Category Archives: aging

Of course you’ll recognize your parents in heaven

This from the heart-breaking poem called “Washing the Elephant.”

And here’s the heart-breaking part:

What if Father Quinn had said, “Of course you’ll recognize your parents in heaven,” instead of “being one with God will make your mother and father pointless.
Lily sent this to me after a weekend in Florida, visiting not one but two in-laws in not one but two Memory Care facilities in not one but two cities, not one but two hours away from each other.
In many ways, mother-in-law Mary is already gone. She who rests her forehead on the tabletop as we converse with her, falling asleep, startling awake, drifting off again to who knows where. Come to think of it, we didn’t even think about taking a photo of us together.
On the other side of the state, father-in-law Al is all too aware of his decline. He is failing, before our very eyes, but so slowly, that it comes as a hard surprise when whole functions disappear: walking, conversation, self-feeding. He wants to tell us a “cute story,” but its meaning evaporates after a set-up that involves a company, its sales force, a trip to another city.
Perhaps to compensate, we took many, many photos of him. As if to keep him with us? His last few words with me were so lovely: “You classed up this whole operation,” he said of me about my role in the di Costanzo family.

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So here’s to “the ones that have etched themselves in the laugh lines and frown lines on the face” And here’s to the rest of the poem:

Washing the Elephant

Isn’t it always the heart that wants to wash
the elephant, begging the body to do it
with soap and water, a ladder, hands,
in tree-shade big enough for the vast savannahs
of your sadness, the strangler fig of your guilt,
the cratered full moon’s light fueling
the windy spooling memory of elephant?
What if Father Quinn had said, “Of course you’ll recognize
your parents in heaven,” instead of
“Being one with God will make your mother and father
pointless.” That was back when I was young enough
to love them absolutely though still fear for their place
in heaven, imagining their souls like sponges full
of something resembling street water after rain.
Still my mother sent me every Saturday to confess,
to wring the sins out of my small baffled soul, and I made up lies
about lying, disobeying, chewing gum in church, to offer them
as carefully as I handed over the knotted handkercheif of coins
to the grocer when my mother sent me for a loaf of Wonder,
Land O’Lakes, and two Camels.
If guilt is the damage of childhood, then eros is the fall of adolescence.
Of the fall begins there, and never ends, desire after desire parading
through a lifetime like the Ringling Brothers elephants
made to walk through the Queens-Midtown Tuunnel
and down 34th Street to the Garden.
So much of our desire like their bulky, shadowy walking
after midnight, exiled from the wild and destined
for a circus with its tawdry gaudiness, its unspoken
pathos.
It takes more than half a century to figure out who they were,
the few real loves-of-your-life and how much of the rest—
the mad breaking-heart stickiness—falls away, slowly,
unnoticed, the way you lose your taste for things
like Popsicles unthinkingly.
And though dailiness may have no place
for the ones that have etched themselves in the laugh lines
and frown lines on the face that’s harder and harder
to claim as your own, often one love-of-your-life
will appear in a dream, arriving
with the weight and certitude of an elephant,
and it’s always the heart that wants to go out and wash
the huge mysteriousness of what they meant, those memories
that have only memories to feed them, and only you to keep them clean.
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Hire Your Mom

I’m drawn to articles about ageism, especially as that relates to women who achieved real success and, at the age of 50 or 60 or even older, still have it. “It” being some combination of experience, expertise, management skills, a strong work ethic and the potential to grow in a job. Currency, in a word.

But the workplace views her as a worker whose currency has been so devalued she’s not even considered for positions for which she’s well- (or over-) qualified,

(I see errors I’ll let stand that reveal bias in my own writing: “60 or even older” and “still.”)

An editor and one-time EIC of McCall’s, Sally Koslow is “lucky” enough to have published novels, she writesUnhappy Retirement in The New York Times. So while she doesn’t appear to be struggling, she feels the bias all the same: “In my mid-fifties I was shown the door,” says Koslow, who wrote the novel “Little Pink Slips,” about the magazine world. “The old saw goes that on a deathbed body wishes they’d spent more time at the office, but I suspect many women whose careers stop prematurely do.”

She makes the point that women who choose (and who can choose to) take off a few years, or a decade, to raise children, have a narrow window to achieve success. Rejoin the workforce at 35 or 40 and you have 20 years to succeed. After that, if you’re Koslow, you’re joining “the gig economy,” as she calls it, while admitting that hers is a pretty good gig. On the other hand, a woman I met recently spoke of her current gigs, hustling for video and film projects after having worked on staff at Saturday Night Live. “To make ends meet, she works at the food-sampling table at B.J.’s,” a mutual friend confided to me.

So I join Koslow in her plea to HR people everywhere: “Hire someone’s your mom’s age.”

 

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The Ladies Room

7 Unexpected Business Lessons I’ve Learned From Millennial WomenScreen Shot 2017-03-22 at 11.22.25 AM

I am a VP and editorial director at a large media company. Now 56 years old, I follow with interest debates about whether women at my level do enough to mentor millennial women — a heated and sometimes fractious discourse that covers why they do or don’t, if they should or shouldn’t and so much more… Read more on Tue/Night >

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The Ladies Room: 8 Things I’ve Learned From Working With Millennial Women

I am a VP and editorial director at a large media company. Now 56 years old, I follow with interest debates about whether women at my level do enough to help millennial women climb the corporate ladder — a heated and sometimes fractious discourse that covers why they do or don’t, if they should or shouldn’t and so much more. Famously, there’s Madeleine Albright’s “special place in hell” arguing from the “should” camp (although she’d later characterize the statement as “undiplomatic”). There’s Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s supposition that women feel obligated to not show a gender bias leading the “why they don’t” discussion.

