“supposed” to walk on the outside?”  Duh…

And we have … “Ladies do not shake hands either with gentlemen, or as a general rule, with each other.” (Emily Post 1922) This little antiquated dictum was clearly established during a time when there was not a clue about how society might evolve and shifts in the norm might affect what constitutes decorum and acceptability— before there were women in the

handshake

workplace holding meetings and making deals where the shaking of hands is standard business practice. And now of course, women shake pretty much anything they want in public, including their booties while admonishing that “if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it…”

Then there are the rules that are not rules at all; they only indicate toilet paper over underpreference. The over/under toilet paper roll debate is a good example—the 160,000+ Google entries on the subject notwithstanding. There is no rule or right or wrong here, only what you like, and of course, habit.

We also have traditions, usually holiday and family related, which are passed on to us either directly or indirectly, with a complete set of rules—many of which are unspoken. At least until they come into conflict with a differing tradition—Jack-o-lantern plasticlike when a Christmas Eve gift opener marries a Christmas morning opener, or the jack-o-Jack-o-lantern reallantern  pumpkin carver decides to take up with the plastic pumpkin picker. Sorting out the “when and if” of breaking our long-held rules and flying in the face of sacred and inviolate family policies is a subjective undertaking and, I have concluded, best left to be negotiated (or duked out) by those who are involved. So you’ll get no advice (or judgment) from me about whether the dressing goes inside or outside the turkey—or for that matter, the semantics of calling it dressing or stuffing.

No…those rules are the easy stuff.

The rules I want to talk about here are the ones we impose on ourselves and on our my rules rightfamilies with steely will and determination— the rules about things we want done in a particular way.  This includes everything from declarative statements that start with “We always…” or “I never…” to the way towels are folded, the place we keep our plastic bags and our hair-dos and don’ts. (Which will be addressed in a future Lesson – Hair Story).  We don’t even see it happening, but slowly and surely our own rules lead usshrew husband wife to trade “cute” – not as in “pretty and perky” but as in delightful, adorable (read loveable) and savvy, for being “right.” By then, we are well on our way to shrewdom—a frame of mind that is so totally non-cute.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against order, logic and convenience. And certainly I have nothing against being right, after all, this entire book is an ode to my notion that “I am right.” But what we have to ask ourselves is how much does being right really matter in the long run? So what I do have a problem with, is when we no longer have any idea why we follow the rules we do—when we just continue doing what we’ve always done without even considering whether or not our behavior or attitude is useful, helpful, or even necessary.

“Set in their ways.” Is what used to be said about, and even by “old folks” as kind of a catchall dismissal of a resistance to things that were new or might require some kind of change of mind, attitude or behavior—however slight. There is some validity to that as a description of what happens to us when we get older and “new” starts to mean the same as “bad.” Years of repetition breeds—well, more repetition and we do get awfully comfortable with the familiar.

My sister Valerie, a veteran HR executive who daily fights the uphill battle to institute change and encourage flexible attitudes, customs and mores in the workplace, tells a story she calls “Ham in the Pan.”honey-glaze-baked-ham-6

Once upon a time at a job long, long ago, there was a staffer, who for the sake of this story we’ll call Mary, who always made a ham for office parties and potluck gatherings and the ham was always a delicious, resounding hit. Valerie asked for the recipe, which Mary was happy to deliver (this was pre-email) to my sister’s office the next day. Val read the
recipeingredients for the sauce for basting the ham (clearly the secret to such a successful hunk of pig) and then the instructions, which said, “Cut the sides off the ham…” More than a little curious, Val asked Mary the reason for cutting the sides off the ham. Would this somehow allow the hulking haunch to absorb more of the fabulous basting nectar? Was that the secret?  “I don’t know, this is the way my Mom made ham,” Mary said. My sister didn’t probe any deeper, and decided she would just use the removed sides to season some green beans or dice and add to a quiche.

