BOOMERBROADcast

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


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I gobbled up The Edible Woman

I still have my original paperback copy.

It was probably the popularity of the television series The Handmaid’s Tale based on the book written by Margaret Atwood that reignited my interest in her writing. I must confess though that I did not like the book when I read it thirty years ago. Just too weird for my taste, but I absolutely loved the television series and can’t wait for season two. Perhaps I’ve evolved and I finally get it. In discussing the series with a friend who also disliked the book, I suggested she read The Edible Woman, a wonderful book written by Atwood in the late 1960s. So, the other day I unearthed my old, yellowed paperback copy of The Edible Woman to lend her. Although I’ve already read it two or three times since it was first published in 1969, I couldn’t resist the urge to take a quick peak inside. Then I couldn’t stop reading. It’s a time capsule of life in Toronto when there were still typewriters on our desks at work, girdles in our dresser drawers and hi-fi’s in our apartments. The sixties vernacular came crashing back through familiar-sounding descriptions of the clothing, social attitudes and physical surroundings. I was reminded of the difference in our moral standards. Back then gays were still referred to as queer, unmarried couples could not share a hotel room and young women often quit work when they married.

Parts I and III of the book are written in the first person, narrated by Marian, a recent university graduate. The reason Part II is written in second person becomes evident at the end of the book. She works for Seymour Surveys finessing the language in market research questionnaires for such products as beer, sanitary pads and canned rice pudding. Marian has an uninspired relationship with an articling law student named Peter whom she plans to marry and shares a flat with Ainsley who reminded me of the selfish roommate Meredith in Georgy Girl, played by Charlotte Rampling. Various other characters move through her daily life causing her to question herself and her choices. She has a secret friend Duncan who has a thing for laundromats and the life of her married friend Clara represents everything abhorrent to her. Marian’s life as a twenty-something will sound so familiar to those of us who were never quite totally happy or unhappy at that stage in our lives. There’s an overlying veil of dissatisfaction reminiscent of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.

Toronto, as it looked when Marian worked downtown for Seymour Surveys.

Toronto in the late sixties looked very different from today with about one-third the current population and Atwood’s detailed descriptions took me back more than fifty years. She doesn’t specify street names or neighbourhoods and I had fun figuring out where things took place from my memories of Toronto at that time. I could visualize the flat shared by Marian and Ainsley being located in the Annex district just northwest of The University of Toronto. I once shared a flat in the Roncesvalles area with two other girls, that was amazingly similar to theirs. There was no privacy door between our flat and the Polish landlady who lived with her daughters on the main floor so our activities were under her constant scrutiny. Banging her broom handle on her kitchen ceiling to warn us to keep the noise down and being subjected to her constant scrutiny was a part of daily life. Marian’s friend Len also had an apartment that sounded identical to one I once occupied on Vaughan Road.

Nostalgia abounds. When Marion describes her boyfriend Peter’s new apartment in a huge new development complex south of Bloor Street I could picture it in St. James Town. Like Peter, a friend of mine moved in while the building was still was under construction and the elevators didn’t work. Back then it was still considered a hip address comparable to today’s Liberty District south of King Street. The sixties clothing worn by Marian and Ainsley is so familiar, right down to the circular virgin pin worn on the dress of one of her co-workers. Atwood’s characters meet for a drink one evening in a lounge atop the Park Plaza Hotel at Yonge and Bloor Streets, a scene I could picture so vividly having visited the same spot in 1967 with a date and stood on the same terrace looking south toward Queen’s Park.

Yorkville Village in the sixties before it was gentrified.

Before the acceptance of such taken-for-granted rights as gender equality, young women were expected to marry before having children and there was still a degree of reverence for ‘saving yourself’ until marriage. We wrote letters home; we took our bag of dirty laundry on the bus to the laundromat when we ran out of clean clothes and we had to be twenty-one to drink legally. Our spartan apartments were furnished with junk and hand-me-downs. We were subject to the tyranny of landlords and we had jobs not careers.

