BOOMERBROADcast

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


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Is the fashion media still relevant?


As someone who is not rich, not thin and not young, I am not exactly in the cross hairs of the editors at current popular fashion magazines. Nevertheless, I love fashion and I love to critique Vogue’s annual  ‘September issue‘. Once a year I put on my probably-not-stylish bitch hat and go to work. The September issue is always a biggie—almost 800 pages—and requires an extra effort on the part of my mail carrier to get it my door. To his credit he also delivered my Restoration Hardware catalogues the same week so I’ll owe him a compensatory tip at Christmas. So many times I’ve been tempted to cancel my subscription to Vogue but it’s fashion eye candy and who doesn’t love candy.

So, Boomerbroadcast readers, here is what I see as relevant and irrelevant in the September 2017 issue of Vogue:

  • Overall, I’d rate it higher than last year’s edition, which came as a complete surprise to me (click here to read my review of the September 2016 issue). I was all set to be majorly disappointed but there were a few nice surprises along with the usual clunkers.
  • It was their 125th anniversary edition. The cover fold-out included reprints of vintage covers including a July 1967 one of Twiggy with flower power painted eyes which I particularly liked.
  • Absolutely every brand in existence bought ad space congratulating Vogue on their special anniversary. Just in case we forget their names.
  • Dior’s all-navy spread a few pages in had definite merit and was appealing. And I’ve never seen a Dior bag I didn’t love.
  • Ralph Lauren showed a Glen plaid suit for women with a nifty watch chain draped from a belt with silver padlock that is totally do-able. I could repurpose a silver chain and charm I already have without having to buy the pricey real thing.
  • Gucci’s metallic makeup and glitter overload were just too over-the-top to find anything I could relate to. Boomers and anyone over thirty simply do not do iridescent or shiny. For perfect pubescent skin only. #gucciandbeyond
  • Tiffany rarely disappoints. Their new line of horse-bit styled chain jewelry is to die for. Sigh . . . as if I could ever afford it.

    What’s not to love about this? Sigh!

  • Neiman Marcus advertised a fun Calvin Klein (205W39NYC) full-length coat that looked like a quilted Mennonite bedspread with Glen plaid arms that I actually liked. Cool!
  • Canada’s own Holt Renfrew sprang for a two-page spread of retro painted-lady dresses. Wear once. Bored. Toss. Disposable clothing with a big price tag.
  • Stella McCartney’s people were truly innovative with their two-page spread showing a prone young woman in a green turtleneck dress lying on top of a pile of recyclable garbage, alongside a couple of Stella’s leather-free purses. Says it all. Simply. Green. Absolutely loved everything about the concept.
  • Anne Klein’s black and white ads were rather introspective with memes like “My worth is not defined by other people’s perception of me”. Honourable intentions but I’m not sure it’ll induce me to look for Anne Klein in stores.
  • Page 382 was all about yummy belts. Ouch! If only I still had a waistline I could resurrect that drawer full of gorgeous belts I already own.
  • Buried in the barely there pseudo editorial content was a half page blurb on the latest face-brightening non-thermal laser technique called PICO (page 462) which promises to banish rosacea and broken capillaries. If there were an effective treatment for rosacea I’d be first in line to try it as I’ve had no luck with anything so far. False hope?
  • Eternally tasteful St. John showed a gorgeous soft pink (looked like cashmere) open coat with matching turtleneck and grey pants that I would love to buy when I win the lottery.

    Yummy coat by St. John, but at $2K Canadian it won’t be keeping this boomer warm any time soon.

