Enjoy, laugh, disagree or simply empathize with those who lived life in THE sixties and are now rockin' life in THEIR sixties, and beyond.

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Samantha Irby tells it like it is and you may or may not like what that is

I’ve just finished reading a New York Times best-selling book by an incredible woman who’s hysterically funny, articulate and smart. That being said, however, I’ve been debating whether or not to publish a review of her book because so many of my Boomerbroadcast readers might be offended by its content. So, I’ve decided to err on the side of openness and share my impression of “We are never meeting in real life” which I think is an amazing book by Samantha Irby. It’s a memoir-style series of essays describing her life, the story of a Phoenix rising.

Samantha Irby is a thirty-seven-year-old married, black, lesbian blogger and author whose life is fascinating to this married, white, hetero blogger. As followers of my blog know, I’m always attracted to stories by and about people, particularly women who have been able to rise above a difficult, challenging childhood and make a success of their lives. And I measure success in terms of happiness, not money.

After dropping out of college Irby worked for fourteen years in a veterinarian’s office, hence the picture of the mangy looking kitten on the book cover. It represents the tiny abandoned kitten someone brought into the clinic that Irby ultimately adopted. It was so young its eyes had not opened; it was flea and tick infested, had numerous eye, ear and other infections and generally was not expected to live. But she did and was named Helen Keller because of her initial inability to see. Helen was not a loveable kitten but was obviously loved despite her behaviour. Irby anthromorphosizes the cat and describes their partnership as being like bad roommates. When the pizza guy comes, Helen is “waiting by the door with her suitcase packed, hoping the pizza guy will take her home with him.”.

Samantha Irby’s story has a happy ending.

Samantha Irby grew up poor in Chicago. Her mother had multiple sclerosis, was confined first to a wheelchair and ultimately a nursing home. Her father was an abusive, frequently absent alcoholic. Irby developed all the characteristics of a bright young misfit struggling to survive under difficult circumstances. This book is written in the language of an angry, disadvantaged young black woman who is sexually ambiguous and definitely adventurous. Her writing is heavy on the cultural idiom of her community and she is open and graphic about her sex life. Four-letter words abound so if you are easily offended, then this is not the book for you.

The author is candid about her struggles with weight and health issues, including depression. “When I was growing up, no one in my house was talking about depression. That’s something that happened to white people on television, not a thing that could take down a Strong Black Woman.” She also suffers from arthritis and Crohn’s Disease. Like me, Irby loves going to the movies, “and when I do I like, like, like to have popcorn. And a fountain Coke, because I live for the burning snap of a freshly carbonated beverage.” I hear ‘ya sista’. She prefers exercise classes with seniors or pregnant women where she feels “comfortable around some pancake arms and spider veins and National Geographic titties, for real.”

Reading her book was a peek inside the life of someone I might not otherwise encounter, hence her title “we are never meeting in real life”. That presumed anonymity is perhaps what gives her the courage to write as openly as she does. She shares her financial challenges resulting from having no money and no parental guidance in how to handle whatever money they had. She carried these patterns into adulthood. “A lot of us are living like this, right. Taking cabs and ordering takeout Thai on pay-day, then walking the three blocks to work from the train with a bologna sandwich in our bags a week or so later?”

I absolutely loved this book and came away better informed, happier and more accepting of life’s shortcomings than before I started. Her writing reminded me of Lindy West or Amy Schumer. If you choose to read this book, please be warned that it is not for the faint of heart. Irby’s opinions are raunchy; the language is X-rated but her story is touching, hilarious and unforgettable.

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Airlines versus animals . . . what to do?

Airlines maintain that companion animal privileges are getting out of hand.

Commercial airlines are raising a stink about the legitimacy of ‘companion’ animals being allowed in the cabin during flights. Pets and other animals are required to fly cargo unless special dispensation for passengers with medical conditions allows them to accompany their owners in the cabin. It’s become a touchy subject because so many people are abusing the privilege with negative consequences. Pets with bad manners are causing problems for flight crews and other passengers. Behaviours such as aggressiveness and soiling are marring the original good intentions of the policy. Pet owners are understandably stretching the rules rather than check their beloved pet with baggage. What’s the solution? Anyone who has ever tried to fly with a pet on a commercial airliner can attest to the multitude of problems involved.

Pets have to be really itty bitty and practically comatose to tolerate this for several hours.

Small pets that can be crated and stuffed into the six inches of foot space under the seat are allowed. But don’t try to open the cage door or unzip the top a bit to let the poor animal stick it’s cramped head out or you’ll be threatened with eviction. So you’re forced to listen to your pet whine (or worse) for several hours while they’re cramped under the seat. Sedation is a last resort and often results in unpleasant side effects. The alternative, checking your caged pet with the baggage in cargo is even more disturbing. It’s extremely stressful for both pets and their owners.

