BOOMERBROADcast

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


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Mother Nature can be very unkind to Boomer women

What’s a girl to do?

This morning I tried on all my summer pants. It did not go well. Extensive therapy may be required, followed by copious quantities of wine, or more likely the other way around which doesn’t help the situation. At the very least, I’m looking at another extended spell at Weight Watchers. A recent essay in The Globe and Mail about the horror of trying on and buying a bathing suit (click here to read Is the perfect bathing suit possible?) resonated deeply. Writer Leslie Hill is sixty-seven years old and I could so empathize with her ongoing frustration to remain confident under duress. When you’re a Baby Boomer woman with a successful career behind you, no serious health issues, a network of amazing girlfriends and family who loves you, why are we still knocked off balance by our less-than-perfect (a.k.a. normal) bodies? Oprah Winfrey gets it. She’s admitted many times how she hates that her weight struggles have often superseded all her other massive successes in life.

Fashion inspiration for Boomers is hard to find. We like to look like we’re still on top of our game. When we look good we feel great.

There’s miniscule recognition of our demographic in fashion mags and it’s always with stick-thin models with glorious manes of thick silver hair. Who among us can relate to that? What’s a girl to do? Most of us stock pants in two (or even three) sizes to accommodate our good days and bad days. I’ve always had the best luck with the fit of Not Your Daughter’s Jeans NYDJ but even they wouldn’t button up this morning. We want to look the best we can, be fashionable and attractive without resorting to frumpy, uninspired “I’ve-given-up” pastel polyester with a forgiving elastic waist. Mother Nature is not making it easy.

Fifty-four-year-old French writer Sophie Fontanel has some excellent advice for women on how to achieve a personal style without slavishly following trends or the dictates of youth-centric fashion gurus. She suggests women our age concentrate on a look that’s not overtly sexy.  In an interview in Vogue, Fontanel recommends “Softness, gentleness, sense of humor”. To read her full interview 9 Steps to Style Superstardom in Vogue magazine, click here. Her own personal style would definitely not work for me but her message is inspirational.

In many ways we’re coping with aging better than earlier generations of women. We’ve embraced the magic of great hair colouring and styling. We are deft with makeup. We finally have the budget that allows us to purchase new clothes and accessories when we want. We keep fit, eat healthy and are intellectually curious. We know that when we look good we feel great so there’s payback. I refuse to shop for jeans at Shirley K Maternity to accommodate my Boomer waistline and I empathize with Ms. Hill’s Globe and Mail lament about buying a bathing suit. She’s braver than I am by even trying. We all know our figure faults and try to soldier on. Which means you may never see me in my white jeans this summer, and that’s probably a good thing. Or, more likely, I’ll go out and buy a larger size, specially engineered for my burgeoning waistline and for better or worse, strut my stuff, but with long tunic tops.

I feel pretty, oh so pretty!

Susan After 60 is one of my favourite go-to blog sites for Boomer fashion inspiration.

 

Click here for Susan After 60

 

Click here for 9 Steps to Style Superstardom

 

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Top 10 suggestions for Hudson’s Bay to survive

My love/hate relationship with The Hudson’s Bay Company (comparable to Macy’s in the United States) just took a turn. I want to scream “I told you so”. When I heard the news they’re laying off thousands of people in response to declining sales I felt an immense sense of sadness for the sales associates who work there at low wages and will be losing their jobs. But what about the customers? In all matters relating to retail, the number one factor that gets ignored in the equation is the customer. The experts and execs say the cuts are necessary because customers are resorting to on-line shopping. No bloody wonder.

