Monthly Archives: May 2009

A fashion conspiracy

My taste has not changed much since I was in my 30s.  The styles that appealed to me back then can oftentimes be revisited in today’s fashions. I am a lover of balanced proportions, flattering shapes, clean lines, non-clashing patterns, and good quality.

I eagerly dive into the women’s magazines at doctor’s office waiting rooms and in beauty salons, fantasize about my body being about two sizes smaller than it is now, and imagine myself in some of the clothes I see within their pages, as I always have.  I am not immune to the temptation to tear out a page when no one is looking (uh-oh — busted!), just to make sure I don’t forget what I will need to look up when I get home.

I am convinced, however, women’s magazines that boast reasonably-priced beauty products (not the Vogue or Elle magazines of the world) and ‘affordable’ wardrobe pieces do this merely to tease us.

Why?  Because EVERY single time I go to find that ‘crisp blazer’, described as a stretchy little white cotton sateen jacket that can be worn with a slouchy tank in a sort of ‘hot-Miami-nights’ way does not exist except in the picture.

They tout the label as Nine West, yet not a single Google hit gets me to that jacket using their exact description.  Take three steps back and punt. It’s supposedly available at Macy’s. So I sift through dozens of online pages but still find nothing like the one in the magazine.

I am convinced they do this merely to make us resort to a trip to Marshall’s to look for a knock-off.  If these magazines are laid out a month or two before they go to press, then why not at least tell us the items they show on their pages are already outdated and perhaps even out of stock?

Here is another question for you:  why do I have to go all the way to a department store to buy high quality makeup?  Neighborhood stand-alone stores like Sephora or Ulta can’t carry the full lines of any of the department store brands I have come to know and love as a Boomer, from Chanel, to Prescriptives, to Lancome to Bobbi Brown. So I find myself schlepping all the way to the mall for a lousy bottle of foundation or moisturizer or having to wait for it to be sent after ordering it online.

Can you take one more rant? A frustration of mine is the introduction of all those cool looking blue jeans supposedly designed for the middle-aged woman. Please, no two-inch rises that barely clear the pubic bone,  no skinny-cut legs for us. With these made-for-us-Boomer jeans, every detail is supposed to flatter the seasoned woman’s curves, such as bootleg styling and tummy flattening technology built into the jeans.

Last week I went to try on some of these jeans made just for me. And what do I find?  The waistband rises so high I feel like Erkel, the thighs are cut so snugly they emphasize the least attractive part of my shape, and the zipper doesn’t even start until halfway up the crotch, making them look like grandma pants.

I will not give up, however. The perfect pair of jeans in the perfect mid-dark wash is out there somewhere. And someday I WILL look like a reasonable facsimile of the model in the picture, who has anything BUT the figure of this (overly)shapely woman they talk about.  No lumps, no bumps, the pant legs will float gracefully away from the thigh at just the perfect location so as to shape and snug the derriere nicely, and the waistband will hug flatteringly without creating a muffin top.

It will happen.  In this lifetime. Because I’ve only got this one time to go around.

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Singing to each other

No matter how hard I try, I can’t blot out the childhood memory of sitting in a row of other girls against the gymnasium wall, being among the last chosen for a kickball team. Perhaps my discomfort with the words ‘team player’ began way back then.

Corporate jobs found me dissatisfied with whatever tasks I was assigned. The result?  I constantly looked for ways to break out of my confines by doing something different – something distinguishable – so that no matter what ‘team’ I was supposed to have been a part of, I made myself different from the others.

As notable as these tendencies may sound, however, people like me can end up berating themselves for years, wondering why their thresholds for the prescribed, supposedly ‘normal’ activities in life fail to satisfy us.

I have come to discover that I can play on one team, however. It’s the kind of team that raises its voices in song.   My fascination with choral singing began in elementary school, when singing was a daily activity in class.  Most of the songs we sang from our songbooks were in unison, but a few were ‘rounds’ like ‘Hey Ho, Nobody Home’ or ‘Row,Row,Row Your Boat’ in which the same melody begun on different beats came into harmony as it repeatedly tried to catch up with itself.  I was fascinated and loved to hear the other ‘parts’ of the class singing different notes that complimented my own.

Soon I found myself searching out the harmony parts in popular songs, always opting for the alto voice.  Choral singing became a godsend to me, at last making me feel like a player on an important team. Throughout the years, I have belonged to small and large choirs, some trained and others merely made up of people who had little or no training but loved to sing.

If you have ever been a part of a rigorously-trained choral group, however, you would agree that choirs are more than just a collection of voices that can read music, sing on tune or warble out their vibratos—more than a variety of soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass voices.  Good ones are truly teams, looking not only to the conductor to lead them but also to one another to make the music work.

Of all the choral groups of which I have become a part, none has taught me the beauty of the team concept than the little six-voice women’s chamber group I which I am now participating.

Only six voices, you may ask?  Believe it or not, being one of only six singers is the biggest vocal challenge I have ever faced, apart from an occasional solo, when I’ve tried hard to picture the audience in its underwear.