While I sympathize with the concerns of fellow passengers with allergies or asthma, as a pet owner I don’t see why the airline can’t sort out the problem. People will always want and need to travel with pets and something has to be done. I know space on airplanes is limited but couldn’t a bit of cabin space be designated to accommodate crated pets? Perhaps a special locker in the rear of the plane could be designed with shelves, like open luggage racks for stacking crates where owners could check on them and pets would not be subjected to being squished under seats or banished to dark, cold cargo spaces. Pet owners also pay fares for their pets to fly and they deserve to be treated like the paying passengers they are, not incidental baggage.

Why can’t they be transported in a special cabin area closer or visible to pet owners?

This week United Airlines stashed a puppy in the overhead bin despite protests by its owners and the animal died. The way airlines treat pets is long overdue for changes. Pets regularly get lost, ill, misdirected and sometimes die. I know many Canadians who winter in Florida and cannot fly back and forth because of concerns for flying with their dogs or cats. It doesn’t take a genius to come up with a workable solution. I’m just a simple pet owner who has suggested a simple solution. Are any of the airlines listening?

P.S. And while we’re at it, here’s the solution for abuse of excessive carry-on baggage. Make checked baggage free and charge for carry-on. It’s not that complicated.


Just don’t ask me to bring hors d’oeuvres

Only if I can pick up a ready-made platter at Costco.

You’re having a pot luck? Great. What can I bring? Dessert? Salad? Veg? NOOOOO! Not an hors d’oeuvre! That’s the one thing I hate to do most in the world—right up there with washing the inside of my kitchen cupboards. Even worse, because it requires planning, specialty shopping, fiddling and figuring out how to keep everything fresh/crisp/moist/whatever. And my creations are never as fresh/crisp/moist or as visually appealing as what everyone else in the world can do so much better. It’s like the time my coworker tore apart and rewrapped all our corporate Christmas gifts for clients because she was appalled at what a sloppy job I’d done. I must say, her exquisitely mitred foil end flaps and creative flair with ribbons was far better than my version which was more like preschoolers playing with paper and scissors. I’m just not engineered to do fiddley.

My idea of artful hors d’oeuvres never looks anything like the symmetrically arranged shrimp atop iced butter lettuce in a seashell glass dish that I’ve enjoyed at friends’ houses. My presentations are more like I went dumpster diving, found some salvageable scraps and arranged them on a platter. Some people even brave the world of hot finger foods and present what appears to be the main course entrée on delicate china plates. Have you ever had those gems of nouvelle cuisine served in individual serving-size Chinese porcelain spoons or in colourful martini glasses with themed toothpicks? They seem far too pretty to eat. Don’t expect anything like that at my house. I’ve been known throw a handful of little bags of leftover Halloween potato chips on the coffee table when unexpected guests drop in for a glass of wine.

And for this food that Lynda has prepared, we are truly thankful!

My biggest objection to this whole hors d’oeuvre business is that it takes the edge off your appetite for dinner. When I’ve spent the better part of an entire day on my feet in the kitchen chopping, ladling, stirring and otherwise slaving over a meal for my guests, I want everyone to come to the table faint from hunger. Then, whether my meal presentation is a success or not, no one will know the difference. They’ll be so starved and desperate for food they can barely sit up, so whatever I serve will be a triumph. “Oh Lynda, this meal is amazing; YOU are amazing!”

When you come to my house, enjoy those Tostitos  and the bowl of Kirkland cashews on your dainty paper cocktail napkin because that’s all you’re getting beforehand. It’s called smart meal planning. And if you have a pot luck and ask me to bring an hors d’oeuvre, I hope you like Halloween potato chips. You can always count on me to do my share.


Goat yoga? Save your money

P.T. Barnum had a name for people like this.

You may or may not have heard of goat yoga. There are actual people paying real money to have a live goat walk on their backs. I’m not making this up. Advocates of this new form of therapy go to a farm or designated facility equipped with layers of straw or similar material on the floor (for obvious reasons) and play barnyard for an hour or two. Pictures of this latest exercise craze are popping up on television, in the newspapers and on internet news streams. It’s called goat yoga and is the latest fad in the world of sucking in the stupid consumer. I’m confident that anyone who would spend their hard-earned money to have a goat walk all over them also once owned a pet rock.

Who needs goats?