The message or moral of the story (which you will have to read the book to understand) will ring true for so many women who came into womanhood in the heady days of the sixties. In fact I blogged about the issue for Valentines Day three years ago. This early book by Margaret Atwood turned me into a fan of her writing. If you’re a boomer and feel like burying yourself in a delicious blanket of nostalgia, read or re-read The Edible Woman, still one of my favourites. The message is universal and something today’s millenials can learn from. I had so much fun time-traveling back to life in downtown Toronto during the late sixties. We’ve come a long way baby.

Click here to order The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood from Amazon.com

Click here to read I love you but I love me too

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I couldn’t have said it better

I just came across a shared article on Facebook’s Style Your Way to Success Over 50 written by Rebecca Huval in January 2017 entitled We’ve Forgotten How to Dress Like Adults which expresses the sentiments of baby boomer women and our relationship with fashion better than I ever could. I loved it and I think you will to. Here’s the link:

https://www.racked.com/2017/1/18/14112366/dressing-like-an-adult-sophistication

What do you think? Do you agree with Rebecca?

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I want to see it in print. Is anyone listening?

We’re rooting for you if you’d only listen to us.

As someone who plans to be a magazine editor in my next life and who is also an inveterate magazine junkie (18 subscriptions per month, at last count) I’m seriously concerned about the demise of print publishing. My morning newspaper is getting thinner and thinner. Chatelaine has cut back to bi-monthly and Macleans Magazine is now publishing monthly instead of weekly. I’ve lost my beloved MORE magazine which recognized and targeted our demographic, while Canadian Business, Flare and LouLou have stopped publishing altogether.

So, when I saw a familiar Canadian name associated with America’s mega publisher Hearst Communications Inc., I experienced a flutter of hope. After serving as editor of Good Housekeeping, former Chatelaine editor-in-chief Jane Francisco has been appointed editorial director of Hearst’s lifestyle group which includes Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Women’s Day. Former editor-in-chief of MORE Jane Seymour is launching an on-line publication called CoveyClub which I’ll be following for sure. While I do subscribe to a couple of on-line magazines including one from the U.K. (which I can get faster and cheaper on-line), I prefer to read newspapers and magazines in hard copy so I can rip articles or pictures out and put them in my inspiration files. I love the feel of the glossy pages and the deep pleasure that comes with sitting down with a newly arrived mag and a cup of tea.

I’m just one of thousands of boomer women who subscribe to excellent blogs and websites like susanafter60 to get our fashion inspiration.

Why the focus on millenials?

My major concern and one that traverses all business is the focus on millenials. What about boomers? We have more money than millenials and we’re a bigger demographic. I can see I’m going to have to BFF Jane Francisco and set her straight about a few things. Have they even once considered that the decline in subscriptions might have something to do with their target market and the content offered? Baby boomers are constantly bemoaning the lack of attention in the media given to fashion, wellness, relationship and other issues of interest to us. Not everyone who reads is having babies, taking mat leave, buying their first home or trying to get their post-baby bodies back in shape. American retailer Chico’s gets it and so does Eileen Fisher who targets boomers. However, Eileen Fisher’s prices are out of range for many and her casual designs are not everyone’s taste. Imagine the potential for business and retailers if they recognized and capitalized on our enormous buying power. Conversely, being a baby boomer does not mean I’m a natural market for denture adhesives, incontinence products, frumpy fashion or questionable pharmaceuticals.

I’m no financial expert nor do I have any knowledge of the business side of the publishing industry but I am a big fan and a customer with a strong interest in its future. While the bean counters are busy juggling overheads and measuring the pros and cons of shared revenue streams, have they ever considered asking us, the consumer what we want to spend our money on? Print advertising sales are down and I can’t help but wonder if the advertisers too are out of touch with what we want and can relate to. Very few of us are in the market for four thousand dollar handbags, expensive stiletto heels or kicky fashions designed for genetically mutant teens. Boomers want kicky fashion too but we need advertising we can relate to. Have print publications outlived their magic formula? Where’s the imagination and creativity? Where’s the reciprocal communication with readers?

Publishers. Need help? I’m at your service.

