BOOMERBROADcast

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


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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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Hydro has some ‘splainin’ to do

As if I weren’t confused enough already by Ontario Hydro changing their name to Enersource, OPG, Hydro One or whatever, now they’ve gone and done it again! The geniuses who run What’s-its-name have now decided to call themselves Alectra Utilities. It surely has something to do with trying to escape the negative perception of their brand in the market, otherwise, would someone please explain to me why they’re doing it again. Perhaps it gives them more nefarious channels to use for hiding fiscal mismanagement and reaming their customers. I finally just managed to sort out my gas bill from my hydro bill. In case you have the same problem—my gas bill comes under the name Enercare and my hydro bill is called Enersource. I’m not a stupid person but I’m probably not the only one who had to write that down to keep them straight.

As a retired Marketing Manager for a major corporation ($2 billion in new work annually) I have a working grasp of the concept, practicalities and costs involved in changing a brand’s name and logo. Lard thunderin’ jeasus! What are these people doing? Apparently, it’s to amalgamate several company names under one banner. Could they not have thought of this in the first place? We’re all doing our laundry on Saturdays and Sundays or off-hours in the middle of the night, turning off lights and lowering our thermostats to conserve energy and costs while the fat cats at What’s-its-name spend like drunken sailors.

How many Hydro workers does it take to screw in a light bulb? It’s no joke.

We’ve all seen hydro workers in the field. They’re easily recognizable—one person working in a bucket at the top of a pole while six others stand around on the ground with a cup of Timmie’s double/double in their hands. I’m not suggesting this could be part of the reason our hydro bills are so high, or am I? A friend worked in middle management at What’s-its-name for several years and reaching a point when she could no longer stand to be part of an organization that has no concept of controlling overheads or of management accountability, she left. Her stories were horrifying for those of us who toiled in the private sector.

Then, this morning came the pièce de résistance. I received an email from a company called (in case you’re still following this) Alectra Utilities. It’s a customer survey wanting to know my opinion on their operations. I completed the survey which was interspersed with pages of graphs and charts which 98% of people won’t read. The questions are cleverly skewed to justify their excesses and mismanagement. Here’s an example:

Now? You’re asking ME?

Thinking about Enersource’s forecasted plan for replacing aging infrastructure, which of the following statements best represents your point of view?

  • Enersource should look at the long-term health of the system and proactively spend what is needed to ensure costs are spread out evenly over time – even if that means higher rates.
  • Enersource should spend only what is needed to maintain system reliability – even if that means from year to year there may be fluctuations in the rate of capital investment.
  • Enersource should focus on keeping rates as low as possible in the near-term and only spend the bare minimum on replacing aging infrastructure – even if that means higher replacement costs in the future.
  • Don’t know

Here’s a link to the full survey in case you’re interested: http://surveys.alectracustomerfeedback.com/SE/1/survey01/

Ding dong. This isn’t a customer survey. It’s propaganda—thinly veiled permission to continue feeding the fat cat and justify decisions that What’s-its-name’s managers are being paid the mega-bucks to make on our behalf. I ticked off “Don’t Know” for most of the answers because that’s their job, although if they were doing it in the private sector, they’d be fired. Ticking off those innocuous little boxes could never begin to accurately convey what this customer really thinks. As if anyone listens, or cares.

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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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How many e-readers are too many?

To E or not to E?

At the present time, in addition to being a voracious reader of hardcopy books, magazines and newspapers, I juggle several e-readers to meet my daily needs. Just like computer nerds who have multiple monitors flashing with activity on their desks, it takes several devices to satisfy my lust for the written word. The rationale compares to having multiple pairs of black shoes or a variety of purses (Boomer women can relate). Sometimes you like the comfy rubber soled walkers and other times you prefer the stack-em high stilettos that forsake comfort and performance for attitude.