I love The Hudson’s Bay Company and have their limited edition Barbie doll to prove it. As Canada’s oldest retailer (350 years+), Hudson’s Bay has been my default department store since the days when Robert Simpson Company occupied their stores. Over the years, I’ve written snail mail letters to the executives, emailed store managers and blogged about their abysmal customer service. Obviously they weren’t listening to me—the customer—after all, what do I know? Shopping at Hudson’s Bay Company is an experience right up there with shopping at Costco, minus the giant carts. Their stores offer an overwhelming inventory of great, good and not-so-good merchandise, crammed into unimaginative space with minimal eye-appealing merchandising, no visible sales associates to help customers and tiring lineups at the few available check-outs. What’s crucial is we expect better from Hudson’s Bay.

The bean counters have deemed that the problem with The Hudson’s Bay Company can be solved by reducing the payroll. Brilliant! That’s like closing the barn door after the horses have left. And replacing them with wooden replicas. I’m going to really love shopping at a store where the service is even worse (is that even possible?) than before. As the humble generator of business and the total raison d’être for Hudson’s Bay to exist, I, the customer would once again like to offer my suggestions for improving sales and ultimately the bottom line:

Some retailers get it.

  1.  Audit and edit your merchandise. Get rid of the crap no one wants to buy. Pare down inventory. This might require editing your buyers as well. Are your buyers truly tuned in to your customers?
  2. Use the money saved from getting rid of excess inventory to hire more sales associates to help me find sizes, assist with “looks” and suggest options.
  3. Put these new additional sales associates on the floor to actually help customers, not just be chained to the checkout desk attending to lineups.
  4. Expand the use of tasteful displays and mannequins. I’m often inspired to purchase by creative merchandising displays. Downtown flagship stores are lovely but suburban mall stores frequently resembles a jumble sale. Make the shopping experience more (dare it say it?) enjoyable. Unfortunately . . . see Item 2.
  5. Pay your staff enough that they enjoy what they’re doing and take pride in being a sales associate. Provide better training. Paying overworked sales associates minimum or low wages only causes resentment. This can be financed by following Item 1 above.
  6. Here’s a radical idea. A place for Boomer ladies to rest our old bones while we’re shopping or waiting for ASSISTANCE?

    Amp up the store environment. Improve strategic lighting and deep six the blanket fluorescent lights treatment. How about placing a few comfortable chairs with side tables offering inspirational fashion brochures from manufacturers or current fashion magazines. Maybe some videos of how to put outfits together?

  7. Send employees to the Nordstrom school of retail training.
  8. Always search above and beyond what’s available on the floor. When you don’t have my size, offer to find it. See Item 7 above.
  9. Don’t ever forget who ultimately pays your bills—me, the customer.
  10. Check with your customers once in a while to see how we’re doing? In all my fifty-plus years of department store shopping, I’ve never once had a retailer ask me what I want. It would be so easy to survey customers through accounts or on-line. I’d love to have the opportunity of being heard by serving on a customer council.

As someone who once worked for Eaton’s at their College Street store in Toronto, I have experience on both sides of the counter. Is anyone listening? Or are your customers irrelevant? Therein lies the problem. I told you so.

Here are some links to previous blog postings about Hudson’s Bay and general retail concerns:

How to improve sales at Hudson’s Bay

Retail rant hits home

The solution for Canadian retailers is as easy as 1, 2, 3

What on earth was The Hudson’s Bay Company Thinking?

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These feet were made for walking

Once upon a time, in my glory days, through wind and rain and sleet and hail.

One of the fashion bloggers I like to follow (click here for Susan After 60) has recently admitted she can longer wear her beloved heels and is now sporting fashionable flats on a regular basis. Susan lasted longer than most of us. I clearly remember wearing high heels in my younger days and treating the shoes and my feet like they were invincible. For many years I lived and worked in downtown Toronto and could walk to and from work. I’ve never been a morning person and often ended up running to work so I wouldn’t be late. Sprinting through the downtown streets in gorgeous heels it never once occurred to me that one day my graceful high arches would rebel.

Over the years I started paying more attention to comfort although I never did stoop to wearing running shoes back and forth from the office. The lower right drawer of my desk was filled with all my gorgeous fashion shoes that I switched into as soon as I sat down and removed my comfie walking shoes. Nothing is more empowering than strutting around the office in sexy heels. Inevitably, as my chronological age went up, the heels went down. By the time I retired, I could barely get through the office Christmas party in heels.

