Category Archives: women

The Pause

 

Pause is the title of a essay by the poet Mary Ruefle about menopause. It is long and, in many ways not my experience. I never felt suicidal, wanting to kill myself “with a steaming hot turned-on iron.” Ruefle (hmmm… sounds like rueful?) writes in the third person, telling you what you will feel, with no small amount of conviction, which is why I feel the urge to disagree with her. However, this part sounds right to me, especially the italicized bit:

You have the desire to leave your husband or lover or partner, whatever.

No matter how stable or loving the arrangement, you want out.

You may decide to take up an insane and hopeless cause. You may decide to walk to Canada, or that it is high time you begin to collect old blue china, three thousand pieces of which will leave you bankrupt. Suddenly the solution to all problems lies in selling your grandmother’s gold watch or drinking your body weight in cider vinegar. A kind of wild forest blood runs in your veins.

This, and other behaviors, will horrify you. You will seek medical help because you are intelligent, and none of the help will help.

You will feel as if your life is over and you will be absolutely right about that, it is over.

No matter how attractive or unattractive you are, you have been used to having others look you over when you stood at the bus stop or at the chemist’s to buy tampons. They have looked you over to assess how attractive or unattractive you are, so no matter what the case, you were looked at. Those days are over; now others look straight through you, you are completely invisible to them, you have become a ghost.

I do feel invisible, which, Frances McDormand tells me is the best thing that will ever happen to me:

‘You become sexually invisible to both men and women. You gain the power of not giving a shit,’ McDormand says in a profile about her in the NY Times Sunday Magazine.

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Frances McDormand, Difficult Woman

And I love Ruefle’s last lines, finally hopeful, and explaining why the pause exists in the first place:

You haven’t even begun. You must pause first, the way one must always pause before a great endeavor, if only to take a good breath.

Happy old age is coming on bare feet, bringing with it grace and gentle words, and ways which grim youth have never known. 

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An Exodus of Editors

Within a few weeks time, Nancy Gibbs of Time (32 years at that magazine), Elle’s Robbie Myers (16 years), Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair, and Glamour’s Cindi Leive (17 years) announced they were leaving their posts. None of them seemed to have real plans, save Carter’s decision to live and drink wine in France for awhile.

They also share this: all of them are in the old-to-really-old age range, they all pulled down a $1MM or more (Carter at $2MM) and every single one of their magazines is tinier and less profitable than its ever been.

Keith Kelly (no spring chicken himself) piles on even more grim stats in his article, heralding the end of days for the “celebrity editor.”

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Meanwhile, back at Time Inc., we are undergoing a months-long McKinsey operations review and launching new revenue streams like PetHero, a program where for $20 a month, members can get, in addition to pet toys and products, discounts on health care for pets.

Which sounds to me like a final death knell for editors, those of us left.

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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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Women + Wine

From Quartz, an article that promises to reveal “the real reason women drink too much wine.” The writer, who is now sober, points to the literal wash of alcohol all over the media, her office, the birthday card rack and even billboards: “Driving home from work, I pass billboard ads for Fluffed Marshmallow Smirnoff and Iced Cake Smirnoff and not just Cinnamon, but Cinnamon Churros Smirnoff.” The birthday card thing is something I’ve noticed too — with their jokey invitations to “rose all day” and also:

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But, no, the real reason she’s an alcoholic is that she is an alcoholic, as it turns out, and it’s really damn hard to be a women in this world.

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Mean Moms

There’s an epidemic of mean moms in the entertainment I’m watching. Reese Witherspoon is hilarious as the take-no-prisoners Madeline in Big Little Lies: it’s Elle Woods, 10 years out of Harvard with her J.D. degree gathering dust in one of the many hundreds of rooms in her swank, NoCal beach house, polarizing principals, pupils and—most of all—the other moms at her daughter’s school. Debate her big heart versus her “meanness” all you like but, spoiler alert, someone is killed and the killer is not a man (although he deserved her wrath, for sure). 31-big-little-lies.w710.h473.2x

I just finished watching the elliptically named “Gypsy,” a Netflix series starring Naomi Watts as a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist whose cognition and behavior become increasingly suspect. “Boring, boring, boring,” lamented a Newsday reviewer, who complains that even “the city that never sleeps,” the series’ setting, “manages to doze off in the middle of the never-ending torpor that has become her life.” Agreed, but my point is: Watts’ character is attacked by a cadre of sniping and biting mean moms and she bites back.  I also object to her Connecticut home, which somehow has a view of the Tappan Zee Bridge from the backyard.