A few days later, Mary saw my sister in the hall and said, “You know…I asked my mom why she cut the sides off the ham…” My sister smiled, still eager to learn about the magic kitchen wisdom that lurked behind performing the hamectomy. She wanted, and was fully expecting an “Ah ha!” moment when it would all become clear, make perfect sense and roasting panshe’d end up wondering why no one else had discovered this seemingly simple step before. Mary continued. “Mom said when she started making the big holiday ham, she didn’t have a pan large enough so that’s how she made the ham fit. I guess I watched her do it, so that’s the way I’ve done it in my house ever since— even though my pan is plenty big.”

My sister uses “The Ham in the Pan” as an example to shake people out of their set in ways on the job—her own “Who Moved My Cheese” story, but “The Ham in the Pan” is a parable we can all learn from. We need to take a look at the things we “always do” a certain way and ask ourselves if it’s possible that just maybe, there is another, equally effective approach— like a bigger pan.

We women in particular, can be rigid and unyielding about the how we want things done, and complain when someone else (husband, significant other, child, parent or even a right man womanneighbor—in their OWN house) chooses to do the thing differently (read incorrectly). Sometimes we are forced to hold our tongues like with our boss at work or with our neighbors, and we find ourselves secretly stewing in the bubbling juices of our rightness—a decidedly bitter brew. But lucky for us, in our own homes and families, we not only are free to let the wrongdoers know, in no uncertain terms, they have done the thing, whatever it is, incorrectly, we then set about to redo it—“the right way.” Feeling enormous justification and more than a small degree of self-righteousness, we next convince ourselves that it’s really just easier to do it ourselves in Right-Sign-SMART-V1the first place, or we berate the other person for not “getting it.” “How many times do I have to tell you…?”

And with every silent, resentful “do it ourselves” initiative, or incompetency rant, we grow just a little more bitter and a little more “set in our ways.”

The question you have to ask as you prepare to “get over yourself” and the need to be right, is — does it really matter if the light bulbs are put on the third shelf instead of the fourth? Is there a life hanging in the balance (yours or anyone else’s) if the flat sheet is not i-love-being-right-being-in-love-quotefolded around the fitted sheet and the pillow cases? Obviously, the answer is “No.”  Try giving yourself a break from your own rules. Ease up on the need to be RIGHT. You just might like it—and realize that the world didn’t stop spinning on its axis.

 

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

  • If you have no little, intractable “rules” in any part of your world, (think carefully) you may skip this homework! Congratulations!
  • On the other hand if you do have a few teeny tiny laws in that secret little Rule Book fishbowlof yours, write down five of them on separate pieces of paper. Fold each piece so they are the same size (in quarters, then in half usually works well) and place in a bowl, basket, hat—any container of your choosing.
  • Once every week (until you empty the container) remove one of your rules, read it, then throw it away—literally and figuratively.
  • You will go an entire week without adhering to that rule. You will in fact, deliberately break that rule. (Fold your towels in half instead of thirds, eat takeout on the “good” china, part your hair on the other side…you get the picture.)
  • If you make it through the week without breaking into the shakes or a cold sweat because you left an unwashed glass in the kitchen sink overnight, ran the vacuum on Tuesday evening instead of Saturday morning, or returned phone calls before you do your email at work, instead of the other way around—which is the way you’ve always done it (or vice versa), you’re well on your way to getting over…yourself.Break-the-Rules

If you find yourself backsliding, (recidivism is not unusual) repeat the above steps as necessary.

CUTE STILL COUNTS & GOOD HEALTH IS CUTE!

CUTE STILL COUNTS & GOOD HEALTH IS CUTE!