  • The GAP’s double-page spread of denim jeans and white tee shirts is perhaps indicative why their business is slipping. Nothing new. Nothing original.
  • The book page (616) usually grabs my attention but the selection of books, all focused on young characters should come as no surprise from an editorial staff of young people who have no awareness of generations beyond twenty-somethings. No range.
  • Hallejuliah for the “Good Jeans” (play on words) section featuring ‘older’ super models like Amber Valetta, Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista—some photographed (by Annie Leibovitz) with their daughters. The dark lighting smoothed out imperfections but we know we’ll never age as well as they have. The inclusion of Kendall Jenner totally pissed me off though as I’m so sick of the Kardashian klan. Sick, sick, sick of them.
  • I did notice that most of the models in this issue wore minimal makeup which was interesting.
  • Oprah’s Bliss provides an update on her current state of mind which is a slice of welcome editorial content.
  • For tennis fans who care, there’s a piece about Serena Williams photographed in all her pregnant glory. I’m not interested in tennis, Serena or motherhood so I skipped that one. Purely a subjective choice on my part that not everyone would agree with.
  • Other interesting women were featured. Nicole Kidman turns fifty; Megyn Kelly turns to NBC, Chelsea Manning turns over a new leaf, and Calvin Klein (obviously not a woman) turns heads.

    Really?

  • Every issue of Vogue includes a fashion spread toward the end that I never ‘get’. That’s where the creative people get über creative and go crazy with arty concepts that I think are supposed to win awards or something. This issue’s theme is post-war boom years in suburbia with retro-fifties fashions photographed in caricatured suburban settings like back-yard barbecues with swing sets and white picket fences, the Sunday roast, console televisions as the focal point in living rooms and models channeling June Cleaver. Cute. Sounds so much like it’s finally something that should appeal to boomers. Perhaps I missed the point but there was not a single inspirational visual takeaway for this old boomer. Nice idea but where’s the beef?
  • Lena’s Dunham writes about becoming a redhead. Good writing. Universal theme. Read it yourself (page 728) to see how it turns out. You’ll like it.

Where do you get your fashion inspiration? When I canvassed my own circle of friends, it seems we prefer to scope out what we see other women wearing in the malls, on the streets, at the grocery store (well, maybe a bad example). Observing street style from a sidewalk café is great fun. I’ve often approached someone in a store and asked them where they got a particular item they’re wearing that I love, or asked who cut their hair. Some people refer to Instagram or they collect pictures on Pinterest. Another source of my own fashion inspiration has increasingly come from on-line blogs such as:

There are some excellent fashion blogs such as Lyn Slater’s Accidental Icon targeted at boomers that are infinitely more relevant than mags.

Some of these sites are far better than others and I have my favourites but fashion is subjective and you can pick for yourself which ones you would like to follow.

The reason we’re turning away from the fashion magazines is because they’ve become irrevelant to so many people. Who among us can relate to pouty, stick-thin genetic mutant teenagers wearing faux fur vests with combat boots, ripped leggings and carrying five thousand dollar handbags? The same logic applies to the media’s myopic worship of celebrities. We don’t expect to see an entire issue of Vogue devoted to lumpy baby boomers (or do we?) but a few more Helen Mirrens, Diane Keatons or Isabella Rossellinis would be a welcome addition. Long live Iris Apfel. We do have an interest in fashion and a few bucks to spend.

It annoys the hell out of me that we continue to be so invisible to the fashion industry. Do they ever ask their readers what they like? Really? We want fashion media to succeed but when are they going to produce material that actually inspires its readers to go and buy what they’re selling? The September 2017 issue was better than I expected it to be but imagine what they could do if they acknowledged a broader market. Just imagine . . .

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Hillbilly Elegy is a quite simply a must read


There’s a reason Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance has been on the New York Times’ best seller list for several weeks. It’s an amazing book. If you enjoyed The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, you’ll love Hillbilly Elegy for the same reason. Some might consider Vance a bit young (he’s only in his mid-thirties) to be producing a memoir, but many people including Walls and Catherine Gildiner who was the author of the wonderful trilogy about her early years, have lived young lives truly worthy of sharing. Memoirs by people who have risen above challenging beginnings to succeed in life have always fascinated me and we have so much to learn from them.