While Canadian publications do not benefit from the economies of scale enjoyed in the United States which has ten times the population, there’s a huge discrepancy in pricing with Canadian subscriptions often costing four times what U.S. subscribers pay. In order to boost sales, American magazines frequently offer subscriptions for twelve dollars a year and even special promotions for five dollars a year can be found. Is this a bad time to bring up free trade? There must be a more workable solution than gradual annihilation. I’ve been waving this banner for years and have been ignored for years. Jane Francisco? Karine Ewart? Moses Znaimer, Mr. Hearst? Any other publishers and editors out there? Call me or email me. We want you to succeed and I’m here for you. Is anyone listening?

Here are links to blogs and websites (click on the link or “like” on Facebook) that baby boomer women can relate to (some are better than others, but judge for yourself):

susanafter60.com

notdeadyetstyle.com

styleyourwaytosuccessover50.com

styleatacertainage.com

stillsexyafter60.com

babyboomermaturewomenclothing.com

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What’s with the falsies?

Oh dear!

It’s been more than four decades since I wore false eyelashes so I totally understand their current appeal. I even remember the name of the drugstore brand I preferred back then—Eyelure, applied with Andrea glue. They were long, delicate and gorgeous. Sometimes the weight of the lashes even made my eyes feel sleepy. Back then, I didn’t wear glasses but if I had to put on sunglasses, the fake lashes annoyingly brushed against the lenses leaving little wispy streaks. I became expert at running a tiny ribbon of glue along the base, waving the eyelash strip in the air a couple of times for the glue to become slightly tacky, then deftly applying it, starting in the middle and using the end of my eye-liner brush to tap them into place. Presto. No mascara, no liner required and my eyes looked like a million bucks regardless of how little sleep I’d had.

In the sixties, we all wanted to look like Twiggy or Jean Shrimpton.

What differentiates original baby boomer faux eyelash wearers from how millenials wear them now is the degree of obvious faux. Back in the late sixties and early seventies, our preference was for a glorified natural look with a dash of Twiggy. Our falsies were obviously not natural but we trimmed and groomed them before we applied them so they would look dramatic but not ridiculous. We wanted to appear starry-eyed and bright. Today’s look tends towards goth and grotesque. It doesn’t seem have occurred to current faux lash wearers to use manicure scissors to trim the inner and outer corners and perhaps texturize the tips.

I love makeup, although now it’s more flattering for our generation to employ a minimalist, natural look. When I see young women with flawless skin, I’m envious for sure. After I lecture them on the evils of smoking and exposing their skin to sun (advice I’m sure they’re thrilled to hear from a past-her-prime old boomer broad), I compliment them and suggest they take care of their gift. But I find it hard to keep my mouth shut about the state of their false eyelashes. Are they meant to resemble an industrial strength car-wash brush?

Much better.

Am I so out-of-date that I don’t get the current craze for bear bristles? When I stand in front of the checkout clerk at the grocery store whose false eyelashes resemble a golf-shoe scraper, I can’t stop staring, wondering how on earth she could possibly think they look attractive for everyday wear. As I said, I’m a fan of faux lashes, but like any fashion accessory, it’s important to learn how to wear them properly and save the drag queen lashes for professional entertainers. In the sixties an advertising slogan asked “Does she or doesn’t she?” It was considered preferable to keep ’em guessing while looking great. Or, perhaps it’s just a matter of personal taste and I’m the weird one.

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Sharing my secrets to buying a new problem-free laptop

Like buying a car, I don’t need to know what’s under the hood as long as it gets me where I want to go as quickly as possible and preferably without shifting gears. A cup holder would have been be nice.

For many of us non-techies, buying new electronics such as cell phones, telecom services or computers is an experience right up there with sticking needles in your eyeballs. As I detailed in a recent blog “Dear Mr. Gates”, (click here to read), it’s a process characterized by dread, stress, sleepless nights, and hours of calls to a third-world call centre where English is spoken only as second or third language, if at all.  Then, there’s the outlay of hundreds or thousands of your hard-earned dollars, not to mention all the bad swears involved. Sadly, the built-in obsolescence inherent in our electronic devices means we are forced to endure this process for some piece of electronic equipment more often than we would prefer.