NO ‘LESSON’ HERE – JUST A LITTLE STORY:

2 years ago the doctor told me to stop eating sugar and “white” foods for my health-I was “pre-pre-diabetic.” I’m not a “SWEETS” person -give me salty every time. But sugar is hidden in so many things that it was really hard in the beginning- but eventually I got used to it because I had ZERO intention of becoming a diabetic if I could help it. Yes I’ve cheated every now and then. But my health is now great…all threats of diabetes gone AND I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds-which I can’t always see. But here are pics from then–the journey and NOW…50 pounds

IMG_7706IMG_7708

I posted this on Facebook yesterday and received dozens and dozens of  positive comments, support and encouragement

I am grateful for the positive changes in my health–even though when I went to the doc two years ago, I was feeling well–it was a routine checkup. Diabetes is, as you all know, no joke. Type 2 diabetes disproportionately affects African-Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and Pacific Islanders–all us brown folks.

My doc told me I’d be surprised by what contained added sugar and likely surprised by the weight loss, since my body was producing too much insulin because I was not metabolizing the excess sugar. He said it would start about 3-4 months in and be slow but steady and he was right. He also said I could have vodka or red wine on occasion- so I was good to go!  And while I’ve cheated a few times, over the past 2 years-for me it’s ice cream, it’s never been a big or long transgression and I return to my new habits instanty. I’ve learned to ALWAYS read the nutrition labels.

My grandmother had diabetes and I remember when I was about 8 years old, she had her leg amputated. I can see, clear as day, her sitting on the side of the bed “wrapping” her “stump” with an ace bandage before attaching her artificial limb. I did not want that to be me–especially if I could do something about it! And now, thanks to a pretty simple (relatively speaking) change, I AM WELL!

I have literally been up and down the “scales” for most of my adult life. I never felt sick or tired. I didn’t feel disillusioned or dis-enfranchised. I didn’t feel unattractive. I didn’t feel unsexy. I didn’t feel lots of the things you’re supposed to feel if you’re a big girl. I ate pretty healthily (no fast or processed foods, rarely sweets, no sugar laden “mocha-machiatto-caramel” lattes, maybe a bagel or donut once or twice a year). I did my time on the treadmill and kept on stepping-believing that my weight just was what it was -15lbs up, 15lbs down was just my regular fluctuation. I didn’t think much about weight or size–I NEVER have. It never inhibited me, kept me from looking my best, doing my best and having a full, rich life.

So this weight loss, (and I am by no means skinny-just lighter than I was), which no doubt adds to my current positive health, from simply watching my sugar intake has been a lovely and wonderful extra added benefit!
The takeaway: Sometimes it’s not the biggest changes that can make the biggest differences in our lives. Sometimes it’s the little things… but you have to DO THE LITTLE THING, not just think or talk about it! 

CUTE is attitude. CUTE is healthy. CUTE COUNTS!

LESSON SIX -AGING—IT’S THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN

LESSON SIX -AGING—IT’S THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN

“The only alternative to getting older is—you guessed it, so stop watching from the sidelines and get in the game.”

 

Cryo_chamberLet’s face it—the only viable alternative to getting older is not one most of us are interested in. Yes, there’s that icy cryogenic thing, round veggiesbut other than megalomaniac nutjobs in the movies, who really wants to get stashed in a freezer with the baby peas and cauliflower? So you can be thawed fifty or a few thousand years later like a flash frozen ice age T-Rex and try to pick up where you left off before you decided to try life as a Popsicle? Not me. And I suspect not you.

So, what are you gonna do when getting older is the only game there is?

You are going to play as though your life depended on winning—because it does.

I’m about to dabble in a sports metaphor and those who know me well will fall out Einsteinlaughing, swear that I know as much about sports as I do about quantum quantum anglemechanics and wait for me to make a fool of myself. But I think the comparison is apt, so I shall plunge ahead, risking ridicule and derision and hope I do know enough about sports to fake my way through this.

Most athletic games are divided into periods—quarters, innings, sets or the like, which only theoretically correspond to actual time telling devices used by regular people because in sporting matches, they have Game-Clock-Frontthe miraculous ability to stop time.  In real life however, we have no such power and must let the clock run—minutes, hours, days, years flying by—whoosh! Never to be seen again. We have no pause, instant replay or measures of time that hang in the air endlessly awaiting our decision to restart the clock.