J.D. Vance was born into a poor, uneducated, unstable Appalachian family surrounded by a larger community of similarly dysfunctional people. His mother was pregnant at sixteen and although his father didn’t stick around he was never completely estranged. Vance was born into a life anchored by an alcoholic and ultimately drug-addicted mother with an endless stream of boyfriends and husbands, some good but most bad, an assortment of half-siblings and dismal prospects for a better life. The only stable element in his ever-changing life was the presence of an older half-sister and his gun-toting, cussing, mean maternal grandmother who truly loved him. His grandfather, although ultimately living apart from his grandmother was equally loving and loved by Vance and provided a kind moral compass for the boy. He moved back and forth between Kentucky and Ohio depending on his evolving family situation with all its domestic strife, his ever-changing sets of siblings and even changing last names.

Many of the social problems experienced by hillbillies are attributable to their own poor choices in life.

When children are born into a community of people who are always fighting and are disinclined to hold regular jobs or even have ambitions of doing better, they grow up without incentive, without hope and without direction. Those who are lucky enough to find someone in this quagmire of humanity who can see beyond their obvious limits is truly fortunate. Vance possessed a level of intelligence that allowed him to at least finish high school despite poor grades and poor attendance in the midst of his family’s turmoil. Despite their own lack of education, his grandparents encouraged and promoted education helping him by providing a safe home when he needed it, moral direction when he strayed and were successful in regularly putting him back on track. When a cousin suggested the only way Vance would be able to get a college education which was the key to a better life, he opted to pledge four years of his life to the Marine Corps to subsidize his later college education. He ultimately parlayed this into a law degree from prestigious Yale University and through Hillbilly Elegy shares the experience of his journey with others who might benefit from what he learned along the way.

Vance’s enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps was step two in bettering his life after step one which was completing high school.

Vance discovered a world entirely different from what he had always known when he enlisted in the Marines and to a greater extent afterward when he went to university and law school. “When I joined the Marine Corps,, I did so in part because I wasn’t ready for adulthood. I didn’t know how to balance a checkbook” he said. The Marine Corps assumes zero knowledge on the part of its recruits and even accompanied him to open his first bank account. He had received no early guidance in nutrition, fitness/wellness or personal pride during his growing up years and describes himself as a cultural alien. He came to learn and understand the value of interpersonal skills and what he refers to as social capital to help smooth the way through networking. New relationships with friends and fellow students introduced him to a completely new set of social behaviours that were not aligned with his temper and hillbilly upbringing. Most people acknowledge that not all education is gained in the classroom but Vance had no experience with such everyday basics as table manners, how to dress appropriately, how to handle conflict or even how to give and receive love. Interestingly, one of his valued law school mentors at Yale was Amy Chua, author of Tiger Mom.

While he’s circumspect about suggesting solutions to the economic and social problems that are rampant in the rust belt of America, the author provides a rare glimpse into the lives of those people who live hopelessly grim and depressing lives. He knows better than most how they reached this point and why it is so self-perpetuating. Poor life choices, poor role models and social problems breed generations of people with no hope for betterment.  His observations are informed, articulately presented and blunt. What I found particularly revealing was his perspective on how entire generations of rust belt people turned against the Democratic party and put their hopes in the Republicans. Vance explains the misconceptions and clever rhetoric that guide their votes and destroys any hope of a better future. They are told “premature parenthood, drugs, incarceration . . . what separates the successful from the unsuccessful are the expectations that they had for their own lives. Yet the message of the right is increasingly: ‘It’s not your fault that you’re a loser; it’s the government’s fault’.” Untrue and unproductive.

I can’t recommend Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance strongly enough. I learned so much reading this book and only wish the people of Kentucky and Ohio who are described in its pages would also earn from the wisdom he dispenses. I’d give it 10 out of 10.

To order a copy of Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance from Amazon, click here.

To order The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls from Amazon, click here.