I packed all this excitement into a double-header recently with the purchase of a new laptop and the conversion from satellite television to Fibe TV —in the same week. I’d been putting off buying a new laptop for more than a year. My old one was taking so long to process functions I could do the laundry and re-shingle the roof waiting for my e-mails to open. Most of my day was consumed by re-booting and waiting.

I purchased every support option available, which means now I probably won’t need it.

My nervous dread turned to relief and amazement when I actually made a successful conversion to a new laptop. That miracle certainly deserves some post-mortem reflection and good-hearted sharing of information. If it worked for me, it might work for you.

  1. Purchase from a reputable retail outlet that will probably still be in business by the time you get home. I selected the Microsoft store in Square One Shopping Mall in Mississauga because, thanks to our one-way e-mail-based failed love affair, Bill Gates and I are tight. And I figured Microsoft would be committed to a fairly rigid lease with the landlord at the mall ensuring I know where they live should things go sideways.
  2. Try to pick a fairly new employee. They’re more likely to still be keen and not totally burned out by customers humping their giant printers into the store because they can’t make them work with their new computer.
  3. Bribery. When I noticed the sales rep was also left-handed (like me), I gave him my Pentel Energel liquid gel ink pen, specially designed for lefties, from my personal stash. How could he forget such a generous gesture. Anything to grease the wheel should not be overlooked in ensuring he never forgets you and will treat you royally. Don’t try humbugs, though. That’s just sad.
  4. At the risk of sounding sexist, I would ordinarily have preferred a female sales rep assuming she would be more nurturing and empathetic. However, young male sales reps can be more easily manipulated when faced with a gush of old-lady tears, which I was totally prepared to employ if needed.
  5. On the subject of old ladies, don’t be afraid to play the old lady card. When you feign complete ignorance and incompetence the sales reps can be very generous with their time and patience. I find it helps if you speak in a soft, shaky voice too.  And make them speak in language you understand, not technical Klingon.
  6. If Item 5 fails, you can resort to mean old crone. That’s what I did. I made the poor guy read my recent blog posting about my frustrations with electronics (again, click here to read Dear Mr. Gates). Then, I threatened him with my enduring presence at his store if my new computer didn’t work exactly like it should the first time I turned it on. I’m not proud of it, but I think I scared the bejeesuz out of the poor guy. That was probably the clincher that ensured all my old data would be migrated seamlessly to my new laptop. Mission accomplished.

Hallelujah. It works!

It could have been any one or a combination of all the above strategies that sealed my successful transition to a new laptop. I can confidently and honestly tell you that my new laptop works like a charm, just like my old one should have. When my tech-savvy friend Mike asked what I got, I replied “It’s silver”. That’s how much I know about computers. It is in fact an HP Envy 365 Intel Core 17, 7th Gen (whatever all that means) and cost more than three times what I paid for my old Toshiba.  And I purchased every support, replacement and tech assistance option available. I only hope it lasts three times as long which should take this old lady until the end of her time, which I would consider a pretty good investment. If only life were that simple.

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A woman’s view of World War II from behind German lines

Whenever I finish a good book I’m often left feeling somewhat bereft. After being emotionally involved in the lives of the characters over a few days or whatever time it takes to read the book, it’s hard to just “close the book”. Even though The Women in the Castle, a New York Times best seller by Jessica Shattuck had a good ending, I still hated to finish. The fictional story about the lives of three disparate German women, Marianne, Benita and Ania is a look at World War II from the other side and in particular, a female perspective.

The topic has been covered in thousands of books but this one focuses on the wives of three women whose husbands were part of the Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler in July 1944. The primary character, Marianne is married to a member of the German aristocracy who is the inheritor of a centuries-old castle that becomes an integral part of the plot. Polish Ania has a mysterious background that isn’t revealed until near the end of the story but that’s part of what keeps us reading. Benita is married to a childhood friend of Marianne’s and appears to be the only character that seems out of her depth. I’m not sure why Shattuck characterized her the way she did as an intellectually challenged misfit amongst strong anti-Nazis except perhaps simply for variety.