The game of life stays in progress and whether you are ready or nohalftimet, we have to keep on keepin’ on. In addition to the magical “stop action” that occurs in sporting contests, many games also grant the competitors the privilege of a half time. A break right in the middle of the game! It doesn’t matter who’s winning or who’s losing—
everyone gets an intermission. Yep. Just like that, the gift of a time out is yours without even asking for it! So no matter how the game is going half time offers an opportunity to regroup, change strategy, evaluate, assess strengths and weakness—yours and your opponent’s. Back in the locker room the coach uses pep talks, threats, prayers, shame, rants, praise–whatever is necessary for the team to either maintain the lead, or snatch victory from the wide open, hungry jaws of defeat. Half time is the chance for the game to begin anew. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life could be the same way?

It can.

That’s what this time of your life is.

100th birthdayAlthough becoming a centenarian is more and more common these days, I accept that I’m pushing it when I say 50 is the half way mark in the game of life —but since our forties and fifties have long been considered “middle age”, there is plenty of precedent for this argument. So humor me, OK?

I used my late 40’s to assess what I liked and didn’t like about my life, to examine where I was, where I wanted to be, who and what I wanted to keep in my life, what needed to go and most importantly to decide how I wanted to approach living the next half of my life. At 50, I took myself a half-time and so should you.undo-features

We don’t have an undo button in life. What we’ve already done, the part of life we have lived already is past. But we certainly can make completely new kinds of choices going forward—you still have the have the rest of your life—however long that is.

You’re in the game.

It’s half-time.

You need a break.

Take one while you can.

half time ref

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

 

1) Draw a circle—one you will think of as an old fashioned analog clock—you know like the ones we learned to tell time on with the “big hand” and “little hand” before the digital revolution relegated time telling skills to the same “has-been” pile of memories as an abacus and gathering the family around a rotary dial phone to share a “long distance” call. Make your circle big, really big.

 

2) Then draw a vertical line through the middle as though it were six o’clock. Except I want you to think of six o’clock as 0—where your life began and twelve o’clock as 50.

 

3) Freely fill in (using any method you choose) the space between zero and fifty (six and twelve)—in other words, fill up the left side of the circle—with what you have done—the significant achievements and happenings that have taken place in your life thus far: school degrees, jobs, marriage, children, moves, even divorce and deaths. It may be pretty crowded or fairly empty—that depends of course on what you have done with the first half of your life.

Clock -fin

4) Then look at the wonder of the other half of the circle—the part that goes from 50 to zero (twelve to six). What you have is a huge blank space that you can fill in any way you choose. Using the experience you have gained through the grace of aging and consider carefully, thoughtfully, whimsically what you would like to see take the place of the empty space.   And remember—you are free to go outside of the lines!

LESSON FIVE – CUTE STILL COUNTS

LESSON FIVE – CUTE STILL COUNTS

CUTESTILLCOUNTS1

Mirror mirror on the wall…

I watch the zillion makeover shows we are now being bombarded with on TV (How far are we from a Makeover Channel—all makeovers, all the time?) but instead of being frumpy 1simply amazed at the transformation, I’m astounded that Susie Schlub, in her sweats or mom jeans, oversize frumpy top (whether she is oversize or not) and sneakers didn’t do something before she was ambushed-or secretly submitted square-1438018472-cos-jeansas “deserving” (which means they’re tired of her looking like hell) by a well-meaning daughter or friend. I am  particularly intrigued by the programs that show Ms. Frump actually looking pretty fly at some point in her past. What happened?

 

 

I sit in front of the boob tube transfixed, not by the jaw dropping results, but by the fact that Susie before-and-after-bra-fittingdidn’t seem to notice that her boobs were taking a nice nap on her waist before the Makeover Magician showed her what a proper bra could do. Is poor tired, tragic, overworked Susie visually challenged? Does she live in a world without mirrors?  How could she not know that her hairstyle, which was probably only marginally fashionable in 1982 is hopelessly outdated in the 21st Century?