To order the third book in Catherine Gildiner’s trilogy, Coming Ashore, click here.

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Don’t toss your skinny jeans just yet. There’s still hope.


When I read the heading of an article in The Globe and Mail “Scientists test blocking menopause hormone” my little heart skipped a beat. Whatever do they have on the horizon for us now? No more hot flashes? No more meno-brain? And best of all, no more weight gain with its accompanying ugly muffin top? According to The New York Times’ News Service writer Gina Kolata, scientists using research with lab mice, (which are a lot like us!! . . we’ll grab on to any ray of hope) have discovered that a single hormone called FSH is responsible for the universal characteristics of menopause including bone loss and weight gain which presents as abdominal fat. Blocking that hormone could not only mean the end of menopausal symptoms but goodbye elastic waists and calcium supplements. More importantly, it could launch a massive resurrection in fashion options for baby boomers. There could be life beyond Eileen Fisher.

Imagine the possibilities. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could keep the shape we so took for granted in our twenties. Would we start wearing mini-skirts again? Bare our midriff in saucy summer crop tops? Even start going sleeveless? Who wouldn’t love to rediscover her hip bones, buried for years under layers of abdominal fat? When I read the article my pulse raced as I envisioned digging out those lovely leather belts I haven’t been able to wear for decades. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to throw out those fabulous size 27 jeans with the red ankle zippers that I loved so much and wore in the seventies. The possibility of tucking a tapered blouse or tee shirt into my skinny jeans again just thrills me to my very toes.

The fashion industry today is irrelevant. It should not be solely the domain of the young and thin. Boomers wanna have fun too!

OMG. Maybe my feet would be also affected by this new hormone discovery and I could wear sassy heels again. Could I? Would I? The possibilities are just too delicious to fathom. Dare I contemplate once more wearing a pretty bathing suit without a giant bathrobe-like coverup? Perhaps I’m being overly-optimistic but already I’m mentally calculating my new pant size. And what if we weren’t restricted to utilitarian bras structurally engineered to minimize back fat, overflow and side boobage. Do I see lace underwear and sexy lingerie in our future? With no hot flashes maybe we could even start wearing sweaters in the winter again—fitted, fine-knit little turtlenecks like we wore in our twenties, in every colour, tucked in. The possibilities are dancing in my head like visions of sugar plums. Would it be the end of cellulite? Do I see shorts in our future? White ones worn with (spray) tanned legs? Would our hair grow back in, thick, shiny and luxurious like it used to be, and I don’t mean on our upper lip and chin? Maybe I could once again grow that gorgeous bob I looked so good in forty years ago. Would my eyesight improve allowing me to drive after dark? Or even stay awake after dark? I’d be happy with that. With our super powers restored, boomers would kick serious Gen X and millennial butt in the business and fashion world. Let them deride us at their peril.

Could this be the future me?

Single hormone blocker could topple worldwide economy

If this hormone blocker works, the worldwide economic implications could be massive. For starters, the absence of hot flashes would mean the global collapse of the entire ceiling fan industry. Duvets might even make a resurgence. Millions of yards of fabric in third-world sweat shops would no longer be needed to cover expanding boomer bottoms, upper arms and waistlines. Air conditioning in homes and public buildings around the world could be turned down to normal levels, conserving energy and eliminating the need for heavy sweaters and coats in malls and restaurants by non-menopausal customers. The effect on the environment would be better than anything The Paris Accord could have ever dreamed of. The entire diet industry would be threatened if boomer gals no longer had to worry about losing that last few pounds for their high school reunion or a family wedding. Diets would be redundant for an entire generation.

Call me.