I’ve been known to shoot smart phone users the evil eye as they thumb their devices in the company of friends at lunch or dinner. I’ve indiscreetly suggested that friends leave them in their purses when we’re lunching or catching up over a cup of tea. I rarely use my own cell phone and quickly become impatient with people who are constantly fiddling with theirs. But try to separate me from my iPad and I’d immediately suffer the DTs. I must confess, though, that I still prefer to read the newspaper in old-fashioned hard copy spread out on my kitchen table. With so many newspapers, magazines and other print publications being threatened with extinction, we have a responsibility to support print publication as much as possible. I’m certainly doing my bit with eighteen subscriptions per month.

Some British mags are just too delicious to wait for the hard copy, so e-subscriptions fit the bill

Since reading is my favourite thing in the world to do, I have totally embraced the digital world which offers unlimited access to nearly every word ever written. As the owner of two Kindles, two iPads and one Kobo I’m always just arm’s length from accessing my current library book, reference book or favourite British magazine that takes too long to reach our shores in hard copy.

A friend recently emailed to ask my opinion on the best e-reader as he was contemplating buying one. Since I’ve owned five, he felt I was somewhat qualified to have an informed opinion. My answer was the iPad mini because of its light weight and versatility. But that’s subjective and I certainly don’t want to diminish the merits and joy of reading on Kindle, Kobo or old-fashioned hardcover books. It’s just that e-readers have greatly reduced my burgeoning inventory of books needing literal shelf space and have saved me a ton of money by downloading from the public library or on-line retailers. E-readers are unbeatable for loading up several books when traveling. They’re convenient for carrying in your purse for a quick read while gobbling a burger and fries at Five Guys, or while getting a pedicure. There are so many options available. Take your pick but I highly recommend picking at least one. The way I read it, the more the merrier.

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Avoid these 6 fashion mistakes

Who am I to be offering fashion advice! Boomer gals have always been told “If you wore it once before, you can’t wear it again”. That’s the beauty of listening to us—we’ve been there at least once, made our share of mistakes and are happy to dispense fashion advice to anyone who will listen. So, if you’re willing to listen, I’m going to share six fashion mistakes I’ve made over the years and strongly suggest you not repeat them.

  1. Don’t buy into everything the fashion mags promote. They get it wrong more often than not.

    Jumpsuits or rompers: Several decades ago, an old boyfriend gave me a bubble-gum pink crimpolene (the fabric alone should give you an idea of how long ago it was) one-piece jumpsuit for Christmas. I felt like a circus clown minus the fright wig (that came later) in the outfit and had to completely undress every time I went to the bathroom. The nightmare still lingers. Spare yourself this disaster. No one looks good in a jumpsuit, I don’t care what the fashionistas say.

  2. Shoes that almost fit: Who hasn’t gone into Town Shoes or Nine West when they’re having their seasonal clear out sale and picked up some great buys, only to wear them once. Shoes never stretch and they never get comfortable if they’re not absolutely perfect in the store. Buy shoes late in the day when your feet are swollen and tender to ensure a good fit. Opt for quality and comfort over price. If you didn’t love them at full price, they’re no better at fifty percent off and half a size too small.
  3. Coulottes and jumpsuits never were and never will be flattering on anyone – ever!

    Beware of trends:  Ladies of a certain age (Boomers) have to be discriminating about what fashion trends we buy into and not get sucked in to what they’re plugging in magazines or on television. Our knees have gone south and are no longer what they used to be so that rules out mini skirts and short dresses. (Remember: we did that half a century ago.) Coulottes were never attractive. If you’re going to buy a “cold shoulder” top or wild print, don’t pay a lot because you’ll soon tire of it and next year it won’t work. By the way, Jackie Kennedy never wore prints. Worth noting.

