BOOMERBROADcast

Baby Boomer's social commentary on life in OUR sixties for those who experienced life in THE sixties.


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Caitlin Moran celebrates feminism

Moran's bravado has made me feel more comfortable with my own "smiley face".

Moran’s bravado has made me feel more comfortable with my own “smiley face”.

Ya’ gotta love a woman who is so self-possessed, during an interview in front of hundreds of people in a packed auditorium, whips up her shirt and grabs her loose belly fat to make a smiley face, complete with eyes drawn on her bra. In the course of reading her book Moranthology (written five years ago) I viewed a couple of interviews on YouTube and Caitlin Moran did just that. One interview I watched was at our own Bluma Appel Theatre here in Toronto and the other was in Denmark.

British author, columnist, feminist and married mother of two daughters, Caitlin Moran is totally without guile and her strong views on feminism have me rethinking some of my own opinions. Growing up in a three-bedroom council house in Wolverhampton, England, Moran is the eldest of eight children of a disabled father and stay-at-home mother living on social assistance. In her family’s unique interpretation of home schooling, the children were banished to the local library twice a day to read and learn whatever they fancied. “I spent days running in and out of other worlds like a time bandit, or a spy. I was as excited as I’ve ever been in my life, in that library: scoring new books the minute they came in; ordering books I’d heard of—then waiting, fevered, for them to arrive, like they were the word ‘Christmas'”, she writes. Her experience alone is a strong justification for never reducing funding or closing local libraries, particularly in underprivileged neighbourhoods.  Fortunately for Moran, what her education lacked in the basics, she compensated for in a love of reading, learning and personal growth.

caitlin2Through a series of serendipitous events, Moran landed a job as a journalist at a very young age. You can read more on her fascinating story in her other books How To Build A Girl and How To Be A Woman. Moranthology outlines her philosophy of life. Her coarse, no-holds-barred delivery is not for everyone but she is totally honest and sincere and I admire her for that. She is committed to the greater good, particularly for women and minorities.

I’ve always been opposed to quotas in hiring of women and minorities as being a form of reverse discrimination but Moran’s argument has me rethinking my position. She writes, “But Cate—if you insist fifty percent of your workforce is women, and force employers to hire them, that means you’re gonna get women who are wildly ill-qualified desk-meat . . . . That can’t be right! . . . Well, it’s not right. It is, however, totally normal. After all, in an office that’s seventy percent men, at least twenty percent of them are going to be wildly ill-qualified desk meat . . .  People who are anti-positive-discrimination are ignoring the fact that we’ve been giving jobs to MILLIONS of stupid, unqualified people for millenia: men.” Boom! I never thought of it that way and as someone who has witnessed many unqualified men over the years being promoted to positions senior to me in business and making a lot more money, Moran definitely has a point. It was more common when Boomers were building careers than it is now to watch men being promoted to Office Manager, Bank Manager, Principal, Supervisor, Vice-President or even President when there were more qualified, capable women sitting in the wings and being bypassed.

caitlin3Moran also challenges young women who claim to not be feminists and casually dismiss the subject. She reminds them that unless they work in a sweat shop for barely subsistence pay, have been denied the right to marry whomever they choose regardless of gender, unless they are not allowed to vote or drive a car, or are denied birth control or the right to a legal abortion, then they should be thanking the feminists who worked on their behalf before them and therefore they are feminists. I share her frustration. There’s more work to be done in raising women’s salaries to equal that of men and changing the current laws that punish women who have been sexually assaulted or otherwise abused by men, along with a host of other issues.

One of the most fascinating aspects of reading Moran’s book for me, however, is how some women rise above circumstances that ordinarily would be considered dead-end or at the very least challenging to become successful beyond their social and economic origins. Moran likens the yoke of poverty to being “passed down like a drizzle, or a blindness . . . if kids from a poor background achieve something, it’s while dragging this weight behind them . . .  it takes ten times the effort to get anywhere from a bad postcode.” One of my favourite authors, psychologist Catherine Gildiner (author of Too Close To The Falls, After The Falls and Coming Ashore) is currently researching this subject for an upcoming book she is writing. Jeannette Walls author of The Glass Castle is another example of such a woman. None of Moran’s siblings achieved the level of accomplishment she has despite being raised in the same home, in the same circumstances by the same parents. It’s a fascinating subject and Moran is a fascinating woman.

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Eddie and Patsy are still Absolutely Fabulous

If I have one complaint about Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie it’s relatively minor. British comedy tends to be rather formulaic and this is definitely evident in Jennifer Saunders’s new movie about the latest adventures of Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone. The Globe and Mail was accurate in their rating of three stars out of four and even as a fanatical fan of AbFab humour, I’d be hard pressed to give it any more.