Catherine, our choral director, is a stickler for proper musicality, pronunciation, tone, posture, and even attitude. After our vocal warm-ups, she dives with gusto into each piece of music we are to perform like an orchestra conductor, making us repeat each musical phrase. Then she follows up with explanations that paint mental pictures of what she wants from us.

For vocal quality, she pretends to pull a string from the top of her head in order to make us emit sound not from our throats or our noses, but tones reverberating to the tops of our heads.  For pronunciation, she exaggerates operatic lilts, so that our American hard vowel sounds and lazy consonants are moderated, made sweeter and easier on the ear.

But her most remarkable feat of all in a tiny group like this is teaching us to blend our voices – to actually create single chords out of six unique voices at once. To do this, she has us face one another, three in each line from across the room.  “Sing to the people across from you,” she says.  “Realize that when you sing your notes, they aren’t meant to eclipse the others. They are meant to compliment them. So listen to one another other as you sing.”

As I’ve said, singing in harmony is fun.  But even more challenging, especially for a tiny choral group, is to blend when singing notes in unison.  Why?  Because God granted us all different voices, each with a different vocal color attached to them.

For more blending instruction, Catherine orders us to put our music down and hold hands,. We look at one another in bewilderment.  “If you are holding hands, you can’t help but want to match one another’s tones,” she explains.

We obey. And like children on the playground ready to walk in a circle, we grab hands.  She plays the lead-in music to the piece, the first page of which is unison singing, with no harmony required from us whatsoever.  And as we begin singing, we feel the voices magically strive to match one another in tone, in pronunciation and in volume.

As the piece ends, we look at one another in awe and surprise at our small musical feat. And our director smiles and says, “Can you hear and feel the difference?”

Ah, if only life were like singing!  If people could just listen to one another, the way we learned to in this tiny choir, think of how many of the world’s ills would be lessened or even eliminated . . .

And so, after more than five decades of life, I have suddenly discovered the beauty of becoming a team player.  No need to stand out. No need to be different — just the sublime feeling of blending with five other voices to make one coherent and mellifluous sound.

The lessons, of course, are endless.

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At last — an owner’s manual to midlife love and romance

Of all the topics I cover in my columns, few evoke more positive reactions from readers than those about midlife love and romance.  It could be because  unattached Boomers in their 40s and 50s are at an exciting crossroads.

Why a crossroads?  Unless people in midlife are settled into long-term marriages, they generally fall into three categories:  (1) those who married and divorced and their kids are grown or nearly grown, (2) those who never took the plunge, either because they never wanted to or because they would rather go to their graves unmarried than be with the wrong person, and (3) those who have lost their significant others or spouses.

The U.S. Census Bureau cites that the rate of people in the second group (never-marrieds) are now finding love at unprecendented levels, probably due to the pool of available people surfacing in the other two groups and the advent of online dating.

So how do people in our age group stack the odds in their favor where love and romance is concerned?  Some of the stories I’ve heard about online dating experiences are enough to make my eyelashes curl without the aid of a torture device.  Sure, it’s a jungle out there.  But as women, there are ways of meeting people and setting yourself up for success that might produce better results than posting profiles that start out with, “I like long walks in the sunset and adore my cat.”

I am finding that there is a need for a book to help catapult the single, middle-aged gal into realizing that just because she is no proberbial Jennifer Aniston doesn’t mean she can’t be a real catch in middle age.  It’s all in the attitude and not far behind it, the presentation. Thus, the reason for writing my upcoming book, The Smart Women’s Guide to Romance in Midlife.

With the text still in its rough draft stages, I am looking for stories to use as illustrations in the book. If you or someone you know has experienced finding the love of your life, and the subjects of the story are between the ages of 45 and 65 (or close),  I would love to hear from you. You don’t have to be a writer to tell your story — telephone interviews can be set up. First names only will be used, but the stories must be true. You can help others by telling these inspiring stories!! In exchange for your help, I will give you three copies of the book, along with my profuse and eternal appreciation.

In my classically irreverent style, I will deal with a host of topics women want to hear about, from first impressions (bad hair days to how not to dress for a first date), how talking incessantly about your last boyfriend or husband is boh-ring (and what it says about you), what important questions to ask a man phrased so that he doesn’t feel as if you are the grand inquisitor, and some telltale signs that the guy just could be a keeper. I will also go into being the best you can be before setting your sites on finding the best person, the mindset you bring with you, dressing for the body you have instead of the one you want, how to write an online profile that is honest, engaging and interesting, the obstacles you throw in your way that may keep you from going forward, what NOT to talk about on the first few dates, and how to spot guys that may SAY they want to hook up for the long-term, but give out warning signs that indicate otherwise.

Stories that are used will illustrate points in each section, hopefully giving gals the boost they need to go for the gusto and perhaps learn a little bit about themselves along the way.

This is an exciting adventure for me and hopefully for the ladies who read my upcoming book. Locally, I am holding seminars using my book as the theme. Included in these seminars are makeup, fitness and wardrobe experts giving advice tailored to women in our age group, so there is never a dull moment.

So, Lady Boomers unite!  There is so much wisdom among us out there for the single gals to learn from, and from what I know, women are the finest networkers ever, offering support and sisterhood at every turn.

Send your questions and stories to me at dena@communic8or.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

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