And then there’s the less discussed but pervasive—and patronizing—attitude of a certain kind of senior leader toward her younger female colleagues. The sentiments shared with me, because I am old and it is assumed I will feel the same way: They are entitled, brash, not deferential enough toward leadership, look at their phones when I’m talking in meetings and let’s not even get into what they wear to work. As a theme, the objections are mostly about ignoring social queues and not adhering to “normative” workplace behavior.

It should (but doesn’t) go without saying: what’s “normative” changes constantly. I try to remember this when I find myself rolling my eyes at generational differences in the workplace. It’s also worth knowing they’re rolling their eyes back. I’m thinking of the time I referenced “the ladies room” only to overhear one female employee grousing to another: “why the f***k is a grown-ass woman talking about a ‘ladies room?’” The truth is, adapting to a changing world is how any of us survive— in the workplace and on the planet. And I don’t intend to stop adapting now, even if the change agents are women 35 years younger than I am. A partial list of what I’ve learned: 

  1. Casual references to calories, dieting and “I feel so fat” are not OK

When I was the rising generation, a certain kind of striving-to-be-inclusive female boss would attempt to cozy up with “just us gals” chat like this. Fifty-something leaders, myself included, need to celebrate body positivism as a great leap forward.

  1. Pronouns matter

I got into a ridiculously heated discussion over using they/them when referring to an individual, so as to honor their not choosing to use he/she/him/her. My wrongheaded objection was based grammatical — an individual can’t use plural pronouns, I said. I was so, so wrong. The argument ends here: yes, they can, whatever Chicago Manual of Style might think.

  1. (Office) Clothing, optional

Women miss the point when they judge each other on clothing choices: bared midriffs, ripped jeans, lacy bralettes worn over tops. Too long, we’ve had men characterize us by how we dress. Let’s not do that too each other, OK?

  1. Don’t use prissy punctuation on Slack

I’m an editor. I like a well-placed semi-colon and the proper use of a one-m dash. But Slack (or a text) is not the place for them.

  1. Stop all that ‘splaining

Sometimes, when you’re the boss of people in the room or simply when you happen to be the one talking, you talk over people about something you know less about than they do. This is a kind of abuse of power, at worst, and borderline offensive, at best. And by “you” I mean “me.”

  1. Girl, not interrupted

I’ve been stunned—in a good way—at my younger female colleagues easy deflection of manterrupters. It’s not harder than this, as it turns out: “Give me another sec, I haven’t finished my point, Andrew.”

  1. I am not her mother

There’s slightly icky workplace type called the Office Mom, who helps the young’uns personally and professionally (whether they want her help or not). It’s all too easy to see your daughter or son in like-aged colleagues, but they’re not actually your children, let us remind ourselves to remind ourselves.

  1. It never was a dress

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Put another way, it’s best to steer clear of anachronisms like “the ladies room.”

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Things I Can Never Remember

How to pronounce deus ex machina (doesn’t come up a lot, but still)

Which direction to cross myself in a Catholic Church: left to right, right?

How to spell commitment without autospell’s help: how many t’s, how many m’s and don’t read too much into this.

The rationale for the Electoral College

To remove my mascara before I get into bed, after which time it’s it’s far, far too late

Not to drink a third glass of wine

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For everywoman who refuses to be invisible…

 

alyson-walsh-3-2014_04_25_pure_aw_13_shot_13_139-copy-2There’s Alyson Walsh’s blog “That’s Not My Age.” I mean look at her! She’s beautiful and cool and British. And she recently posted this photo of Lauren Hutton. I’m following her (anywhere).

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Lauren Hutton for Bottega Veneta

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Makeup Free Movement, as reported by blogger Atypical60

Catherine gets real about “no makeup,” better called “some makeup” and also “lots of makeup.”

Source: Makeup Free Movement? Nope. I’m of the Make Me Up Movement!!!

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This is What 68 Looks Like

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Linda Rodin: Girl-Crush-Worthy

I don’t know Linda Rodin, except for what I’ve read on Goop. The profile is as breathless and overstated as you’d expect from a pro-woman web site. To clarify, the sites and their intentions are good, but the boss-lady profiles tend to bog down in superlatives. Here’s the first sentence, awkward in its girl crush: “There’s lit-from-within in the “glow” sense, and there’s lit-from-within from the standpoint of visibly, joyfully vibrating with energy …

Etcetera.

The thing is, Linda Rodin just seems cool and natural and a little chary in her responses to questions about her slim build and good skin. “Everybody sees these pictures of me retouched. I don’t look like that! People say, you look so great, but I mean, we’re not having lunch together, that’s not how I really look,” she says.

Here’s how she looks:

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Linda Rodin, age 68

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Linda Rodin: Sleeping Beauty

Rodin has a skincare line called Olio Lusso, from which I have a tiny bottle of skin oil. If it would help me look like her at 68 and, most especially, be that cool, I’d buy it by the barrel, along with a tube of lipstick called Billie on Her Bike, because the name’s so, so good.

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BILLIE ON THE BIKE Inspired by Linda’s mother Beatrice, aka “Billie,” this violet berry is the shade she wore to ride her bicycle, work in the garden or to do just about everything.

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This is what 84 looks like

Carmen Dell Orefice is billed by this Fortune article as the world’s oldest working model (Baddie Winkle might have something to say about that). Her looks are confectionary: flossy platinum hair, doll-like features, painted-on lips and a complexion like wedding cake icing. Nearly 100% artifice, at least in her modeling photos, which is all we ever see.

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Carmen Dell Orefice, age 85

She’s looked exactly like this for decades — same gravity-defying white hair, same placidly arrogant expression. But as a young model she was an extremely interesting-looking beauty, an Italian girl, which is to say ethnic for that time.

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Carmen Dell Orefice

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