How could she not know that her sensible denim skirt isn’t appropriate for every occasion—heck – that it’s hardly appropriate for ANY occasion? Couldn’t see that shoes with run mirror 3over heels need a visit to the shoemaker or maybe just to be thrown out? Never mind the help available from fashion magazines, catalogs, stores, TV shows and movies. A plain old mirror—purchased at your local discount store and nailed on the inside of a closet door or even leaned against the wall— would have done the trick. Why oh why didn’t she see herself?

Then Susie Schlub is whisked off for some dazzling duds, a clever francesca-dress-purple-frontcoiffure and magic makeup. And in the reveal, Voila! We have the modern, refreshed, jazzy— Susie Sharp! We’ve all seen these memorable moments and old Suze looks great! Mostly not the Naomi or Giselle unrealistic/unattainable standard we’ve been taught to compare ourselves too, but so much cry 2better than before that she’s hardly recognizable to herself.  Then Susie breaks down and begins to weep—“I didn’t know I could look like this! Oh! Thank you. Thank you….”  Now we’re not talking plastic surgery makeovers here—maybe a little teeth whitening – but the rest is the easy stuff.

And I’m still sitting there shaking my head wondering why didn’t you do this sooner? What were you waiting for?

The more I watched the clearer the answer became. These women, young and old, fat and thin, tall and short, married and single all had one thing in common. They had given up. Some may have given up before they started, some after getting married, having children, retiring, becoming ill, losing a job, husband, parent—but to a one, they had each become resigned to the idea that how they looked no longer mattered–that cute didn’t count anymore.

Well, I’m here to tell you that’s a big ol’ crock of “*ish”. CUTE STILL COUNTS. I will say it pretty red dress girlanother way. CUTE ALWAYS COUNTS.  It counted when you were a baby and your Mom dolled you up. It counted at six when you got that new dress to wear for your birthday party or Easter Sunday. It counted when you were fourteen and hoped “he” noticed how cute you looked in your heather blue box pleated mini skirt and matching knee socks. It counted at twenty five when you were trying to maternityimpress them on the job. It counted when you planning to say “I do.”  It counted when you put on those awful, (pre-Liz Lange stylish maternity-wear) “hatching jackets” with the dumb, sweet Peter Pan collar and bow meant to conceal your baby bump. And CUTE COUNTS now too, you have just forgotten how much.

I will concede that I probably have a predisposition to Cute Counting I understand (because I was too young to remember- but there is photographic evidence) that when I was little, in the small southern town where I was born, I was “everybody’s baby” and was gifted accordingly. My mother, in order to make sure I had a chance to wear all the adorable clothes I was given, took to changing my outfits, from hair ribbons right down to socks, several times a day.So CUTE was a part of my agenda before I knew or had any control over it.  I admit, remnants of the changing clothes a few times a day thing are still a part of my life.

Even in the housedress hausfrau 1950’s, my mother always did her hair and wore lipstick Daddyevery single day. My dad, who worked in construction and dressed accordingly, had his Sunday and Friday/Saturday “Up the Street” suits, sports jackets and tuxedoes tailor made. As a girl, I remember going to Charlie Baker Clothier with him to look at fabric swatches and pick out buttons—because all of it mattered. Now back to my mom. In her early 80’s she brought quite unexpectedly to a halt by some fairly debilitating health issues. Even after months of being house or hospital bound—she rolled her hair every night and put on her good

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

robe for company because she never stopped being concerned about her appearance. Her first trip out was to the hairdresser. A few years later, when my sister went shopping and returned with a selection of dresses for Mom to choose from for an upcoming outdoor summer wedding— Mom hinted in a not so subtle aside, “and you know I think I’d also  like one of those long flowy peasant skirts everyone’s wearing this spring,” My sister got her a purple one.

So whether it’s nature or nature, my awareness of the idea that how you look affects how you feel, and how you feel affects how others see and treat you, is now so thoroughly ingrained that it no longer matters from whence it cometh.