I’m always frustrated by books that jump around in time, generally preferring things proceed in chronological order. When the author finally lands in the 1950s and stays there, however, I’m disappointed that there wasn’t more of the women’s actual war experiences. But I’m not the author and a best-selling New York Times author to boot, so perhaps I should just say it’s a great book. I really enjoyed it and you probably will too.

To order a copy of The Women in the Castle from Amazon.com, click here.

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Are the fashion experts crazy or am I?

Boomers just wanna have fun with fashion too.

Call me a bitch but one of my favourite old lady past-times is sitting in my LaZgirl chair mocking and debunking the fashion advice I see on television and in many ‘women’s’ magazines. I love watching CITY TV’s CityLine as well as CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show and The Social. I truly enjoy those shows but lordy lordy, am I the only one who thinks much of their fashion advice is a lot of hooey? To their credit, many of the models and makeover candidates featured have normal (a.k.a. not stick thin) bodies which makes it easier for we mortals to relate to the fashion challenges presented, but, the ‘before’ pictures are sometimes better than the ‘after’.

The Marilyn Denis show. My favourite host and everyone’s girlfriend.

Peter Papapetrou and Alexis Honce on The Marilyn Denis Show are my favourite targets. Sometimes Papapetrou nails it, but most of the time the outfits he comes up with are jokingly inappropriate. I like Greta Monahan but much of her fashion advice is just plain weird. Last week she took a top-heavy, tall, solidly built woman who wanted to minimize her ample bust area and Monahan put her in a faux-fur vest. Granted, it was in a dark colour but wouldn’t a light-weight fabric have been more flattering? And what woman alive can tolerate the heat generated by spending the day in a fur vest unless you live above the sixty-nineth parallel? Tracey Moore’s fashions could be better. I love her clothing supplier, Freda’s, but her choices often miss the mark. And, I have to seriously question the sensibility of anyone who would be a fan of jumpsuits, which she is. Have you ever tried going to the bathroom in one of those things? I’ll spare you the details.

One of my biggest beefs is the choice of shoes with wide ankle straps on women with short, heavy legs. Then, the fashion experts compound the disaster by putting the ladies in flouncy skirts or dresses. Or, what about the short-waisted women they insist on outfitting in belted dresses or tops with the sad little belt peeking out two inches below the bustline? Much as I criticize Marilyn Denis’s inflexible choice of jeggings and maternity tops on nearly every show, at least she recognizes she has issues with her waistline and tries to accommodate it. Once in a while she opts for a skirt and shows off her gorgeous legs but she should do it more often. And I rarely see anything on The Social’s ladies that I would wear, but then I’m not their age. I do admire their courage though.

CityLine’s Lynn Spence can generally be counted on for good advice.

Lynn Spence is a generously proportioned woman and she understands the difficulties normal women have in trying to dress fashionably. Most of her choices are not too bad but often she seems to favour promoting the retailer more than the interests of fashion for real women. I miss Sandra Pittana. Her taste is more off-beat but always fun to watch. Lisa Rogers has a reasonable fashion sensibility and I generally enjoy most of her choices. Jessica Mulroney’s tastes lean toward styles geared to women who look like her—wisp-thin young working mothers who could wear a tea towel with a bit of string and look great. She shouldn’t have done whatever she did to her upper lip though.

When these so-called fashion experts have access to an entire mall full of clothing or even a single retailer, how can they make such dreadful choices. I’d love to have the resources they do. I find myself screaming at the television, “Is that the best you can do?”. And the fashion magazines are even worse. Where’s the inspiration for real women in a sea of anorexic teenage genetic flukes?

And while I’m ranting here, does anyone recognize that there’s a whole generation of women out there called Baby Boomers who are completely ignored as a potential target market? The majority of makeovers are new mothers returning to the workforce, looking to regain their business chic while coping with postpartum bodies. Boomers are a huge demographic with the time and the money to spend on fashion, not to mention the time to watch daytime television and cruise the malls after a ladies’ lunch. But who am I to criticize? Are the fashionistas living in some parallel universe that I don’t get or is it just me being a fashion-illiterate bitch?

It’s only because we care, sweetie dahlings. Just want to keep the economy rolling along.

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