Gypsy

And who cares?

Then there’s the shelf full of books about mean moms. A same-named tome written by a daughter “overcoming the legacy of hurt. The comic-book like  “Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later” — wow, there’s just so much wrong with this book (including a terrible font) that we will set it aside.

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And apparently, there’s a Jennifer Aniston vehicle called Mean Moms, that’s reported as stuck in development. Just as well, perhaps.

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Earth as One Big Forgiveness School (and other thoughts from Anne Lamott)

 

In her writing, Anne Lamott has a wry and gentle way of pointing me in a good direction. She doesn’t want to be the object of attention, although she garners radical amounts of positivity when she posts. Rather, she is like a signpost that says “try going over there instead.” In her first TED talk, she identifies 12 things she knows to be true, as informed by her 60-plus years on earth (which she celebrates, she says, because she’s glad to know longer be in the death throes of late-middle-age). Here are the truths that mean the most to me:

  1. Insisting on helping people all the time is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Stop getting your helpfulness and goodness all over everybody.

 

  1. Nothing outside of you will fix you. It’s an inside job. (Her parenthetic exception: unless you’re waiting for an organ.)

 

  1. Food: try to do a little better. “I think you know what I mean.”

 

  1. Almost everything will work again if you unplug it in a few minutes, including yourself.

 

  1. Quoting Ram Dass: When all is said and done, we’re really just all walking each other home.

 

  1. Earth is one big forgiveness school. (My parenthetic truth: I’m pretty sure I’m not a star student.)

 

  1. Grace bats last. I read this in an essay and I don’t know what this means. Even so, I hope it’s true.
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Feminism + Bras 2017

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Emma Watson, Vanity Fair, March 2017

Starring as Belle in Beauty & the Beast, Emma Watson appears on the cover of Vanity Fair in a nude top-and-cape number, to much criticism. Gloria Steinem was asked whether a real feminist would ever wear such a thing. “Feminists can wear anything they fucking want,” she said to TMZ.

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Nevertheless, she persisted (the t-shirt)

First a rebuke, then a rallying cry, now a t-shirt.

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Activism, by Fruit of the Loom

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Jackie/Power

 

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I had resisted seeing the movie Jackie for reasons I can’t recall: it felt like a vehicle for Natalie Portman? The movie trailer looked kitschy?

But it informed my thoughts about women and power — and how during that time women were allowed to use power in only the most non-threatening ways, which sort of negates it, doesn’t it? Jackie had the makings of a powerful woman. She was high born and well-educated, taking a job as a reporter. She was beautiful and married Kennedy and would define the style of her time. There is one scene, near the end, when she watches as Jackie-like mannequins are unloaded from the back of truck, bound for Bergdorf’s windows.

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Jackie, Jackie

But she suppresses her intelligence and confidence. Doubts her future and (although the movie doesn’t show it) flings herself into the arms of another powerful man.

Where is my husband? She asks, a little wild-eyed, during the famous, televised tour of the White House. She looks like a flight attendant, no, a stewardess, with her small steps and straight spine.

I’m here to serve you, her expression says.

When asked a question that strays from the subject of White House décor, she demurs: Oh that’s complicated, isn’t it?

When traveling with the President and their security detail, she is hesitant, looking over at him as she moves through the crowd.

But there’s scene on a dance floor, when she is wearing a flaming red dress — representing passion? Anger? Seduction? — looking assured and confident and powerful, twirling in her husband’s arms as the soundtrack plays Camelot: Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.

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