What does matter is that you goeth out and get some CUTE. Do not let the dreaded closet doldrums—which creeps and chokes like kudzu—take over. Do not surrender. There’s help aplenty available.

So if you are still boxed in business suits leftover from our “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar/Dress for Success” days of the 70’s and 80’s, dressing up to go out to dinner in the same outfit you wore to the Mother’s Day luncheon at church, and your donning your fancy formal duds means a dowdy evening gown that screams “Queen Mum”,  or a repurposed Bridesmaid’s dress circa 1987 you drag from the back of the closet, you may not be totally lost, but your trail of breadcrumbs has definitely gone stale.

 

It’s time to get yourself back on the road to CUTE.

Get help if you need it. You go to the doctor, dentist, and hairdresser for their expertise don’t you? Every major department store has a personal shopper and it’s her job to help you find clothes that suit your body and your lifestyle requirements, whatever the size of your butt or your budget.

Contrary to what you may think, what you wear is not solely about vanity, it is largely about self-esteem. Back in the days when I used to commentate chubbette (plus-size) fashion shows for Hanes Fitting Pretty Pantyhose, in department stores around the country, I was not nearly as interested in what was on the runway as I was in convincing members of my audience that they could and should treat themselves as well as they did others—that being on the “stout” side— didn’t mean that unflattering clothing was somehow a just punishment for avoirdupois. It was a hard fought battle and I suspect this one may be too.

But I won much of the time—no actually the women in the audience won. They went into the dressing room and tried on something new and fashionable and more often than not, they walked out of that store with much more than a new outfit. They also had a new attitude.

Then it was fat frump I was fighting, now it’s age frump (and maybe fat frump too.) But do not let the unlined, uncellulited youth corps get you down. There’s a lot of clothing low-rise-jeansbetween teenage trashy—oops! I mean teenage trendy, and resignation retirement rags. No you can’t dress like your fifteen year old daughter or the twenty-three year old hostess at your favorite restaurant, but even without belly baring shirts (no navel piercing please) and low rise pants (I also suggest that you pass on the above-the-crack, tramp-stamp tattoo) BELIEVE ME, you can stay hot—or get hot for the first time!ambrosiadressblack-0374

 

 

 

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

Re-read this Lesson

Write “Cute Still Counts” 100 times.

Say “Cute Still Counts” 100 times—it’s now your mantra.

Go shopping!

Try on something you ordinarily wouldn’t. (Other than short shorts and a tee shirt that says “Jail Bait” in glitter.) THIS IS IMPORTANT!!

If you look cute, not shocking mind you, CUTE (that’s what the three-way mirror is for) BUY IT!

THEN WEAR IT!

 

LESSON FOUR – NUMBERS:ADD ‘EM UP

LESSON FOUR – NUMBERS:ADD ‘EM UP

 

 

“They” say age is only a number. “I” say numbers are only a guide, not a rule to live by.

 

I look at numbers as representative of things that need to be measured, quantified or kept track of—like ages, sizes, grades, or as a way to keep count— miles, meals, husbands.

On the other hand I have a good friend who is a math-head, and according to him numbers are not only representative they are

Digital Universe
Digital Universe

definitive” or “exact”–even “beautiful,” the key to understanding the workings of the universe…”—he can go on and on about how sexy numbers are, and by then I’ve glazed over and started thinking about really important things like where we’re having dinner.

But one day when he started talking about types of numbers—Real, Imaginary, Complex, Prime, Negative, Positive, Rational, Irrational, Sublime —I perked up. Really! I did. In the midst of his treatise on the beauty of
mathematics, he had somehow managed to recapture my attention. I couldn’t believe it. Me interested in numbers that didn’t have to do with the balance in my checking account or whether a shoe was in my size? Yes! Because he was using adjectives I understood clearly. I even used them in my own ordinary, everyday, decidedly math-impaired language. Crisp descriptions, which, when added to a word, a phrase or a sentence, in just the right way could clarify content or intent—they spoke about expectation, probability and attitude. I was psyched. I realized that his numerical adjectives, when used around us mere mortals –those who do NOT do logarithms for fun number diagramand relaxation–not only told you what was there, they told you how to feel about it. Of course by now, I was no longer even listening to him. I was off on my own tangent because I could already see how his Real, Imaginary, Complex, Prime, Negative, Positive, Rational, Irrational, Sublime NUMBERS fit exactly what I thought about aging.