  4. Quantity over quality: When you’re young it’s tempting to go for lots of cheap items of “disposable” clothing. Variety rules and “more” outranks “better”. Unfortunately, the total expenditure often equals that of a few better-made, quality pieces that fit better, are more versatile and get more mileage. We quickly get bored with that over-the-top print or fed up with the drape of a cheaply made dress. There’s merit in calculating the “cost per wearing” factor over the lifespan of the item.
  5. Colours matter: When I wear anything orange I look jaundiced. Same goes for red hair, which I tried once for forty-eight hours. Be conscious of your most flattering colour palette. I’ve also noticed that as we age, colour is our friend; beige is for cadavers. Much as I love grays with silver jewelry, I have to add a citrus green or pink scarf to make it pop. And I don’t think there’s a woman alive who doesn’t look smashing in red, including redheads.
  6. Oh dear! We’ve all been there, or tried to.

    Tattoos: Be very very careful before you ink. Over time tats fade and blur and nothing is more unappealing than old wrinkled skin sporting an indistinguishable wrinkled old tattoo. The same applies for “permanent makeup”. A friend once had her over-plucked eyebrows tattooed in. They looked lovely—at first, then they faded and turned mauve. And, have you ever seen a woman with permanent tattooed dark lip liner when her lipstick wears off? Beyond not pretty! (And this from someone who is contemplating trying the new “microblading” technique to fill in my own over-plucked brows. Do as I say, not as I do.)

Boomer gals have racked up more than our share of fashion “don’ts” over the years. In the seventies, I once sported khaki green hair when I accidentally bleached my hair (the “hair lightening” label on the box was misleading) and tried to fix it by applying a medium ash blonde permanent colour. I won’t even begin describing the perm disasters and styling mistakes I’ve lived through. Am I the only idiot who tried one of those perms that looked like a bushy Julius Caesar laurel wreath around your head with flat hair on top? At least the rage for wearing white nurses’ pantyhose in the seventies wasn’t permanent and quickly passed.

We whipped up dozens of these little beauties in the sixties and seventies.

The upside of these fashion disasters is that it gives us plenty to laugh about when we look at old photos and reminisce over multiple glasses of icey Pinot Grigio. One of my friends still has the lime green leather mini skirt she wore in the sixties, with a matching jacket and expensive long brown boots (both long gone). The saved mini skirt is about a foot long and not much wider, worthy we think of being displayed in a shadow box and hung on the wall. Some things just deserve museum status.

Remember the quaint little printed empire-waisted “village” dresses we wore in the mid-sixties? At $14.98 they were a little out of my price-range. Back then, when most of us were broke and still able to sew, we whipped up dozens of little A-line mini dresses trimmed in braid or rick-rack. Fancying myself a bit avant-garde, I liked to buy floral drapery fabric purchased at Toronto’s posh Eaton’s College Street store to make mine and . . . well I’ll leave it to your imagination. Once, I even made a matching purse out of an empty kleenex box (the cardboard was a lot stronger in those days) covered with the same fabric as my dress. And now I have the nerve to offer fashion advice?

A wee bit older and a bit wiser.

While Boomers are not willing to make these mistakes again, perhaps there is some merit in the younger generation baring their midriff and sporting blue hair while tottering around on five-inch platforms. It’ll give them something to laugh about with their friends in the year 2050, remembering when they too once had bodies they thought would last forever. And that’s worth more than the price of a good bottle of Pinot . . . if you feel comfortable taking fashion advice from someone who once proudly sported a purse made from a Kleenex box.

Share your own fashion oopsies with our readers in the “Comments” section.

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Living the Golden Girls’ reality

Communal living Golden Girls’-style has its advantages.

As Boomers approach retirement, we’re circling our wagons, in search of a landing pad that is functional, safe, fulfilling and sustainable. Some of us have branched off to follow children and grandchildren only to find they’re too busy with their own lives to have much room for us. Many of us are colonizing with like-minded fellow Boomers who share our interests, value system, taste in music and social activities. We’re moving into retirement bungalow communities or affordable condos with activity centres and handy amenities. These communities are, however, in short supply.