Back to the present. The mice in the studies had their ovaries removed and produced no estrogen at all.  Instead of losing bone density and getting fat the test subjects who received the FSH blocker actually lost large amounts of fat which sounds like a boomer broad’s dream come true. The study undertaken by Dr. Mone Zaidi a professor of medicine at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York comes with a caveat though. But (and there’s always a ‘but’), researchers caution that tests conducted on mice often do not produce similar results in humans. I don’t care. Sign me up as a test subject. I still have all those fabulous belts languishing in my closet. I’m tired of saying ‘no’ to dessert and foregoing ice-cream for carrot sticks. I’m sick of living on salads, kale chips and quinoa. I want to strut out once again in my skinny jeans with red high heels and a saucily tucked-in silk shirt over a lacey French bra. I don’t care if I develop a preference for nibbling cheese in dark corners under the baseboards. At least I’ll feel and look great rockin’ my newly slender old bod, and who doesn’t love cheese. Dr. Zaidi? Call me. Immediately.

Click here to read “Scientists test blocking menopause hormone”.

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Why do some people soar under adversity and others stumble?


It’s been several years since I read The Glass Castle an autobiography by New York journalist and author Jeannette Walls and it still ranks as one of my favourite books. Walls grew up in a creative but highly dysfunctional family. Her mother was an artist and her father, quite simply, a dreamer who kept promising his family he was going to build a marvelous home for them out of glass and spent an inordinate amount of time working on the plans for his unrealistic scheme. Both parents were intelligent people but totally unequipped and unsuited to raising four children. As a result, Walls and her siblings frequently went hungry, lived an itinerant, unstable existence and were forced to parent themselves. Surprisingly, they all survived and surpassed their parents in making a success of themselves. How that happens and why some people rise above their beginnings while others fail is a subject of endless fascination to me.

Jeannette Walls’s personal story has now been made into a movie of the same title as the book starring Woody Harrelson as her alcoholic father Rex, Naomi Watts as her misguided mother Rosemary and Brie Larson playing the adult Jeannette. The movie is true to the book. Unfortunately two hours is not enough time to cover all the details of her complicated and erratic life but it still does an excellent job. Anyone who has lived with alcoholism in the family will understand the pain and uncertainty that accompanies loving a family member with an addiction. The story also serves as inspiration for those who are trapped in a difficult family dynamic. Jeannette Walls learned that her only escape lay in getting an education and extricating herself from her family. In a pact with her siblings, they agreed to support each other and build a better life for themselves. Which they did. Go see the movie and you’ll understand why I recommend it.

P.S. As if I didn’t get my fill of child neglect for one day, I doubled-down and because there was nothing else on television that night I watched Angela’s Ashes. The true story by Frank McCourt of his neglectful and abysmal childhood growing up in Ireland is eerily similar to that of Jeannette Walls, in a different decade in a different country. No money. Poor parenting. Alcoholic father. Vulnerable siblings. Blessed are the children.

Click here to read my original review of the book The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

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The Chicago Exposition still thrills more than a hundred years later


With its classically designed white buildings illuminated at night by brilliant electric lights, the lagoons, canals, innovative landscaping and a 264 ft. Ferris Wheel, the Chicago Exposition of 1893 managed to eclipse its Paris predecessor.

I first heard about The Devil In The White City on a trip to Chicago a couple of years ago with a busload of seniors, a.k.a. baby boomers. The tour guide recommended the best-selling book by Erik Larson and the title came up again in conversation with other book lovers since then. It’s the true story of Chicago’s efforts to win approval for the construction and staging of a world-class exposition that locals hoped would eclipse the Paris exposition famous for its Eiffel Tower. In the late nineteenth century Chicago was known primarily as hog town. Its slaughter houses were the premier tourist attraction and the city was a cesspool of dirty streets, unclean drinking water, raw sewage, poverty and disease. City fathers and local businessmen envisioned literally turning their city from a sow’s ear into a silk purse admired by the world.