Proud owners of real pets, which may or may not include a goat, know that goat yoga is totally unnecessary. Dog owners who lie on the floor to do their Pilates or yoga know for a fact that dogs can always be counted on to do the job new-agers are paying goat-owners for. Just try doing the downward dog in your livingroom and see what your Labrador retriever will get up to. It’s called doing what comes naturally. They sniff your privates, try to climb on top of you and as much as possible generally attempt to become part of the game they think you’re playing. They have an entire repertoire of moves aimed at stealing kisses and trying to push you over.

Pets with benefits.

This same propensity for getting in your face and on your back is part of everyday life for pet owners who are generous enough to offer a spot of room on their bed for pets. We all know how it works. When we get a new puppy or kitten, we swear this time we won’t allow it on the bed. Then, during its first night in your home, you’re awakened by whining, whimpering and half-awake spectacles of a little body boinging up and down beside your face on your side of the bed. How can you not let them up for a snuggle?

Pets are engineered for loving. That’s why we get them. They provide it in spades and their way of showing it is by delivering a steady supply. Sleeping with pets is frowned on by many (I used to be one of them) until you experience the warmth and affection radiating from your dog or cat wedged against your spine while you sleep. Smaller pets also have a talent for wrapping themselves fascinator-style around your head which keeps your brains warm and functioning on cold winter nights. Not so much fun on hot summer nights, especially when you wind up with a tail in your mouth or ear. The other night I was a bit cold in the middle of the night and considered snuggling up against my honey to get warm. But the thought of rearranging our three-and-a-half pound Yorkie just seemed like too much trouble so I simply pulled the covers up closer and went back to sleep. Where are those hot flashes when we need them?

Our yoga partner and personal alarm clock.

Owning a pet also means you probably never need an alarm clock. Dogs and cats have built-in circadian clocks that chime at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. and demand instant attention. In our house, if we’re a bit slow to respond, our dog climbs on top of my husband, scaling his length like a tiny mountain goat (see . . . I told you goats are unnecessary). If he still doesn’t respond, she starts pulling the covers off, followed by licking his eyelids and cleaning his ears. This is usually enough to generate the desired result, but if not, we’re treated to an escalating symphony of growling followed by urgent barking.

So, if any new-agers are tempted to sign up for goat yoga, save your money. Give me a call and I’ll send my Yorkie over for a session. I also have friends who have cocker spaniels, Labrador retrievers and standard poodles if you’re feeling like a more extreme workout. I could even rustle up a Newfie if you’re into hot yoga. Satisfaction guaranteed. We’d be happy to let you experience life as we know it and no goats, long drives to the farm or allergy-inducing straw are involved. The lovin’ is just a bonus.


Have I lost my decorating mojo?

Give me strength; it’s baaaack

After decades of subscribing to various (OK, too many) home decorating magazines (a.k.a. house porn), I’m seriously considering cancelling at least one if not more of my subscriptions. The reason? I’m finding I like the “Before” pictures better than the “After”. Yikes! I’ve outlived the decorating fashion cycle. Without naming names, I noticed that one of my favourite Canadian decorating mags recently featured makeovers that reinterpreted the apartment from my first marriage in the seventies. It was all geometric wallpapers in headache-inducing colours, hard surfaces and, oh lordy lordy, an honest-to-goodness real-life macramé hanging planter. As they say in the world of fashion trends, “If you’ve worn it once, don’t do it again.” The same applies to home decorating. I’m certainly not about to start cruising ebay for my vintage polyester orange shag rug that required raking.

I’ve spent many years and most of my RRSP neutralizing my large decorating pieces like sofas, chairs and carpets so that I can blow my brains out on whatever pop of colour in accessories the experts tell me I can do more economically. I’ve tried that approach and I like it. I can change my cheap sofa throw cushions seasonally. My bed coverings can be easily swapped out for summer and winter looks and I never get tired of my plain sheets and towels. Old boomers like me also tend to enjoy throw covers to keep us warm when we’re binge-watching The Crown and they can be picked up in the yummiest colours. For a minimal investment we can change our entire “look” with one quick trip to Ikea, Urban Barn, HomeSense or Crate & Barrel when their sales are on.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Then, there are those who choose to throw good money after fads and trends. Tell me why anyone would ever want to install an expensive imported Portuguese tile backsplash in a bold, dizzying black and white pattern or crazy green and orange graphics? I know I’d get sick of it in about forty-eight minutes. And furthermore, if you put the house up for sale, any prospective purchaser will instantly subtract from his offer the cost of ripping it out and replacing it with white subway tiles. Spare me another go-round of teak furniture, moss green upholstery and patterned drapes. Unless you can afford to redecorate every year, keep the big investment pieces neutral. The decorating gurus got that part right. Obviously, I’m a strong candidate for the Brian Gluckstein Medal of Honour for my use of taupe in interior decorating. I’ve earned and I’m proud of it.