What makes us different from earlier generations is that we’re demanding more creative approaches to retirement accommodation. One of the reasons our parents are so reluctant to move from their suburban split-level is the lack of viable options. The housing market doesn’t offer many in-between choices for that couple of decades between the big family home and the restrictions and finality of a “retirement home”. My friend MaryAnne sent me a link to a recent article in the Toronto Star about a group of Boomer ladies in Port Perry, Ontario who are living *Golden Girls-style. Four retired women pooled their resources, bought a large Victorian home in a lovely community on Lake Scugog northeast of Toronto and had it customized so they could live independently yet cooperatively in a shared home.

Boomers want specific housing to fill that gap between the big suburban family home and the retirement home.

My own circle of Boomer friends has talked endlessly about communal living. Perhaps it’s a throwback to our idealistic hippie days from the sixties but more realistically it’s just plain practicality. Our families are busy with their own lives and we want the support and social interaction offered by our circle of friends while remaining independent. There are so many options in addition to the Port Perry Golden Girls’ model. The one that appeals to us the most is the “colony”—where we each have our own separate unit but are part of a cluster of similar units forming a pod of lifestyle-sharing retired Boomers. It could be linked or detached one-storey homes. Florida is brimming with this type of accommodation. It could be a multi-unit, two or three-storey condo-style building comprising six or eight units with two units per floor sharing a common elevator/stairwell corridor. That configuration would provide windows for light and ventilation on three sides of each unit.

Retirement accommodation doesn’t have to be expensive . . . but we do have certain expectations.

Land prices are becoming prohibitively too expensive to build cost-effective retirement communities in large cities like Toronto and Vancouver but smaller urban centres could greatly enrich their tax base by marketing to us. Smaller towns and cities should encourage developers to build what we’re looking for. We want access to health care, shopping, theatre, libraries and sports facilities. The baby boomer generation is a huge demographic. It’s a mystery to me why developers, communities and investors aren’t capitalizing on this opportunity by providing what we’re looking for. Build it and we will come. Just call me.

For more on this issue, click on:

Build it and Boomers will come

It pays to listen to Boomers

Can we afford to go on living?

Where will you be in twenty years?

Grandparenting Boomer-style

*Meet a new generation of golden girls

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The girlfriend grapevine is constantly growing

At last. Fashion advice Boomer Broads can relate to.

When girlfriends are on to a good thing, we share. If we find flattering jeans that fit our Boomer bodies, we tell everyone we know where to get them at the best price. We share recipes, the names of our favourite underwear brands (SOMA), favourite mascara (Lancôme Hypôse) and pretty much everything but our men. (We’ve invested too many years training them to our personal requirements.) There’s a section in my blog inspired by Oprah called My Favourite Things which I haven’t added to lately and is now going to be updated so keep an eye on it.

My latest discovery which I’m confident every Baby Boomer Broad will love is a website/blog called Susan After 60. As someone who constantly carps about the lack of flattering fashions available for our demographic and the ridiculous and relentless promotion of pouty, anorexic teenage girls in all the fashion mags, I was delighted to find Susan Street’s blog. It’s focused on fashion, with some lifestyle tips thrown in. I particularly like the way she acknowledges her challenges and how she addresses them. Spend some time rooting through her site; you’ll be glad you did.

And it’s not expensive.

Street began a new life in her early forties following a difficult divorce. Weighing more than two hundred pounds and suffering from low self-esteem, she worked to put her life back together. Without any formal training, the former naval enlistee started her own fashion and styling business, making mistakes along the way, which she shares with her readers as lessons learned. One of things I like the most (apart from the clothes, shoes, bags) about Susan Street’s blog is the fact that the brands she wears are not expensive designers. She sources her pants, tank tops, jackets and other wardrobe components from a wide variety of retailers including Chico’s, White House Black Market, Target, Dillards, Saks Off Fifth and Stein Mart. The result is a beautifully turned-out Boomer in classic outfits with a touch of flair. Her site includes easy links to retailers who carry what she’s wearing in case we want to order.

Click here for Susan After 60 and let me know what you think. If you like what you see, share it with friends, along with BOOMERBROADCAST.net of course. Let’s grow our girlfriend grapevine. I’d love to hear your comments.

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