Ab fab3The best part of the movie and what I enjoyed the most were the visual elements, not the rather predictable dialogue and plot. Most of the original cast members were revived along with a long list of wonderful cameos by such celebs as John Hamm, Kate Moss, Stella McCartney, Jerry Hall, Rebel Wilson, Lulu, Baby Spice, Barry Humphries (Dame Edna et al), Joan Collins, Jean-Paul Gaulthier and many others.

The slap stick and unspoken jokes were delicious. Unlike most of us whose morning routine consists of waking up, showering, brushing our teeth, Patsy casually picks up a hypodermic needle and starts injecting her face and inserts a liposuction tube down her pants from her personal in-home machine, while engaging in small talk with Eddie. The costume designer must have had a ball dressing the characters, particularly the eternally incompetent Bubble. Perhaps it says something about my questionable taste in fashion, but I have always envied and admired Patsy’s wardrobe and the clothes she wears in this movie are yummy. Of course having a body like a mannequin helps enormously.

ab fab4Both Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are wonderful as Eddie and Patsy and it’s hard to believe nearly twenty-five years have passed since they first introduced their characters. Joanna Lumley is a particular genius at turning a raised eyebrow or subtle nuance of expression into a wicked inside joke.  I won’t disclose any of the plot as it’s already “out there” and I would like you to experience the movie with minimal preconceptions. You will find the closing scene reminiscent of the closing scene of Some Like it Hot. Enjoy your popcorn and have fun. I did.

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Start the car sweetie dahlings, start the car!

abfab2Eddy and Patsy are in town—or more accurately, now in a movie theatre near you, if you’re lucky. The long-awaited Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie has finally been released and I can’t wait to see it. As a long-time fan of British humour and in particular the BBC series starring Jennifer Saunders and Joanne Lumley on which the movie is based, I’m beside myself with excitement. It’s one of the few television series for which I own the entire boxed set of shows dating from 1992.

Absolutely Fabulous chronicles the lives of Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone who personify past-their-prime fashionistas and best friends who selfishly embrace every new fashion, diet, beauty and social fad that appears. Edina runs her own faltering PR firm and Patsy has some vague position with a fashion mag. Both are brutally self-centred remnants of the hippie era who embrace all of life’s vices including smoking, lite drug use and drinking copious amount of “bolly”.

abfab1Jennifer Saunders is the creative genius behind Absolutely Fabulous which she writes and delivers with piercing humour. The Globe and Mail actually gave it three stars out of four and while I don’t usually agree with movie reviews, I have a feeling they’re pretty close to the money this time. It’s a cult movie for mature women everywhere. Stay tuned for my review; I’m heading for the movie theatre now. Start the car, sweetie dahling!

 

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Music no longer rocks my world

music2During the sixties and early seventies, my entire life unfolded to the sounds of 1050 CHUM radio playing in the background. Jungle Jay and Bob McAdorey were my musical gurus. I woke up to Down in the Boondocks on the clock radio, made dinner to Donovan chanting Jennifer, Juniper or Tom Jones’ Delila and danced on the weekends to every sixties song charting that week. Music was the energy powering my life. I can still remember the first 45 rpm record I purchased with an entire week’s allowance of one dollar, Teen Angel by Mark Dinning. Sha Na Na kept me rockin’ in the seventies and hating to let go, Don Daynard’s Saturday night oldies show became my favourite radio program into the eighties.

Does it get any better?

Does it get any better?

Sixties music is still my preferred choice for listening and dancing, but music no longer dominates the wall-to-wall sound track of my life. The raunchy sounds of the Stones, the angst of Bob Dylan, the poetic harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel and mind-blowing creativity of The Beatles have been replaced by a preference for talk radio. Is it because there has been so little music since Sounds of Silence or She’s Leaving Home that match the poetry and universal appeal of sixties music? Or is it a natural evolution. In fact, what I now prefer is literally the sound of silence.

Radio and music were an integral part of our lives in the sixties and seventies. The content fed our musical and emotional souls. Radio now provides us with the news, traffic reports and the weather. And I’m becoming increasingly more discontent with it altogether as the news is always bad, traffic reports are merely a source of frustration and anger, and the weather reports are always wrong. I have an ongoing beef with the lack of relevant women’s programming, particularly since Sirius XM satellite radio cancelled my favourite programs, What She Said on Canada Talks Channel 167, The Judith Regan Show on Stars Channel 109 and The Martha Stewart channel.

A sweet metaphor for life in the sixties.

A sweet metaphor for life in the sixties.