It’s the nature of business however, to keep selling magazines and furniture and the only way to do that is to induce us to want something different, better or trendier. It’s the same in clothing, makeup, shoes and automobiles. It’s called built-in obsolescence and Apple ingeniously engineers it into their iPads and iPhones. We have no choice after a few years to trade in the old, still functional consumer item and replace it with something supposedly better, more efficient and shinier. Which is why I would never recommend buying expensive consumer items—purses excepted of course.

When I first married in the seventies, we were advised to buy quality furniture that would last a lifetime. Who wants a high quality Barrymore sofa and loveseat in dusty rose with a pattern of exotic birds on it that will last forever? Well, my second husband sure didn’t. So I sold the set for a pittance, covered with an Ikea white twill slipcover because used furniture has little to no resale value.  And the cheque bounced from the woman I sold it to so I had to go after her for $200.00. Today, that same sofa and loveseat set would cost thousands of dollars to replace. That one still stings.

Moral of the story

With a comfy LaZgirl, a sunflower-coloured throw and a big screen TV we’re set for life.

Our tastes change over the years and particularly when we’re young, it’s not a good idea to buy expensive furniture. Just ask any baby boomer or their parents who are trying to download that heirloom dining room suite to millennials who would much rather have something cool and contemporary from Structube or Ikea. Off to the charity shop goes Grandma’s treasured antique solid cherry desk that no one in the family wants. Buy what you like within your budget and be prepared to swap it out in a few years when you need a change of scenery.

By the time boomers are grandparents, we’ve pretty much nailed what we like and are content with what we’ve whittled ourselves down to. Downsizing is a big part of our lives now as we move from the family home into something smaller, whether a condo or a smaller house. That transition often calls for more compact furniture (except in televisions) but we can still repurpose a lot of what we already have.

It’s a wonderful life.

We could probably afford to replace that worn out old leather LaZgirl but we’ll just get a newer version of the same thing. The neutral Hudson’s Bay polar fleece point blanket thrown over our legs keeps us warm and cozy while we watch the Leafs get humiliated for yet another year. It’s so lovely to kick back in our taupe-coloured recliner with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory on our magnificent 4G 55-inch big-screen television. Am I losing my decorating mojo?


Hair today; gone tomorrow

Hair loss is not a problem unique to men.

The other day I read an interesting blog posting on a beauty and lifestyle site for mature women. It outlined different strategies for coping with thinning hair as we age. Many women our age have the added challenge of hair regrowth following chemotherapy when new hair is often quite different from its pre-chemo state. Our once glorious manes are no more and we’re constantly on the lookout for ways to enhance thickness, texture, shine and body. Rogaine is one option for thinning hair, although it’s expensive and with limited effectiveness only for as long as you use the product. The science of hair colouring has made tremendous leaps in recent years and for that we’re thankful. Some women use wigs and others clip mini hairpieces into existing hair. Extensions are time-consuming and costly and because they can further damage fragile hair, they’re probably not an option for many boomer women. But they’re de rigueur in the entertainment world.

Hair products today are so plentiful and economical that most of us have such a vast selection in our cupboards we would probably never have to buy more product again as long as we live, if we were to use it all up. I’m totally guilty and my personal stash is embarrassing. Walking the hair care aisle in the drug store or grocery store is an overwhelming experience that can leave us bewildered and confused. All in search of a solution to our hair issues.

In the sixties, we thought our thick, gorgeous, healthy hair would last forever.

Isn’t it ironic that wherever we have hair we don’t want it and where we want to grow hair it’s like trying to cultivate roses in the desert. We spend hours and stupid amounts of money waxing, lasering, threading and otherwise eliminating leg hair, underarm hair and bikini areas. The brunettes and olive-skinned among us may also fight unwanted facial or forearm hair and even blondes aren’t exempt from plucking, waxing or depilatating mustache and chin hairs. The battles never end.

Where we want hair to grow, it stubbornly refuses. Thick, natural eyebrows are now the fashion. Boomers foolishly plucked ours to oblivion in the seventies, not realizing it was a one-way street. Now we’re experimenting with tattooed eyebrows or the new microblading technique. I must say, microblading sounds tempting but I hear it’s not long-lasting which means more maintenance and expense. There’s a resurgence in the use of false eyelashes, whether glue-on strips or professionally applied individual lashes from the salon. I loved wearing false lashes in the sixties, before I wore glasses and before I worried about pulling out my few remaining eyelashes when I ripped off the glued-on strips. We also have the option of getting our eyelashes and brows tinted at the salon to produce the illusion of abundance. Tattooed eyeliner sounds tempting but I’m not confident about the long-term results, and damn, that must hurt. Do I really want to incorporate more expensive, painful maintenance into my already time-consuming and rather tedious repertoire of beauty treatments? What’s a girl to do?