Then it happened—plantar fasciitis. It’s an inflammation of the elastic ligament that runs between the ball of the foot and heel. You’ll know you have it as soon as you put your foot on the floor when you get out of bed in the morning. Putting your foot down and walking will generate excruciating pain in the bottom of your heel. You can somewhat work it out as the day goes on, but it comes roaring back and can last years.

The first time I experienced plantar fasciitis, I cured it with hip replacements. Being off my feet for awhile after the surgery allowed the inflamed plantar fascia to calm down and heal. I was mercifully pain-free until about three months ago. Then, one morning it returned in my right foot with a vengeance. Turning to Google, I tried every home remedy recommended including ice, massage, reflexology, rolling a golf ball and tennis ball under my foot, stretching exercises and nothing worked. Since another hip replacement seemed a bit over-the-top, I visited a foot doctor who gave me a shot of cortisone in the bottom of my heel to reduce inflammation. It has mitigated the pain somewhat but I’m not out of the woods yet.

I have several pairs of FitFlops and prefer the thicker-soled version. They’re available at Hudson’s Bay, Ron White Shoes and on-line.

My future now consists of footwear with industrial strength arch supports and lots of cushioning and support. I’ve always had good luck with FitFlops™ (click here for link, and they’re on sale), a branded sandal designed by a British foot doctor, but I may have to opt for something even more structured. We blithely take our various body parts for granted when they’re working as they should but as soon as something like our backs, feet or knees crap out, we gain an immeasurable respect and appreciation for our parts when they’re healthy and functioning. I’ve been unable to walk the dog or even myself for a few months and I can’t wait to get back to normal. I’ll thank our spirit sisters every day when I’m fully mobile again.

I refuse to say goodbye to my tough-looking biker boots just yet though. With a closet full of lovely shoes I’m heavily invested in healing. Women who love shoes will understand when I tell them about the ritual performed when I bring new shoes home. I place them, like a work of art on the diningroom table to admire, fresh out of the box. Then, at bedtime, I move them to my night table where they’ll be the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. Perhaps it’s a throwback to growing up in the more austere fifties and sixties when we were lucky to get a new pair of shoes every couple of years. Boomer sisters will understand the magic powers of gorgeous shoes. They elevate not only our legs but our very souls. From fuscia pink suede platforms I purchased in London, England in the swinging sixties to mustard yellow suede platforms worn in my tottering sixties . . . and all the years in between, shoes have been part of beautiful memories.

Listen. Do you hear it too? The sirens’ call.

When I see retail sales assistants prancing around in gorgeous four-inch python-printed strappy heels, I react like a grouchy old lady (which if you regularly read my blogs, you’ll understand). “Enjoy them while you can” I say. “Someday you’ll be wearing Mephistos and Birkenstocks like me.” But I promise they’ll be python printed or bright red patent leather. And you’ll never see me wearing them with socks. That would just be too embarrassing. At least not until I’m in ‘the home’ and by then I’ll be too stoned on medical marijuana-infused gummy bears and too blissfully unaware of my feet to care.

Footnote: I receive no financial or other benefit from mentioning FitFlops™, Hudson’s Bay or Ron White Shoes in this post.

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The Price of Illusion exposes flaws in the life of luxury

A popular song from 1969, Where Do You Go To My Lovely (click here to listen) by Peter Sarstedt played in a steady loop in my brain as I was reading The Price of Illusion, a memoir by Joan Juliet Buck:

“You talk like Marlène Dietrich
And you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire
Your clothes are all made by Balmain
And there’s diamonds and pearls in your hair, yes there are

You live in a fancy apartment
Off the Boulevard Saint-Michel
Where you keep your Rolling Stones records
And a friend of Sacha Distel, yes you do. . . ”

Joan Juliet Buck. Been there; done it; got the Chanel bag.