Age, like weight, IS what it IS. Lying about it does not change what it IS. Your fibs may fool some people, but you never fool yourself—unless you are a fool. But age can also be like size—you know how the sizes vary depending on where you shop or how much you spend? As much as we would like there to be some kind of agreed upon industry standard by which all clothing is measured, there is no such thing as a uniform “true size.” So the bottom line is that the size you wear, is the size that fits.  And thanks to people, mostly us boomers on a mission to defy the calendar, (and sell books) we can now have a variety of “measurable” ages. emotioanl-age-vs-chronological-ageThere’s Chronological Age (We know how this one works—count up from birth), Biological Age (Medical tests indicate how well or poorly our bodies are handling the passing of time), then we have Intellectual Age (Are we too old to be this dumb?) Emotional Age and Social Age (Are we mature? Do we play well with others?)

Those delineations may work for some people, and even though I have no clue what the words mean mathematically, I like my friend’s number theory terminology better.  Real Age, Imaginary Age,  Complex Age, Prime Age, Negative Age, Positive Age, Rational Age, Irrational Age and my personal favorite, Sublime Age.

So what’s a nifty fifty-something woman to do with so much to choose from? Well, that’s the beauty of this age theory—you get to pick. Isn’t that what we want? Some say in the matter? From back in the day when we were sitting-in, loving-in, marching, burning bras, controlling birth, renaming ourselves Ms—it was about making the choice ours. So here goes—

passport

Real Age—OK it’s on your driver’s license and passport so you’re stuck there.

Imaginary Age—How would you like to feel? Look? Caution: Be realistic, eighteen is out of the running, but Emotional-Age-1200x1046if you feel thirty-five, so be it.

Complex Age—You are interesting, layered, multi-faceted—Way better than “Simple” wouldn’t you say?

Prime Age— Isn’t it always the best, most usda-prime-gradeexpensive cut of meat? Enough said.

Positive Age—YES. Because it’s all how you look at it, and by now, you are positively who you are.

Negative Age—It’s time to subtract the negative things (and people) in your life.

Rational Age— You are old enough to know better.

Irrational Age— You are old enough to know better

Sublime Age— Supreme, impressive, awe-inspiring. Yep. That’s you.

sublime

 

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

 

1) List 5 things about you that seem/feel/look/are younger than you are.

2) List 5 things about you that seem/feel/look/are older than you are.

3) List 5 things about you that seem/feel/look/are exactly right for your age.calculator_large

4) Now, add these, divide the total by the number of the month of your birth, subtract the day of your birth from that and multiply by the year…take the average of these numbers and… Just kidding.

5) Look at your list, pick 3 things you need to change in order to be your Sublime Age.

6) Change them. Throw the rest away.

7) If there’s nothing you want to change, STOP READING NOW.

 

LESSON THREE – GOOD ENOUGH

LESSON THREE – GOOD ENOUGH

“Stop worrying about being good enough. You are good. And you are enough.”

 atelphobia

 

Congratulations! You’ve arrived at the place where it is time to take your inner critic off the clock.

I’m not talking about your inner Wise-Her—she tells you things you need to know, like you really should check the air pressure in your tires before you get on the road.  I’m talking about your Inner Harpy with her little negative barbs aimed squarely at your self-confidence.harpy Like the Harpies of mythology, she is fierce, bad-tempered and relentless. She’s the one who makes you wonder if you’re good enough. By now her nagging little voice has been whispering bits and pieces of self doubt into your psychic ear for decades, so long in fact, that at this juncture it seems like harmless white noise—you aren’t even aware of her presence any more. But she’s anything but harmless and she needs to go.  Now.