Would you still love me?

Imagine if we were all to rise up in rebellion and let nature take its course—let our body hair flourish wherever it appears and let the hair on our heads fall out, kink, break, go white, whatever. What if it became fashionable for women to have a mustache or a chin like a billy goat. Life would be so much simpler and infinitely cheaper, and if we all looked similarly hirsute, we’d have nothing to feel embarrassed about. Imagine being proud of our mustache? “Oh Lynda, what do you use to get that gorgeous upper lip growing like that? And I’d kill to have a goatee as silky and lustrous as yours!” There are certain cultures that consider it a sign of fertility. What a hairetical idea. I like it.

The downside is that our entire economy could collapse. Imagine the billions upon billions of dollars that presently go into beauty products—advertising, merchandising and manufacturing—suddenly drying up, like our skin or hair on a bad day. Although, as they say, when one door closes, another opens. An entire economy built around leg, face and other body hair grooming products would instantly spring up. Marketers would produce bejewelled, tiny little mustache combs and trimmers (to keep it out of your soup—there are some standards ladies), leg hair conditioners, exotic oils to enhance the shiny bald spots on your scalp, and what about those “natural” dyes that will be needed to make sure the ‘carpet matches the drapes’, as they say.

I’d hate to be responsible for such an apocalypse so I’ll just keep those credit cards ‘a smokin’ in endless attempts to not look how nature intended. When I consider my appearance with hairy legs and pits, chin hairs down to my collarbone and no makeup—well, you get the picture. If I follow up on the microblading thing I’ll let you know how it goes. If you are willing to back me up on the natural hairy look, however, I’ll definitely reconsider. And, once we redirect current social preferences on hair, (depending on where it blooms), I’ll start campaigning about those misplaced standards of beauty regarding weight and preferred amount of body fat. I’m going to be busy and I’ll need your support. Are you in?


Eleanor Oliphant touched my heart

When I first began reading Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by first-time author Gail Honeyman, it felt like a riff on Bridget Jones. Right from the beginning I had a smile on my face as I read her words. The first-person narrator, Eleanor is a thirty-year-old unmarried woman who works in Accounts Receivable for a graphic design company in Glasgow, Scotland. She appears to function on the low end of the Asperger’s scale as evidenced by her repetitive, boring routines and odd perspective on the rituals of life, while possessing obvious intelligence. Her peculiarities make her the butt of behind-the-scenes jokes by coworkers and she has an endearing appreciation for vodka.

The underlying message, however, is that Eleanor has a past. Her relationship with “Mummy” is complicated and references to a fire while she was a child make the reader want to know more about why she is the way she is. If you’re as old as I am you may remember The Tracey Ullman Show on television in the eighties. (As a side note, that’s where The Simpsons debuted as short segments between Tracey’s brilliant character sketches.) Anyway, Eleanor Oliphant reminds me of Tracey Ullman’s character called Kay, pronounced Kyyyye, a repressed colourless English spinster of indeterminate age who is dedicated to the well-being of ‘Mummy’.

Eleanor’s “before” persona reminded me of Tracey Ullman’s Kay Clark character.

When Eleanor develops an over-the-top crush on a male musician at a charity show, she sets out to remake herself as someone worthy of being his wife. Envisioning a fantasy future with the object of her affections grows in her imagination and she begins a process of rebuilding her persona. At the same time, Eleanor is befriended by Raymond, the similarly socially challenged I.T. technician who works in her office. One day as they’re going to lunch, they witness an elderly man, Sammy pass out on the street and they come to his aid. Raymond accompanies the man to hospital in the ambulance and Eleanor is unwittingly roped into following up on his well-being. They begin a tentative friendship with Sammy and his family with positive results for both Raymond and Eleanor.

The story is charmingly written and at times I burst out laughing as I read Elinor’s descriptions of her life. While she appears a misfit, she’s a sympathetic character and we want her to win whatever battles she’s fighting. Toward the end of the book, the pieces of the puzzle come together and I almost felt guilty about laughing at her earlier experiences. It is in fact dark humour with a happy ending. I loved reading Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. It’s an amazing book and I can’t wait for more by Gail Honeyman.