Our musical icons are frozen in a time long gone. They still touch our hearts, get us dancing in the kitchen when we hear a blast from the past, but blasting ABBA through my brain on headphones has been replaced by watching television with headphones, and interestingly, listening to everything else with the help of hearing aids. Perhaps it’s because there’s stability and happiness in my life now that I no longer relate to the pitched emotions of falling in love, heartbreak, cheating and breaking up  depicted in popular music for young people. Now that our hormones have finally settled down, so have our tastes in music and listening preferences. Bob Dylan sounds just as profound and moving when I now listen to him while sipping an icy Pinot Grigio on the back patio at sunset but without the sadness. I will always enjoy my regular fix of sixties music but I now listen with a smile on my face and contentment in my heart. I think it’s time for a little Simon & Garfunkel—but just a little and not too loud. And maybe some Dusty Springfield too.

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MYTH: Men are problem solvers

Remember when the popular book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus stated that the reason men lack empathy for women’s issues is because they’re genetically engineered not to listen sympathetically but to come up with solutions to our problems? Well, that’s bull crap. Ask any woman who’s ever asked her male partner to install a shelf, hang a drapery rod or perform a minor repair around the house and she will confirm that men are problem generators.

"You have no idea how complicated this is going to be!"

“You have no idea how complicated this is going to be!”

A simple request to install a new towel rack can unleash volumes of previously unknown potential hazards. “That’s a concrete wall and I need a special bit for my drill . . . the studs are in the wrong place . . . it’ll never stay up . . .” Then they haul every tool known to Home Depot up from the basement, spread them out across the floor and the moaning begins. We’re subjected to a litany of reasons why the job we’re asking them to do is not only difficult and extremely complicated but very likely, impossible. They insist we have no idea what’s involved!

All being considered, our preferred approach is to hire someone who knows what they’re doing to perform the work. Once, when I casually suggested I wanted our bedroom painted a slightly different colour, the negative reaction was so profound, I simply called a professional painter who came in one morning after my husband had left for the day, carried out the work to perfection with no moaning, complaining or whining, cleaned up, I wrote him a cheque, then he left me with a lovely new bedroom. It was pure bliss. No muss. No fuss.

Why does it have to be so fraught with angst and bad tempers every time we want a simple job done? Ironically, when a potential problem is explained, we’re the ones who often come up with the solution. “If the studs are in the wrong place, what about mounting a two-by-four on the wall where the studs are in the right place and then installing the television bracket on the two-by-four?” But of course, it’s only a good idea if they think of it.

Handy and/or handsome, we still love 'em.

Handy and/or handsome, we still love ’em.

I have friends who have been reduced to tears while undergoing home handyman attempts at odd jobs. It’s not worth jeopardizing your marriage. If you share a home with a Red Green wannabe, once you decide something needs to be done, call in a professional to do the work. Whatever the cost, it’s still cheaper than the value of all the tools he will need to employ and the collateral damage he may inflict. Plus, the job will be done quickly, properly and without tears. No duct tape involved. It’s just that simple.

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Another blow for womankind

My transition from hip, cool Baby Boomer to doddering old lady has been marked by a series of horrifying incidents. The first was when the child in the ticket booth at the movie theatre sold me a senior’s ticket without my asking, and despite the fact that I am obviously barely old enough to drink legally. Then, there was the time the lady at Shoppers Drug Mart gently suggested I might qualify for their seniors’ discount.

cell phone 4The latest blow to my fragile ego came this week when I purchased a new cell phone—not a Smart phone which I’m too stupid to figure out—but a basic, no-frills device designed for infrequent users like me. While I own a cell phone, I rarely use it and have never figured out the rest of the world’s addiction to the eyes-down, thumbs-constantly-engaged lifestyle. My old cell phone died after years of boredom and lack of use, so, I went to Walmart and purchased a new one for $19.95. After removing layers of packaging the size of a bread box, I unveiled my new flip-phone. To my horror, I’d purchased the dummies version which was slightly bigger than my old one, with large numbers that can be read from across a football field.

Hello? Operator?

Hello? Operator?

My new cell phone is a simple device designed for a simple mind. And I like it. Just don’t ask me to text, swipe merchandise for a price check or even activate the voice mail feature. In fact, if you call me on my cell, you’ll probably get no answer as I rarely turn it on. No worries about me talking and texting while driving or having lunch with my Boomer gal pals. But, it’s there in my purse and always charged up in case my car breaks down, or I do. Old things have a tendency to do just that and this old lady may no longer be hip or cool but she is packin’. I’m no dummy. And, thank goodness Walmart still takes good, old-fashioned cash.

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