Your Inner Harpy probably uttered her barbie book bagfirst words back when you were a little girl and she was just a little Harpy in Training (H.I.T.). You hadn’t begun to “develop” yet—as they used to say, much less develop any anti-Harpy skills. So she went to work on your young, defenseless, happy little self. “How blue book bagcome you don’t have a Barbie book bag?” (Translation: The CUTE girls all have Barbie book bags while you have the practical blue one your mother insisted would last a couple of years.)  “Why don’t you have streamers on your bike?” (Translation: But even if you get streamers what if bike with streamersthey’re not the right color?)  b grade“Only a B in geography?” (Translation:  Not quite as smart as Melissa huh?)  “If you could jump higher you would have made the volleyball team.” (Translation: You’re too tall/short/fat/awkward— what ever gave you the idea you could be an athlete?)

And there you are, all of eight or nine years old and already the seeds of insecurity, of not being good enough are starting to germinate, and you don’t even know it.

The persistent little H.I.T. was good at her job and you weren’t trained to deflect her slings and arrows—so she grew stronger. By the time you were in your teens, traveling the harrowing hallways of high school, when the desire to fit in is at its most virulent, your Harpy really came into her own.PHI+hallway+lockers

You name the area of vulnerability and she found a way to attack you there. Her voice became insistent, shrill, unrelenting and far more direct than it had ever been before. Her words poked whatever spot was most tender and she reminded you in a non-stop barrage that you were not smart enough, pretty enough, tall enough, skinny enough, curvy enough, popular enough. Others were. You were not. It didn’t matter WHAT they were that you were not.  Whatever it was, they possessed, in abundance, all the qualities that you lacked.  Tsk. Tsk. How sad. Too bad for you.

comparison-fitnessAnd so the plague begins. Its most telling symptom is unconscious comparison—almost always to other women. We compare ourselves to our friends, sisters, mothers, cousins, co-workers, neighbors, strangers, bosses, movie stars, and sadly even to our daughters. Sometimes we know we’re doing it, but mostly we’re unaware of how many times a day we think of ourselves in terms of how we measure up to someone else, or someone else’s expectations. Those expectations are, more often than not, a presumption on our part—flawedbecause if we don’t think we’re good enough, how can anyone else possibly miss the bright flashing neon marquee on our forehead announcing our long list of shortcomings to all the world?  Believe me, despite the fact that it blinds YOU nearly every time you look at yourself, THEY don’t see it until you point it out. Why? Because they’re far too busy worrying if you are scrutinizing their list of personal inadequacies.

Now of course I’m not saying we’re all perfect—far from it. And I’m not advocating the “good enough for government work” standard here. Nor am I endorsing complacency or mediocrity as acceptable. We should all try to improve, to be the best we can be—to live the best lives we possibly can. But what that best is should not be determined by a comparison to an unfair and often impossible to achieve standard we have imposed on ourselves.

It’s time to stop being so self-critical. Give yourself some slack.i-am-enough

You know, or you should know, there will always be someone more beautiful, smarter, thinner, richer. And she may even appear more successful and happier, but so what? What she has or is, in no way adds to, or diminishes you. And you my friend, with your flaws, blemishes, frailties and peccadilloes are good enough.

 

 

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

 

1) The next time you go to the movies, buy yourself a BIG box of Good & Plenty. You remember the Day-Glo pink, and white candy from days of yore? ChooChoo Charlie and that train? They may even still sell it in stores, but the movies are probably a pretty good source.good and plenty

 

2) Put the Good & Plenty wherever you keep your vitamins and have one piece every day along with your multi-vitamin. Even if the black licorice flavor isn’t to your liking, eat it anyway. This isn’t candy, or dessert. It’s to remind you that not only are you good enough–you are good. AND you are enough.

 

3) If you’re not convinced when the box is finished. Buy another one.