After a great deal of early lobbying, the contract for design of the site and its buildings was awarded to Burnham and Root, an up and coming Chicago firm of creative architects and engineers with a few local buildings to their credit and a strong vision for the event. As a result of the inevitable political back and forth discord and slow approvals, the project start was delayed until a mere twenty-two months before the scheduled opening in May 1893. The design and construction team had less than two years to deliver a complex that would cost billions in today’s dollars. The challenges of unstable soil conditions, constant power struggles among team members combined with designing untried and untested structures in unpredictable and uncooperative weather conditions created an environment that seemed destined for failure.

Dr. Holmes’s innocuous-looking pharmacy and hotel/office building was the scene of a number of gruesome murders and became known as the Murder Castle.

In the midst of the drama of designing and building the great Chicago Exposition of 1893, another drama was unfolding a few blocks away. Unknown and undetected, an obscure Chicago doctor by the name of  Herman Webster Mudgett known primarily by one of his aliases H.H. Holmes was selectively murdering young women who flocked to the city in search of jobs and to enjoy the magic of the world’s fair. It was a crime even beyond the scope of Jack The Ripper. The city and its police force were so preoccupied with events surrounding the exposition they had neither the resources nor the interest in pursuing the dozens of cases of missing young women.

The Devil In The White City is a mesmerizing true story and I couldn’t put it down. The White City refers to the stretch of classically designed white buildings comprising the exhibition framed by the blue waters of Lake Michigan. As someone who worked most of my life in the construction industry, I found the challenges experienced by the designers and builders of the facilities particularly fascinating. Even though it happened more than one hundred years ago, the business problems weren’t that different from today. And back then, the builders didn’t have the modern equipment and methods of communication and technology that we possess today. The fact they completed most of the work in less than two years is a miracle.

The Chicago Exposition of 1893 managed to surpass its Paris rival with such innovations as the Ferris Wheel rising an astonishing 265 feet above ground, electric lights which for the first time completely illuminated an urban landscape at night, voice transmissions over long distance, the zipper (a Canadian invention) and Cracker Jacks™. The research carried out by Erik Larson in writing this book is detailed and fascinating. And be sure to read the extensive Epilogue which follows the main characters’ lives after the close of the fair. The combination of the challenges of building the exposition, overlaid with the true story of an undetected serial killer is just too juicy not to enjoy. I sure did.

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Martin Amis provides a brutal look inside a Russian gulag


I seem to have a peculiar attraction to novels about Russia. House of Meetings by British author Martin Amis is a fictional story of two brothers sentenced to ten years of hard labour in a Russian gulag during the Stalin years after the Second World War. They are sent to the same camp in northeastern Siberia at the sixty-ninth parallel and subjected to unspeakable horrors which they amazingly survived. I’ve always wanted to read something by British author Martin Amis and the fact I chose this book means I was probably exposed to a somewhat tempered version of his writing. But it was still extremely intense. And, with his extensive vocabulary, I should have had a dictionary beside me as I read.

Narrated by the unnamed older brother who was a handsome, decorated officer in the Russian army that conquered Germany at the end of the war, it is written as a memoir and letter to his American stepdaughter. The narrator attempts to validate his choices and experiences in life, describing them in brutal detail. The seemingly weaker, unattractive younger brother Lev succeeded in marrying the only woman his older brother loved and the effects of the strange love triangle that unfolded spanned several decades. The book’s title House of Meetings refers to a cabin at the labour camp that was used for rare conjugal visits by spouses of the prisoners. Lev’s one meeting with his wife Zoya is a source of fascination for his brother for the rest of his life.

The narrator revisits the gulag when he’s in his eighties to make peace with his memories and his life. Many intellectuals were imprisoned during the Stalin years for no reason other than to meet his insane quotas. Exploring the psychological impact of the experience on poets, doctors, teachers and others is difficult to imagine but Amis digs deep. He researched records, diaries and personal accounts of former prisoners and presents a complex picture of what it took for them to survive. It’s not an easy read but it is fascinating and I think Amis could have written the story as a fictional memoir without the encumbrance of the stepdaughter. I’d give House of Meetings nine out of ten.

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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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