That song, although written long before Joan Juliet Buck embraced the lifestyle it describes, could have been her life. The Price of Illusion, a memoir by the former editor of Paris Vogue is a fascinating read. The story of her childhood drags a bit in the beginning but picks up when she becomes a young woman and begins her peripatetic transcontinental life. Buck was the silver spoon only child of Hollywood producer Jules Buck who was responsible for such memorable films as Lawrence of Arabia and Goodbye Mr. Chips starring newly discovered Peter O’Toole. She lived a transcontinental lifestyle in Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles, spending much of her childhood in Ireland at the home of her godfather, John Huston. There, she formed a life-long friendship with his daughter Angelica.

Moving in such illustrious circles obviously positions her to name-drop many famous people in the worlds of entertainment, politics and business. At first I found this off-putting but soon I was enjoying the rare first-hand insights into a world of wealth, glamour and superficiality. I learned the high life is not all glamour and glory. While Buck was an enthusiastic participant in all forms of pleasure, her highest highs were achieved while overseeing the rebirth of Paris Vogue from its traditional, staid format to a more edgy, avant garde publication. Under her stewardship in the nineties, the magazine doubled its readership and appeal.

Paris Vogue presented itself as being all things representative of French women.

Buck is an excellent writer and her brutal honesty combine to produce a wonderful read. I was halfway through the book before reaching her Vogue years but it was worth the wait. Being close friends with such icons as Yves St. Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Charlotte Rampling, Lauren Bacall and Angelica Huston, Buck transports us into worlds we would otherwise never be able to access. Like any human being, her life is composed of extreme highs and correspondingly debilitating lows. When she was sabotaged by a business associate at Paris Vogue and sent to rehab on false charges of addiction, her life unravelled. Losing her job along with its corresponding salary and benefits meant she could no longer support her ailing father. No matter how charmed one’s life may seem, no one escapes pain, loss or disappointment, even the privileged.

The Price of Illusion is obviously the story of a woman who lived most of her life in a superficial haze of privilege. As a life-long journal keeper and a keen observer of human nature, Joan Juliet Buck treats us to a view of the glamorous life that undoes many of our misconceptions. Her recollections and challenges along the way make for a fascinating read. As someone retired from the corporate world, I found the business and political challenges she encountered along the way to be particularly interesting, especially since I plan to be a magazine editor in my next life. Although I was unsure I would enjoy the book when I first began reading, I was soon swept up in the excitement of a life lived in realms beyond what any ordinary person would ever experience. And, ultimately, that’s the essence and joy of reading. I escaped into another world and thoroughly enjoyed the adventure.

To order The Price of Illusion by Joan Juliet Buck from Amazon, click here.

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Help! My scarves are choking me.

The inscription on my tombstone will be simple: 

She finally quit complaining about her hair.

She was organized.

As a young girl and even later as a teenager, I never had a messy bedroom. My bed was made every morning. My single bottle of Evening in Paris and two bottles of Cutex nail polish were neatly lined up on my “roxatoned” dresser. My spartan wardrobe was carefully organized on hooks behind my bedroom door (the house was built in the 1880s and had no closets). In the late sixties when I got my first apartment without a roommate, a bachelor unit in an old walk-up building on Vaughan Road in Toronto, I was immensely household. Furnished carefully with whatever I could carry up the street from the S.S. Kresge store on St. Clair Avenue, my belongings were arranged in an orderly and efficient fashion. I’ve always taken pride in being organized. Still do. Some friends would say, a little too organized.

Walking into a store like Solutions or The Container Store makes me weak-kneed with the pleasure. I could spend hours browsing the cutlery trays, shoe bags, garbage containers and cupboard organizers. My heart skips a beat just thinking about it. My bathroom linen closet contains little plastic baskets labelled Hair Products, Makeup, Meds, Dental, and so on. Those bins are further subdivided with labelled Ziplok baggies containing my overflow items such as Skincare, Eye makeup, Blushers and Lipsticks.  My kitchen pantry is arranged by food group (isn’t everyone’s?). You get the picture. While I’m not compulsive; I definitely like things to be orderly.

So, here some of my organizing tricks that you might help you in your everyday life:

Men’s tie racks (from Solutions) make great necklace holders. They’re visible and don’t get tangled.

Open-ended Umbra paper towels racks mounted on the wall are perfect for managing all your bracelets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too many pair of black pants? These little round metal tags (from Staples) on pant hangers tell me whether the black pants (which are hard to distinguish on the hangers) are leggings, dress pants, jeans, knit, etc. and indicate the size, depending on how fat I am on a particular day.                                                      

These Skubb shoe boxes are a deal at IKEA and only $12.99 for a four-pack.

 

But I do need help in one area

Sadly, one thing that has consistently alluded me and escaped my control is management of my scarves. I’ve tried those special hangers with all the loops, a hanging circular laundry dryer with scarfs draped from its tiny clothes pegs, scarves folded over pant racks and wadded up in a drawer. None of these solutions was satisfactory. If anyone has any ideas on how to remove this last menace from my organized life, I’d be grateful. There could be a reward.

This looped hanger system for scarves should work but unfortunately it doesn’t. I have several of these hangers; they get all bunched up and I have to pull them all out of the closet to find what I’m looking for. And don’t even suggest I get rid of some. That’s not negotiable.

Do you have any organizational tricks you’d like to share in the Comments section?

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Fashion . . . are we in or are we out?

Diane Keaton. My style inspiration.

In my mind’s eye I have the quirky fashion panache of Diane Keaton, the adorable personality of Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, the casual savoir faire of the mature Lauren Hutton and the smarts of Samantha Bee. In reality, there’s a significant spread between what I am and what I would like to be. Let’s just say my fashion style is more aspirational than inspirational. In reality, I resemble the hapless middle-aged lady from the television commercial who falls off her exercise ball or crashes down from the pole as she attempts the latest dance moves. In my attempts to remain current and relevant, will I ever get it exactly right?

Perhaps my frequent missteps are the result of fashion magazine overload a.k.a. fake news for gullible boomers. In our efforts to remain au courant, we sometimes misinterpret what works and what doesn’t work. Obviously, no one since Caroline Bisset Kennedy (late wife of the late John Jr.) has been able to successfully pull off a slip dress. And now the fashionistas are telling me all I have to do is pop a saucy little tee shirt under it, pair it up with some strappy sandals and I’m all set to go? Or that a one-shouldered pin-striped blouse with acres of ruffles across the front and on the single sleeve will qualify me for the eternal hall of fashion shame? Both looks are too horrifying to even contemplate and I really don’t want my picture circulating on the internet’s “Seen shopping at Walmart”. . . again!

Some things that may look great on supermodels are not quite as successful on real-life boomers.

I don’t need to paint a picture of what boomer gals would look like in a spaghetti-strapped mini length sun dress or, conversely, an oversized chunky knit boyfriend sweater with a cowl neck the size of a tractor tire. Spare me the embarrassment of trying to wear wasp-waisted sailor pants, a tube dress or the agony of five-inch platform heels. It’ll be a frosty day in hell before I expose my saggy knees in ripped three-hundred dollar designer jeans or my sun-damaged décolletage in sheer, gauzy plunging necklines. Rompers and jumpsuits don’t even warrant discussion. I have a drawer full of fabulous leather belts that will never again see the light of day. But I hang on to them in case I get lucky and acquire a parasite that causes me to lose twenty pounds and the return of my long-departed waistline. Haircuts are predicated on making the most of a losing (literally) game.

Despite the challenges, I keep subscribing to fashion magazines and poring over their ridiculously Photoshopped glossy pages in the vain hope they might feature something boomer women can confidently strut out in. We may not be the chicest or the trendiest nor may we ever be short-listed for the Best Dressed list, but most of us have finally found our groove despite being a demographic that is completely ignored by the fashion industry. It’s more about personal style than wearing what’s the latest fashion.

I think the best we boomer gals can hope for is a little bit “in” and not too much “out” sprinkled with a dash of fun and originality. Walking a balanced line of fashionably stylish and stylishly comfortable suits me just fine. And if I manage to capture even a teeny slice of Diane Keaton’s style, then I’ll count myself “in”. In the meantime, I think I’m talking myself into those weird silver earrings I saw yesterday but didn’t have the nerve to buy. Yes?

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It’s not easy being a trophy wife

We definitely earn our keep.

Just ask Melania Trump, our club founder and honorary chief about how difficult it is to always be viewed as nothing more than arm candy. In her wonderful book I Feel Bad About My Neck the late Nora Ephron lamented the exorbitant amount of time and money required to keep ourselves looking presentable as we age. She reckoned the time factor alone would total a full-time eight-hour-a-day job by the time we reach our eighties. Which isn’t that far off.

The rising cost of personal maintenance as we age is something that is becoming increasingly difficult to bear and definitely something our husbands/partners don’t need to know about. The price of keeping up my “natural” highlights and trim is locked in the vault; the costs of quality makeup, skin care products and body creams are just too scary and embarrassing to share with anyone; my electrolysis appointments are made and carried out in secret. The price of vitamin supplements, probiotics, fish oil and all the other potions required to keep our gears oiled is enough to bring on early cardiac arrest.

Massages can be designated as therapeutic health care in the same way chocolate and fashion magazines can be called groceries. They’re in the family budget and the costs are easy to hide. The other day as I was making an appointment for a mani-pedi, I recalled the days when I performed those tasks myself—for free. The results were generally reflective of my skill level at the time but at least they didn’t require the vast cash outlays I’m now forced to endure. I won’t even start on the price of quality fashion designed to camouflage our so-called figure flaws. Which brings me to the cost of Weight Watchers, gymn memberships, tennis lessons and yoga classes. Not to mention having to subscribe to every fashion and decorating magazine currently in publication to stay abreast of what’s in and what’s out. It’s a lot of time and a lot of money. The work never ends.

Will I ever not care?

I’ve often wondered if I’ll ever reach the point when I’m living in the “home” surrounded by the urns of ashes from all my dead dogs, that I won’t care what I look like. Imagine waking up in a comfy flannel teddy bear printed nightgown, brushing your inch-long “pixie” cut and putting on a fresh pink sweat suit over your soft cotton undershirt and grannie panties. Finish the ensemble with fuzzy warm socks inside Tender Tootsies and we’re set to go. Wouldn’t it be lovely if our daily makeup routine consisted of just a slash of clear lip balm to prevent scabs, a few drops of Systane to keep our dry old eyes from crusting over, and we’re ready to rock n’ roll. No more probing in a 10X magnifying mirror for stray chin hairs, new wrinkles, age spots or suspicious skin growths.

The work to stay beautiful never ends.

My husband is either discreetly grateful or sadly indifferent to what it takes to keep me looking so fabulous when he takes me out on the town to McDonald’s or for special occasions like my birthday to Swiss Chalet. When I ask how I look, his answer is always, “fine”. Good enough seems to be good enough. And we haven’t even ventured into such premium procedures as Botox, fillers and cosmetic surgery yet. Keep those pension cheques coming—it isn’t getting any easier.

That’s why we trophy wives have our own Visa cards and bank accounts. This allows us to make discreet lump sum transfers from the joint account into our own account to skillfully bury the high cost of maintenance. Life’s just easier if he doesn’t know the details. Although, considering what it costs him to golf, by my calculations, I’m still a bargain. And with his handicap, he’ll have to be content with me being his only trophy. But, I’m worth it.

To order  I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron from Amazon.com, click here.

You’ll love it and it’s only $6.52

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